Ondersteboven | Stuitligging



I met Manon and Richard 3 years ago, when they were expecting their first baby. In March 2013 I captured the birth of their son, Teun – a picture perfect birth!

During my pregnancy I received an email from Manon. She was pregnant again, and due on December 6th, 2015. Would I be able photograph this birth too? I had to think about it. I was supposed to be on maternity leave until the end of December 2015, and Teun came 10 days early. Of course, I couldn’t say no, and starting work again in Goes (close to home) seemed like a good idea. So I said yes. 🙂

We saw each other again after I had given birth to my baby, and I discovered that Manon and Richard did not know the sex of the baby this time. They also had no feeling about what it was. Manon was secretly hoping for a girl, but she really had no idea. She had a great pregnancy, just like she had with Teun, and a beautiful belly. She did say that this baby felt different in her belly. It moved a lot less than Teun had.

When she was 37 weeks and 5 days pregnant I saw Manon again. This time for something completely different. I was asked to take photos for the KNOV and I had asked Manon to be my ‘model’. I felt like the shoot was just in time, because Teun arrived at 38+2. We had a number of scenes we had to capture, and in one a midwife had to do a scan of Manon’s belly. Easy enough. I thought it would be nice to actually be able to see something on the screen, so I asked the midwife to turn the machine on. Manon quickly said, “I don’t want to know what I’m having, so don’t tell me, ok?”

I stood there with my camera at the ready, the gel was squirted onto Manon’s belly, and then we had an image on the screen. And I hear the midwife say, “Oh…. it’s breech.”


Manon looks at her in surprise and says, “You’re joking, right?” I don’t think it would be a very nice joke, and it isn’t a joke at all. Manon’s baby is breech. At 36 weeks she had a scan to check the baby’s growth, and at that point her baby was head down. I ask her whether she remembers a moment when the baby was very busy in her belly, and she says, “yes, last Monday in the middle of the night. But I thought it was just because of all the excitement since my sister had her baby that day.” It’s a strange moment, because Richard isn’t with her, and neither is her own midwife, and we’re not here for a check up, but rather for a photo shoot.

I take the photos I have to take, and the midwife advises Manon to contact her own midwife. I encourage Manon to do so immediately. She is already 38 weeks pregnant, and if they want to try and turn the baby from the outside, then the sooner, the better! I make a joke that a natural breech birth is one of the items on my bucket list. 😉

In the end she manages to get an external version planned for that afternoon. I leave Manon in the hospital, and Richard is planning to come from work to the hospital so that he can be with Manon, and take her home afterwards. This afternoon has taken such a strange turn!

Later that afternoon Manon calls me. The attempt to turn the baby was not successful. 🙁 Manon immediately said that she knew this baby was very different to Teun, and that has been proven once again. 😉 It must be a girl! But whether it’s a boy or a girl – baby doesn’t want to turn. W        hat now? Manon has heard all her options at the hospital, and she’s leaning towards a natural breech birth. I’m impressed! So many women choose a c-section in the case of a breech baby these days, but with a baby in a good position (and sometimes even when baby’s position is not ideal) a vaginal breech birth can be a good option! The gynaecologist agrees, especially because Teun’s birth went so well. A few days later Manon and Richard make their decision – it’s going to be a vaginal breech birth. I do a little happy dance, because I think this would be awesome to photograph! However, because Teun was a very big baby, they plan in a date for a caesarian section. This would be the 4th of December (Manon is due on the 6th). The doctor doesn’t think it will be necessary, and expects that the baby will arrive before this date. Although you can never be sure when dealing with birth and babies!

And indeed… nothing happens. Absolutely nothing.

The 4th of December is getting closer, and hanging like a sword above Manon’s neck. She absolutely DOES NOT want to have a c-section. She tries to get it moved to after the weekend, but doesn’t manage. So on the 2nd of December she’s at the hospital for the intake appointment, and it doesn’t quite go as planned. The gynaecologist and Richard can both see how much Manon doesn’t want to do this, and the gynaecologist on duty doesn’t see any medical reason to do the c-section on December 4th. So it’s delayed, and planned for the 18th of December instead. Manon will be nearly 42 weeks pregnant by then, but everybody assumes she will have the baby before then. She leaves the hospital relieved, and calls me later, “The baby will definitely be here before the 18th of December!” I think so too….

