Being asked to photograph a midwifes birth is always such an honour. I am always thrilled to lay down my doula role now and then to focus on documenting the story of midwives and their families.
On a beautiful May morning I got the call that contractions had started. When I arrived, I walked in to find this beautiful mama already in the birth pool. Her two older children were playing close by in the living room and her husband was siting next to her giving her his hand to squeeze. It was a peaceful atmosphere.
I softly said ‘Hi,’ unpacked my camera, introduced myself to the kids and sat down on the floor. The midwife, and friend of Michelle’s, was on her way.
The labour was progressing in intensity and Michelle was calm and concentrated.
Dad effortlessly and calmly divided his attention between supporting Michelle and helping the kids. Suus, the midwife, arrived and quietly entered the room, giving Michelle a kiss and saying Hi to the children. She left Michelle to do what she was doing so well and observed her quietly while matching the peaceful and gezellig (cosy) atmosphere in the room.
Michelle didn’t speak, she stayed focused and Suus gave an occasional affirming look as if she knew what she needed without a word spoken.
The children came to look every so often as if it were the most normal ‘happening’ in the world. One thing was clear, these kids were well prepared and knew all there was to know about the birth process.
Michelle’s labour was progressing fast. Big sister went upstairs on a mission at some point when she realised the baby was almost coming. She came back with her book ‘Hello Baby’ and climbed on Suus’s lap to read it.
When the baby started to emerge Michelle called her son over to come and watch. He dropped his lego and ran over to see.
They didn’t know the gender of the baby so that was going to be a big moment.
And it is a boy! “And do we all agree, we will call him Jip?”
And then the moment when big brother and Papa cut the chord.
And everyone moved to the sofa.
“Mama, where is the placenta?” She knew exactly what needed to happen and when!
And when all the excitement is over, Oma comes to take the kids for the rest of the day.
And on with studying and enjoying the new baby.
This is just one story of home birth. THIS is midwifery care. THIS is safe, low risk home birth! Down to earth and normal. In its essence safe and simple. For the kids, educational and natural. And what could be better than ending cuddled up together with your newborn in your own bed? And do you notice the casts of Mama’s pregnant belly for each of their three children.<3
For more info having children at your home birth and how to prepare them see blog here.
When I missed my sons graduation for a birth, some years ago, I said to myself never again! Never again would I sacrifice a family life event for a clients birth no matter how torn I felt.
This year my husband turned 50. He wanted to celebrate in style so we planned a date for a party. May 4th was that date.
I had arranged for my back up, Farola, to be on call that day for my two clients even though she and her husband were invited to the party. Why would she do that? Well because that’s what we do for each other, we have each others back and will step in whenever needed.
We actually never WANT to have to send a back up to our clients because our clients choose us for a reason, they want US to support them! Plus we have gotten to know them well so we know their wishes for the birth and how they are uniquely wired.
I have full confidence in Farola because I know she will take the best care of my clients but it still feels weirdly strange to choose a family event over a clients birth.
Of course that is in a way absurd because we have a life too right? It is true that many family events and appointments are quietly over shadowed by being on call and the possibility of having to leave half way through or not wanting to travel too far or needing to take our doula bags with us everywhere we go. We have a crazy kind of time commitment in our jobs beacuse we are always on call!
So anyway, in April I had a sweet client who was planning a home water birth and her first baby came very early so we kind of thought maybe her second one may come early too. I should know better! What we didn’t expect was that he would wait til way over the due date.
The week before the party crept by, and still no baby. I wasn’t too worried about my second client giving birth early but I really was hoping I wouldn’t have to miss this birth.
So the party day came and just as I was sending my client a what’s app message to hand her care over to Farola for the rest of the day she started having contractions. We expected her to have a fast birth and so I even contemplated going to my client and taking the risk she would be done on time for me to go to the party… but birth is unpredictable so I had to make the sensible, and right, decision and send Farola over to their home.
While I was getting ready for the party I kept looking at the clock and wondering how it was going. It pained me not to be there supporting this family in all the ways we had prepared before hand. It pained me to not be able to document this birth as I knew how important it was to this mama and knew it would be a special one visually. Home water birth, beautiful light in the living room, tattoo’s, sibling present… yes sorry but a birth photographers dream scenario 🙂
I reluctantly let it go and focused on my husband and the party. As the party got underway I forgot to look at the clock anymore and wonder how it was going at the birth.
Farola walked into the party some time later with her husband, and while giving me a hug, assured me it was a beautiful home water birth that went well apart from a trip to the hospital because of a stubborn placenta. She assured me my clients were thankful for her presence and I sighed gratefully and went back to my guests.
I am extremely grateful for Farola. I can trust my clients to her if needed and I can trust her to document the birth also. Last week I needed her to be back up for me again for a funeral (no babies decided to come this time) and next week Farola’s daughter is having an operation and I will be available for her clients for that day.
