It has been a busy January. My partner Farola and I taught a Confident Birth course for 10 lovely international couples, took a postpartum doula training and welcomed Alicia, Mateo and little Koen into the world.
Look out for postpartum doula services coming soon. I am so excited to be able to offer more consistent and complete support to families who need something extra in the transition to parenthood.
Time to share some of my favourite images from 2017 and some interesting facts about the 31 births I supported.
14 boys and 18 girls, 27 hospital births, 2 vaginal breech births(both personal highlights) 7 women used medical pain relief, 8 used birth pools for pain relief and 4 gave birth in water. 5 C-sections, 2 of which were failed inductions at 42 weeks. 6 inductions. 3 vacuum deliveries and 2 of those without episiotomy. 18 international families, 19 first time parents, 3 midwife mama’s, 1 surrogate birth, 1 vaginal twin birth and 4 births doing photography only.
I am very thankful for a year of supporting so many wonderful families. It will never stop being such a privilege and honour to be a part of so many peoples stories.
“When I look back on my birthing experience I feel strong and proud. A sense of awe for life, for the female body, for my body. Awe for how I carried my daughter for 9 months and for how I brought her into this world: all the pain, angst and desperation I had to face in myself and in the end overcame. Supported by the people around me and in deep connection with my husband I could finally surrender and get in touch with my inner strength, the strength that gave me the power to birth my daughter without any help and made me free and transformed me. The circle is complete.”
“Wanneer ik terugkijk op mijn bevalling voel ik mij krachtig en trots. Ik ervaar ontzag voor het leven, voor het vrouwelijk lijf, voor mijn lichaam. Voor hoe ik mijn dochter negen maanden lang droeg. Voor hoe ik haar daarna op de wereld zette; alle pijn, angst en wanhoop in mijzelf aan moest gaan en uiteindelijk aan kon gaan én overwon.
Gesteund door de mensen om mij heen en in diepe zielsverbinding met mijn man, gaf ik mij uiteindelijk over en kwam in contact met mijn oerkracht. De kracht die me in staat stelde mijn dochter zelf te baren, zonder enige hulp, en die me vrij maakte en transformeerde. De cirkel is rond.”
This was another special one!
On a beautiful Sunday evening in October, at home, in the pool and beside the open fire, Ode was born.
He was welcomed by his whole family. It was very clear from the very first minute he was born that he will add a special sweetness to the beautiful chaos that is this family, as only newborns can.
Welcome little man, you are going to get a lot of loving. And did you notice the cool double knot in the umbilical chord?
For some women it’s a way to give back and make a difference in the world in a meaningful way.
For others it’s a calling.
Some are moved to surrogacy by knowing someone who is faced with infertility and this is their way of helping.
Some want to experience growing new life and giving birth again.
These Mothers love their babies, they love being mothers, and they want to simply share their gift with others.
It’s a gift of life. It’s a gift of joy.
This is the journey of two families brought together and now bonded for life by their love for a sweet little girl.
You are so loved!
Voor sommige vrouwen is het hun manier om iets terug te geven en een verschil te maken in de wereld.
Voor andere is het een roeping.
Sommige worden draagmoeder omdat ze bewogen worden door het verdriet van vrienden die onvruchtbaar zijn.
Sommige willen ervaren hoe het is om weer zwanger te zijn en nog een keer te baren.
Deze moeders houden van hun kinderen, en van het moeder zijn en willen dit met andere delen.
Een kostbaar geschenk. Een geschenk van vreugde.
Het verhaal van twee gezinnen samengebracht en voor altijd verbonden door hun liefde voor een lief klein meisje.
Jij bent zo geliefd.
11-05-2017 ~ I had just finished catching up on some sleep, after a long birth, when at 9am I got a text message from Mayana saying she was feeling a lot of pain and some contractions. Mayana was 36 weeks and 4 days pregnant so it was a little on the early side plus her baby was in a breech position. She had a meeting with the Gynacologist planned at 11am the same day to try to turn the baby head down.
She sent me a picture of the contraction timer she had been using and there were 3 contractions on it with 20 minutes in between, lasting a minute long and she said it was already quite painful.
I called her immediately and after hearing she had spots of blood too I told her to call the midwife and then call me back.
The midwife told Mayana to go to the 11am appointment and she would be checked there. I agreed to meet her there in an hour as her husband Juliano had left the house 2 hours earlier and was on his way to Germany for a 2 day business trip. Usually this contraction pattern is very early labour but I felt this could go either way and just had a feeling this was very possibly more than it looked.
A few minutes later I got a call from Juliano in which he wanted to hear my opinion. I told him either the baby was coming today or it wasn’t good news and something else was going on or the third scenario… it would just stop and start again another day. He decided he did not want to take any risks and would turn around straight away and start driving back towards Rotterdam.