But we can think whatever we want to think – a baby does what it wants to do, and against all expectations, and against Manon’s will, I meet Richard and Manon in the hospital on December 18th, for the planned c-section. There have been plenty of jokes over the last weeks, about the fact that this baby can’t see the exit, and apparently it’s true. 😉

She has to be there in the afternoon, so we plan to meet at the door of the hospital at 13:30. I can take a photo of them in front of the hospital. They’re waiting for me when I arrive. Manon is very nervous, and immediately starts to cry. Now, Manon is a tough cookie, and not very easy to comfort, so my poor attempt to give her a comforting hug fails as she is focussing on pulling herself together. “It is what it is,” she says, and I take the photo in front of the hospital, with the dried tears on her face, and we go inside. They report to the desk, and we have to wait to hear which room we’ll be given. Both Manon and Richard say that’s it’s good that I’m there to distract them. They’re both very nervous, and all distraction is good, so I take a lovely photo of Manon in the hospital corridor. The background is a pink wall. Could it be a sign?

Once we are allowed into the room we hear that Manon will be operated on just before 16:00, if no emergencies or delays happen in between. That chance is always quite big when you’re planned in for the late afternoon. Manon keeps telling everyone she sees that this is not what she wants, and that she’s never been admitted to hospital before. Not even for a single stitch. She is so unhappy about it. They are once again told what is going to happen today, and Manon is prepped so that she’s ready to go to the OR soon. That means all their details are checked, her temperature is checked, a catheter is placed, a CTG of baby’s heartbeat is made, and she is given a gorgeous hospital gown to wear, with a matching hospital bracelet. Once she’s on the monitor to get the CTG, Richard starts to pace the room. He is very nervous, and the CTG is not comforting him. Their baby is very quiet again, and that’s visible on the CTG, and it’s making him nervous. He says the baby has been this quiet throughout the whole pregnancy, and he’ll be happy once the baby is with them, healthy and well. He repeats for the 5th time, “I don’t like this.” I try to comfort him. The CTG doesn’t look bad. Baby could be sleeping. The nurse says the same thing, but he’s still not comforted, and I do understand that. It’s all very tense, and the baby is very quiet, but babies who are sleeping are quiet. I see a tiny lost bit of candy on the floor, and it’s pink. I point it out to Richard. Could it be another sign?

By now it’s past 15:00, and it looks like things are delayed. Richard takes a selfie, and I take a photo of that, which makes me a part of the selfie too. 😉 And then they finally come and fetch us! It’s not running that late after all. It’s 15:30 when Manon is taken towards the recovery ward.

There they do the last checks, and place her IV. The tension mounts. Richard and I can go and get changed, and when we return at 16:15 we go to the OR. The liquid used to disinfect Manon’s back for the placement of the epidural is bright pink. It always is, but this time I think: it’s the third sign. 🙂

The placement of the epidural goes without a hitch, and the c-section can begin. I take my place, and as always, things go quickly. Before the baby is born the amniotic fluid runs out. It is green. The baby has pooped meconium into the fluid. I’m immediately on edge, and hoping that it doesn’t mean anything significant. Shortly afterwards a little bottom appears. There are 2 things I notice immediately: it’s a girl!! And, she immediately poops everywhere. That probably means she’s not a very happy baby. I can’t wait until the gynaecologist shows the baby, and they can see that it’s a girl. I see Richard watching, and wonder if he has seen it already (but he later tells me he thought it was a boy because her vulva was so swollen. That is normal in a newborn girl, due to the mother’s hormones). It takes a little while for her to be born completely, and when she’s out she does not cry immediately. The atmosphere in the room is different. She’s not shown to Manon, but immediately taken to the paediatrician in a neighbouring room. Manon is told that it’s a girl, and cries tears of happiness.