So yes, we are on call for you 24/7 for 5 weeks and we do everything we can to be there for you on the day of your baby’s birth but we also have a family and life events that are important to our loved ones. Thats why we work together to ensure the best possible care for you on your big day regardless of our own ‘big days.’
I am proud and grateful to these parents to be able to share some of the beautiful images of this birth Farola shot and I edited. Team work!
The images speak for themselves. “A dream birth” said Dad. This mother was super relaxed and so strong and despite the journey to the hospital, which was not ideal after the perfect home water birth, there was no trip to the OR necessary, the placenta came on its own in the end and they were on their way home again within a couple of hours. Enjoy.
Coming soon: A blog of the lifestyle newborn shoot I did of this family, including big sister. Special bonus I do for those births I miss.
Finding out at your 20 week scan that the baby has a defect, and will need to be operated on days after the birth, changes everything.
All this mama wanted was to have a normal birth because her pregnancy and postpartum were, and would be, anything but that. Having to give birth, and stay postpartum, in another city because thats where the hospital is with the specialist care just added to the loneliness of this couples journey.
That was where I came in, introduced my a colleague doula who could not support them herself.
Thankfully the birth went very well and Ruby (a surprise girl) got to stay 3 minutes on her Mums chest immediately post birth. That was longer than we could have hoped for with her condition.
Ruby is doing well now 3 weeks postpartum. She is in medium care and feeding well.
It was such a privilege to be invited to help make a difference in this couples experience. It will be a long road for this little one and her parents but she is strong, they are strong.
Welcome Rafael. Beautiful breech baby who was born by caesarean section early on this April morning. These parents made the incredibly difficult decision to not try to turn their baby and decided c-section was the safest way to bring their baby into the world.
The first hour is full of precious moments. All the sweeter after a fast active labour phase thinking the baby was coming at home followed by an intense and long transition phase in the hospital waiting for the little one to turn and find her way out. These two ladies worked very hard together and the littlest lady eventually found her best way out while her mama helped her using different labouring positions without medical interventions. Welcome sweet Juniper Rose
The moment when the relaxation sets in after that first hour or two. Baby skin on skin with Dad. Mum, with her cocktail of love hormones, tiredness and adrenaline, relaxing and enjoying seeing her partner uncovering the emotions of being Dad. I love this moment in the process, so satisfying, so beautiful, so complete.
A funny moment about a banana! Even amidst the pain of a contraction a woman’s sense of humour sometimes emerges😊
Welcome sweet Maylin. You came out all covered in vernix and quite feisty, letting us know you were ok and then very quickly you turned into the most chilled baby ever. You are so loved and your mama is so happy to love you on the outside of her belly now where she can see you and know you are growing and well.
No opinions, no pressure, no assumptions. Just busy making sure you feel supported in the process every moment of the way!!
With every birth I support I realise a little more just how important non-judgemental, unbiased doula support is. YES! A doula can and, in my opinion, should be unbiased in her support?
This means I will always support you no matter what! I am the only one in the room that can do that without any responsibility for an outcome.
I used to believe that unbiased support meant that any choice my client makes is fine, as long as they know all the choices they have. However, it has taken a long time, and over 200 births, to realise that this belief does not encompass all that unbiased support means.
The extent that people want to know the choices they have is different with each client I support. Some people make their decisions by doing research and others don’t, some women feel connected to the birth process and others see it as a means to an end. Some women have a history that drives their decisions and others are happy to just let the doctor or midwife decide. I don’t need to change that and I do not need to put all the choices before you if you are not asking for them.
From a planned induction to a vaginal breech birth, from wanting continual monitoring to requesting an early epidural, from wishing to stay out of the bed during labour to planning a home birth with your children around you. You are capable of making decisions and yes, even when you are having contractions!
I will meet you, get to know you and go on a journey with you to discover how you are wired and what it is you need to have a good birthing experience.
That journey is our whole time together from the first to the last meeting with the birth of your baby somewhere in between. Things change on journeys and twists and turns happen on the road to becoming a parent. Good, realistic preparation makes for less surprises during labour and better navigation of those unexpected twists and turns, because believe me, those twists and turns will happen! You can’t plan birth!
Supporting couples from many different cultures and backgrounds has shown me that there are many reasons and experiences that make us the way we are and that influence how we make decisions.
It is my job to ensure you feel supported in the process, in whatever choices you make and with whatever conviction you make them.
As your doula, I will gently say ‘Do you have all the information you need to make this decision and do you have any questions?’ and when possible I will try to facilitate the time and space for you to process.
No opinions, no pressure, no assumptions.
I am not perfect, it is not always easy but I try my hardest to hold up this value.