I knew that Mayana was a strong woman and was not going to let on very easily that she was in pain. She had already told me during our preparation meetings that she had a high pain thresh hold. I didn’t trust this was nothing and took my doula bag with me to the hospital.
On the way I spoke to Juliano again and asked at what time he was going to arrive and asked him to pick up the hospital bag on his way.
I arrived at the hospital at 10:30 and as I came up the escalator and saw Mayana’s pale and slightly greenish face I knew something serious was going on in her body. I sat next to her, saw her have one contraction and knew we needed to be seen quickly.
Mayana was waiting to register as she had not been in this hospital before. There was one number before us and I managed to hurry us to the front of the line and a woman magically appeared with a wheel chair to take us upstairs.
We arrived at the day care where the scheduled appointment was to take place and had to wait in the waiting room. Mayana was having very regular contractions at this point and was in significant pain.
At 11:00 I texted Juliano: “Can you pick up the hospital bag on your way. Still haven’t seen anyone but contractions are coming every 3 minutes or so now. I think the baby is coming today”
Eventually we were shown to a room and had to wait again. I felt a real urgency but there was no-one to hurry up and we just had to wait. That 15 minutes or so felt like an age as the contractions quickly started coming every 2 minutes, we called Juliano at 11:17 to say it was picking up fast and he talked to Mayana and encouraged her to stay calm and breathe.
When finally a midwife came in at 11:30 to evaluate Mayana for the external version (attempt at turning the breech baby) she saw that she was clearly in labour and did an internal exam to find that she was 4/5 cm dilated already. The midwife asked if Mayana had thought about how she wanted to birth a breech baby, caesarean or vaginal and did she know the risks. Mayana had already told me in the waiting room that her preference was still for a vaginal birth if the Gynecologist was okay with that.
We were quickly taken to a labour and delivery room. The contractions were clearly getting stronger with every new one that came. I wanted to call Juliano to tell him the situation and to forget picking up the hospital bag but Mayana needed me and I didn’t get to it.
The same Gynecologist who was scheduled to do the external breech version, came into the room. She repeated the question if Mayana had thought about how she wanted to give birth and talked briefly and very quickly, and in between two contractions, about the risks of vaginal birth vs Cesarean. The contractions were coming very fast and it was very intense for Mayana. The Gynecologist checked Mayana again and she was 8cm dilated. It was 11:45!
At this point the Gynecologist said that it was too late for a caesarean and that the baby would be born very soon. I looked at my phone to try to call Juliano and saw that he had tried to call me at 11:46. I tried to call him back but no answer so at 11:55 I quickly texted him before the next contraction came:
“8cm, going vaginal”
A few minutes later he entered the room.
Mayana was happy to see him and even though he was all dressed up in his work clothes, he embraced her straight away and helped her try to focus through the intense pain. Very quickly her body started to push with the contraction and it was clear the baby was coming soon. The Gynecologist checked she was fully open and felt that the baby’s bottom was almost at the opening. She guided her through the process and after two contractions we already saw the baby’s little bottom coming out. Truly amazing! With the next two more contractions Mayana pushed like a champion and two little baby legs flopped out and then the Gynecologist helped guide her head out and there she was, sweet little Helena!
We have lost the art of vaginal breach birth because in recent years Gynecologists have tended to advice women to choose a cesarean birth for a breach baby because they believed it to be safer. This is not necessarily true. It is so great to see that the wisdom and experience is slowly being gained again as women and Gynecologists are daring to choose to birth breach babies vaginally. I have been thrilled to witness two this year!
As you prepared for the birth of your son, you came to understand that birth is never a straight forward line but that birth has many twists and turns along the way and the labour process is very much a journey. You knew I would be there for you wherever the journey took you, that I would inform you and educate you of the choices before you and hold your hand as you made the best possible choice for you and your baby.
As the weeks went by… 40, 41 and then getting very close to the 42 weeks you had to wrestle with a possible induction. You kept saying you felt the baby and your body were not ready yet. “What if he wants to come tomorrow and we induce today?” you asked. “What if… what if… ” You had never thought it would get to this point when you were hoping, as many Mama’s do, that your baby would come earlier rather than later.
You made the choice to induce hoping he would still come of his own accord… but the morning of the induction came, you checked into the hospital and a plan was made to induce the labour process.
First breaking the membranes… then medication.
It gave you contractions… but no dilation! Your body responded and contracted but did not open.
You remained strong and determined… but the lack of progress made the pain harder to handle… the hours passed by and you worked Oh so hard… we all worked hard, your birth team of three… and not to forget the baby!
A tough decision for pain relief was made, your decision, the right decision. And relief it was, with a small part of your belly still feeling the contraction pain. You knew that epidurals were not always the perfect pain killer but it was exactly what you needed and you were actually glad you could still feel something. (Yes you said that!)