I go with Richard and the baby. Nobody says anything to Richard, because they are all focussed on this little baby. I take photos and gesture to Richard that he can come and stand by me. That helps me to make contact with him, tell him it’ll all be ok, and congratulate him on the birth of his daughter. Of course, I don’t know that everything will be ok, but I want to comfort him because my heart goes out to him. She’s being given oxygen, and starts crying softly. Her colour is good, and I’m hoping that it was ‘just’ a bumpy start. She’s a bit overwhelmed by everything. She’s covered in vernix, which is tinted green thanks to the meconium (a newborn’s first poop is meconium). Slowly the paediatrician has more time to pay attention to what’s happening around her, and she says, “Come, you can touch your daughter.” Richard tells us she’s called Roos. He takes her hand, and then he can cut the umbilical cord. Her feet are almost next to her head thanks to her breech position in the womb.

Richard briefly walks back to tell Manon that everything is ok. After about 8 minutes the paediatrician decides that she wants to admit Roos to the paediatric unit. She’s doing well, but her breathing is a little fast. She is allowed to briefly go to Manon, so that Manon can see her, but after that she is quickly put into the incubator.

Then there is some confusion. The nurses want us to go and get changed, which means that Richard cannot stay with Roos. The men’s and women’s dressing rooms are separate, so I am also separated from Richard. I tell him I’ll meet him in the corridor, and change my clothes in record time. Shortly after I step into the corridor, Richard joins me there. Roos is already gone. Luckily I know where the paediatric unit is, and we sprint down the stairs like maniacs. When we arrive, Roos is lying under heat lamps, with all kinds of wires attached to her, to monitor her vital functions. She was also weighed while we were gone, and she weighs 3450g. A lot smaller than her brother, who was born 10 days early!

Richard stands close, looking proudly at his new daughter, and seems to be a lot calmer now. Everything looks ok, according to the paediatrician. She will need to stay 24 hours, for observation and then she will be allowed to go to Manon’s room. Richard is now allowed to have the first skin-to-skin cuddles. A beautiful moment after a chaotic start. A few times he says, “It’s such a pity that I can’t share this lovely moment with Manon.” And I completely understand.

After 10 minutes of cuddles Richard is asked to go upstairs. Manon is asking for him. I tell him I will stay with Roos. He stays away for quite some time, and she’s lying there peacefully, the little darling. My instinct is to pick her up and hold her close, but of course I don’t do that. The time crawls by, and I hope that everything is ok. Every now and then Roos looks a bit sad, but mostly she’s just sleeping peacefully. And then. After what seems like ages, I see Manon come in, in her hospital bed. They’ve been away for over 40 minutes. She look emotional, but she looks good! Of course, she just wants one thing, and that is arranged as quickly as possible: skin to skin cuddles with her daughter. A wonderful moment! She tries to get Roos to latch to her breast, but it doesn’t go very well. Roos doesn’t seem strong enough yet. After some cuddles, Roos is dressed, and Manon returns to her room.

A short while later her parents come by, with Teun. Teun is so curious about his sister, and after his ‘beschuit with muisjes’ he can’t wait any longer! It’s a pity she can’t be taken out of her cradle yet, but her temperature is not yet stable enough. Teun has to settle for looking at her, and he’s enjoying stroking her gently. So cute!

Then the proud grandparents come and have a quick look. That’s the last photo I take. I discuss with Richard and Manon that I will come back the next day, or the day after that, for some family photos, and a nice photo of Roos and Teun. It’s a pity we can’t do that now, but the most important thing is that Roos is doing fine. It’s just a bit of a wobbly start like this.

To be continued…


The next day Roos was allowed back to the room with her mother, but unfortunately it didn’t go very well. She couldn’t drink at the breast by herself, and drinking expressed milk from a bottle also didn’t work. She had to go back to the paediatric unit where she was given a feeding tube. During the following days things did improve a little, but she remained very placid. Some tests were done, but all results came back fine. Maybe Roos just needs time to get stronger. At any rate, she’s been home since the start of the year, and there I got to take some beautiful photos too!


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