And especially with my Doula clients. I build up such a special bond with the family that there is such a natural flow and interaction when taking newborn photos. Meet sweet little red head, Emma <3
Let me tell you about yesterday. You can’t plan birth right? Well as I came closer to my 200th birth I knew I couldn’t plan which birth it was going to be but I had one in mind that I really wanted it to be.
The story starts with this birth back in 2016 when I made a deal to be the doula for a very special birth photographer. The deal was we would do a birth together one day and she would photograph me at work. If there are photos being made at a birth I support, I am always the one behind the camera so I don’t have many photos of me at work.
It took a long while to find a couple willing to have a doula and photographer. Finally Deborah had a repeat client who wanted to have a VBAC. As I had helped support Deborah to have a VBAC herself she was enthusiastic to suggest this couple have a doula too. We met and everyone was excited. A win win for everyone involved.
That ‘one day’ turned out to be my 200th birth! So I am super happy and there is a video being made of the beautiful images that Deborah made of me at work. I also took a few pics of her at work and the client had a vaginal birth. What a day, what a team, this is one happy doula!
Emma, Evi & Emma Katherine were all born this week. That finishes up all the waiting in January as they all decided to come together. Now waiting for my 200th birth. Who will it be?
The last baby in my agenda for 2018 has been born and this doula is off call until January. The last baby in October was the 190th birth I attended, almost at 200 and I am busy thinking about how I want to celebrate that.
In November, and the beginning of December, 5 beautiful girls were born and one handsome boy.
Now its time to do projects in the house, enjoy a weekend away in Cologne, Germany at the Christmas markets with my hubby, cook for my kids and their lovely girlfriends and enjoy a family Christmas. Then its off to friends in Geneva, Switzerland for New Years.
So to all of you, Happy Christmas and enjoy this time with your loved ones, the sweet little ones and the big ones too of course 🙂
I witnessed this couple become parents 3 years ago when they hired me as their doula after taking the Confident Birth course which I teach at Birth in Holland. Then earlier this year I got a sweet text message saying they were expecting again and couldn’t imagine giving birth without me. Walking back into a family after a few years is so natural and feels like seeing old friends, like I am their family doula.
They became a family of four in the summer and I was at their side all the way. You can read about Orla’s birth here. This gorgeous photo was taken a few days later. Having seen both these girls come into the world is so special. What an honour, what a job.<3 <3
Lifestyle Newborn shoots. I give a 50 euro discount to doula clients and particularly love it when I get to photograph repeat clients. Check here for details.
Welcome sweet Sofia. You Mama dug deep to bring you into the world and had to make some tough decisions along the way. Your Papa was there by her side all the way never missing a heart beat to be there for you both. And when you were finally there all the pain was gone and there was so much joy and instinctive nurturing. You are a lucky girl with those two sweet Sofia <3
Welcome to Toby, Chris & Iarla.
Turn the lights down! This little one kept his hands in front of his face for the first 15 minutes of his life on the outside. Babies need to get used to the light change from inside the womb. If you give the baby some shade with your hand or turn the lights low they usually open their eyes very soon after birth.
Most of my clients use the TENS machine. See here for an explanation of how the TENS works. The use of the TENS is hugely under-rated for early labour, during active labour and I discovered recently that it is also awesome for post birth contractions! Many insurance companies will cover the cost of the TENS machine for labour and birth, so check with your provider before purchasing one. Midwife practices also have them often to rent. As far as I have observed in my practice the TENS never has negative affect. I have observed several times that the cases where I have had mothers not like it has been when the baby is in a posterior position. The TENS does, at a certain point AND usually during the transition phase, have less of an affect. If you take it off at that point the woman often notices and wants it back on again. This would suggest it is still having some affect.
The research on the tens machine for labour is not very extensive but here is a link to Evidence Based Birth for a summary of the research.
The TENS machine is also fantastic for induction. It is best to start using it simultaneously when the synthetic oxytocin is administered and it will trigger the bodies own hormonal system to produce endorphins, your natural pain relief. These are the hormones that are released to help you cope with labour. They are bypassed when synthetic oxytocin is administered into the blood via an IV. This is the reason many women experience induction as more painful than natural labour. The natural hormones are not helping with the process. The TENS can help with that or help tide a woman over until she can get medical pain relief.
This beautiful VBAC mama used the TENS machine to help her through a very long labour It supported her past that dilation point of her 1st birth, and onto a natural vaginal birth. If the TENS is only put on during active labour then the affect will be much less as the pain being experienced is usually already high.
Double natural pain relief. The TENS does not interfere with other pain relief options except for water of course. So getting your partner or doula to do the hip squeeze & having the TENS machine on is a great combination and can help even better against the use of medical pain relief. .
Doula Sophie at work during a long early labour
Gentle cesarean! Mother & baby are not separated during or after the operation. Baby is born, checked and then tucked under the sheets for skin to skin cuddles with Mama while the operation is finished. Better for mother, better for baby, better for bonding and breastfeeding. This helps to make this un-natural but sometimes necessary way of giving birth a little more gentle and a lot more enjoyable.