Then… 9 hours further (4 with epidural) with intense contractions and only 1 added cm of dilation.
A tough decision for a c-section was made, your decision, the right decision. This was not working, your body was not responding… this is what they call a lack of progress, and was now officially a failed induction. You can’t force a body to open.
At one moment you looked into my eyes and said “Sophie, will you be disappointed in me if we go to cesarean?” and without hesitation I told you “Of course I won’t.”
As your doula it is my job to be there for you, to keep you as comfortable as possible, to make you laugh, help you relax and make space for you to cry, to help you process decisions and emotions and to celebrate with you when your little one is finally in your arms. I go on that journey with you whatever that looks like, wherever it may take you and support whatever decisions you make along the way.
I know without a doubt that nothing I said in our preparation for this day and up to this moment led you to believe I would be disappointed in any decision you made. But at that moment you still needed to hear from me, and your husband, that we were behind you, supporting you and loving you through this decision. You needed to not be disappointed in yourself and hearing us affirm you (because, after all, one of your love languages is ‘words of affirmation’;) helped you accept your own decision.
Nothing in me, no fibre of my being was disappointed in you Nan. This was your journey not mine. A journey you and your baby went on together. You were amazing, you were strong, you endured and you even rocked the labour that got you no-where and definitely didn’t get you the birth you were hoping for!!
We may never know the answer to the ‘what ifs…’ but I was honoured to journey with you, to ease your way a little and to help you have no regrets. I was so happy today, 4 days later, to hear you say you have no regrets.
And now here he is, your little one… and you are a little bit more prepared for the twists and turns of parenthood because of the birth journey you have already taken.
It has been such a pleasure to support and get to know you,
With deep respect and a special fondness,
(Doula) Sophie x
Especially when there is an older sibling… all was tranquil until BIG sister came in… so proud, so gorgeous, so wanting attention and Oh so sweet with her new brothers in a “I’m not yet 2” kind of way… I don’t think she will have any problems stealing the show from her twin siblings! So much joy and fun in this family
Congratulations to this lovely family. You may recognize big sister as the little one on the homepage birth photography slider. Those gorgeous dark eyes <3 Tomorrow she turns two!
So excited… this was the 2nd vaginal breech birth I have supported in 3 months. So glad that women are daring to make the choice to give birth vaginally instead of going straight for a cesarean and that Gynecologists are gaining more experience with breech birth. There is still a lot of lost time to gain as breach birth has become a lost art in Gynecology and midwifery. But could it possibly be that the tide is slowly turning and vaginal breach birth will become a normal choice and not an exceptional one.
And don’t you just love the moment when the baby, that was just minutes ago in her mothers womb, hears her Papa’s voice, turns her head and looks him straight in the face. I see this so often when babies hear their fathers voice. Always such a precious moment ❤ If you look carefully you can see her wonderfully breech baby legs up by her face and see her sweet hand holding her own little foot.
Welcome sweet girl <3
Another brave mama whom, after a traumatic 1st birth, could not believe that birth COULD be a good experience… had a good experience birthing her son today.
Good preparation and support can change how you experience birth. Welcome little man.
I have been doing newborn lifestyle shoots for doula clients for a while now and am excited to start offering it to other families.
Invite me into the comfort of your own home to document a moment in time during the first weeks with your newborn baby. A time that passes so quickly, a time you don’t want to forget! I look forward to hearing from you. The costs are €200 (€150 for doula clients)
After struggling to get back into the work flow after my vacation, I had two births this last week. One I only photographed, a baby girl who decided coming out a bit sideways was a good idea making it extremely tough for her very brave mother who still managed to give everything and birth her at home.
And a rather sweet little boy who had a long journey and a rather rough start but is doing well now and hopefully can go home today. I have so much respect for his brave and courageous mother who could have given birth on her positivity alone. What a gift!
Welcome Nathan. You sure surprised us when you actually decided to come on your own. But here you are and you are a perfect bundle of sweetness.
When you have experienced a sickness that robs you of the basic trust in your body, going through labour has the potential to help you regain that trust and give you the power to transform what you have come to believe about your body. What a gift
This mother wrote the day after giving birth:
“I can’t put into words how much it has meant to me to regain the trust in my body after my sickness”
Has your child ever toned interest in seeing your baby be born? Is it tough for you to find childcare for your other child(ren) while you give birth? Would you like to give your child(ren) the gift of seeing a sibling being born?
Whatever your reasons for considering having your child(ren) at the birth of their sibling I hope there are some tips and food for thought here that will help you decide if it is for you and your family and help you to make it happen in a memorable and peaceful way for you and your child(ren).
I wanted to share some of my experience with clients who had their older children at the birth of a sibling. All of these births happened to be home water births. Somehow a water birth is gentle and easier to watch. If you have ever seen a water birth then you will understand what I mean when I say it is the easiest kind of birth for a sibling to witness.