In The Netherlands, when you have had a cesarean in your history, you have the option to opt for a vaginal birth or a planned cesarean. With a planned cesarean it is usually a gentle one. When the labour process ends up in a cesarean it is always worth asking for a gentle one. Most hospitals will try their best to facilitate this if they can.
When their first daughter was born she needed help to breath and spent a night in the NICU. Now she is an energetic healthy girl as you can see here above. So when they got pregnant the second time there was a strong quiet hope that their new little one would not have this problem at birth and be able to stay on her mothers chest for a long time, skin to skin after being born. They knew this one was strong and energetic, she let them know that throughout the pregnancy, but still there was a silent fear that when the time came to push her out, the same thing would happen.
When she was born the baby’s first cry was mixed with an audible cry of relief and joy from Mum and Dad! Sometimes it can be certain small things that mean a lot more because of past experiences. Welcome Orla Valentina
When you always thought that a fast labour would never happen to you and then it progresses so fast and you think you can’t make it and ask for pain relief. When you are not prepared or willing to accept the fact that there is not much point in pain relief because you are almost ready to push your baby out. When there is water, warm water that helps you through transition. When your doula convinces you to change your mind set because quitting just isn’t an option. And then you do!! You change so incredibly well that you birth your baby on the birth stool and rock it like a boss! Thats when you show yourself you are strong and enter motherhood with a bang!
Super proud of this mama. Welcome Delphine Rose
Last week this lovely repeat client gave birth to the cutest baby boy ever.
Labour & transition in the bath. Completion, longer pauses, desperation, agitation, searching for the right position, feeling where the baby is, on the birth stool. Changing it up and making space on the floor. Wanting instruction but realising you are the only one that can finish the task at hand! Back on the birth stool, birthing the baby right in your very own bedroom while nestled in your partners arms. Feeling the release and the baby in your arms, here he is, finally! Joy indescribable
In the early hours of yesterday morning a sweet 1st time mama had a very special birthday gift. In super tempo she gave birth to her baby boy unexpectedly at home in the bath. I arrived, 2 whole minutes before the midwife arrived, and just as the head was being born.
Shortly afterwards the papa grabbed a mug so he could pour warm water over the baby in the bath to keep him warm and we all smiled when we saw what was written on the mug: Easy like Sunday morning!
Happy Birthday mama and son!
This sweet little baby boy is the little brother to Jan whom I also witnessed come into the world. Welcome Edward.
If you’re a parent, grandparent, family member or babysitter, learning first aid can give you confidence to save a life when it really counts.
In our First Aid workshop – EHBO, we cover a range of different conditions and techniques – including the most common household accidents that occur with babies and young children. You will learn first aid advice for many household accidents, from dealing with a choking child or baby, to recognizing the signs of meningitis and other illnesses.
Our PBLS (Paediatric Basic Life Support) workshop focuses on resuscitation techniques for young babies and children following the European Rescuscitation Council guidelines.
The workshops are designed to be interactive, giving you the chance to practice the skills you learn. After completing the workshop PBLS you will receive an NRR approved certificate and a summary of the most important information.
Join us, it is a lot of fun, you will love it and feel more confident afterwards!!
“After attending the ‘First Aid for Parents’ I feel very well prepared for having to deal with any of the scary situations we may go through with our child. A very hands-on and dynamic workshop. A must go!”
This course gives new Mums and their babies the opportunity to meet and spend time with other new Mums while developing new nurturing skills and spending time gently activating their bodies.
My partner, Farola, and I teach four morning sessions. We try to create a supportive and nurturing environment that will set mothers up with skills they will find useful now and for months or years into the future.
The sessions begin with baby massage and movement for optimal infant development. The new Mums will develop skills on how to handle their baby confidently, helping them to relax more fully as well as discovering how to support them developmentally.
There is of course time for tea and the opportunity to get to know others in the group. There is space to share experiences as well as discuss issues relevant to new life as a Mum. This is a wonderful way of learning and increasing confidence.
The day after… welcome little Theo. You are so loved <3
“Pffff, stuck with these two!”
Welcome James to this crazy and beautiful world. These two are going to love you to the moon and back <3
Doula’s are NOT just for natural birth. Doula support is valuable whatever twists and turns your birth may take AND/OR whatever way you decide is the best way to birth your baby. See this feedback from a client.
29-01-2018 Welcome Sweet Aaliyah.
Sometimes birth is so damn hard, sometimes you are that woman that falls into the high risk percentage. Sometimes you have to fight with every fibre of your being to birth your baby in the way you feel is best for her despite yourself. But when she is born and put on your chest you forget the pain of the past and for a moment it is worth it despite the price.