Here are some links to my favourite family centered birth films.
After bedtime stories one almost 3 year old girl said to her Mum “Just poop my little sister out tonight will you Mummy?” Later that night her Dad woke her up a few minutes after the baby was born to see her baby sister and the first thing she said with a big sleepy smile was “Mum, you did it, you pooped the baby out!”
After peeking over the edge of the pool and seeing the baby’s head crowning this 3 year old boy quickly said “I am going back to my cars now!”
A while after the baby had been born big sister said “Mama, when is the baby’s house coming out?”
My observation of the young children I have seen present at a birth is that they treat is as a very natural thing. They play and then have a look and maybe give a hug or a sweet caring gesture and then they go on to the next thing for a while. Maybe they see the moment the baby comes out maybe they don’t. It needs to be their choice at that moment. Maybe you just want to have them around you while you are in labour, maybe you only want to invite them in after the baby is born. The choice is yours.
Wishing you and your family a wonderful birthing experience however you choose to receive the new little baby into your family.
9-06-2017~ Handsome little boy born today to an amazingly brave Mum who fought and endured the terrible Hellp syndrome for 4 days before being well enough to birth him. Welcome little man.
8-06-2017~ Welcome Maria. Quite the birth journey. Much patience, 1 full hospital and the second one almost full, an epidural that never arrived and in the end born in water as your mama had originally hoped for.
27-05-2017~ Many years have you been longed for little man. Welcome to this world, I know you are going to have many fun adventures with your Mama <3
26-05-2017 Love and strength, lots of patience and a good sprinkling of tears of joy. 42 weeks in the making and Oh so welcome. Meet sweet Austra
19-05-2017 ~ Sweet Aubrey how long you have been in your mothers dreams and now here you are and already the apple of your Daddy’s eye!
Sometimes the best things come later in life <3
12-05-2017 Welcome Jara. Your Mama was amazing birthing you and you Papa was a great support and so totally overcome with love and emotion from the very first moment you were born! And it has to be said that your umbilical chord was awesome!!
This little one decided she was going to surprise us all by staying breech and being born vaginally at 36 weeks and 4 days and in barely 2 hours. Dad got there just in time, 15 minutes before the baby was born. My last whats app message to him which he read in the hospital lift was “9cm, we are going vaginal!” A first vaginal breech birth for me and what an exciting one too. So proud of this Mama <3
2017-04-11 ~ Welcome Helena!
2017-05-10 Welcome little Zoe Marie.
Little did I know that this would be the first of three births this week… and the longest. I am so proud of the patience and humour this mama had during her long labour. Its always so fun when a women keeps her sense of humour and can laugh and enjoy despite the discomfort and pain. Good for the oxytocin! I am also so grateful for her partner who lovingly cooked meals throughout the long process to keep us all nourished for the journey.
13-04-2017 is the day this little man came into the world with a bit of a whirlwind. This little one is the fourth child. Giving birth for the fourth time you would think it be an easier delivery. At least you are experienced and you know what to expect… but this was her hardest birth, she said afterwards. “It never hurt this much before and was totally different!”
It doesn’t happen very often in The Netherlands that there is a doula and a birth photographer at the same birth. This is also a reason why there are not many photos of doula’s at work. A frustration of many doula’s when looking for image material.
A few weeks ago I got a call from a man that his wife was in labour and their birth photographer was sick. She had offered a back up photographer but their midwife had recommended me. So he asked if I was available to photograph a birth somewhere in the coming hours.
The advantage of always being on call is that you are always ready to put everything down for a birth. I had no clients about to give birth so I was really excited to be invited to an unplanned birth. So I made an agreement with the father-to-be and said I would wait for their call to join them so I could document the birth.
I knew the doula and the midwife and as it turned out I had met the mother once at a pregnant ladies tea party I organize. I quietly slipped into the delivery room and quickly became part of the furniture (as we say in English.) There is something so special about entering a space and energy that is focused and so intent to bring forth life.
I loved watching another doula at work and seeing just how hard she worked. I knew she was utterly exhausted but she never complained and tirelessly continued supporting and giving counter pressure through almost every single contraction!! Watching the sweet relationship she had with the woman and how she gently supported the man with a knowing look or the touch of a hand… who would not want that? I thought. Unconditional loving support from your partner AND your doula while going through the most intense experience of your life. Doula’s really do rock your birth with you!
Photographing this birth for me was extra special because I got to take a side seat and document another doula at work and on occasion I quietly got to doula the doula and give her a back rub too. It was a pleasure Justine <3
A special thanks to this family for allowing me to share these images. Such love and sweetness <3
That first selfie with your daughter♥ After you supported your love for hours as she laboured with courage and tireless patience, after you witnessed her entrance into the world and saw her take her first breath, after the laughter and tears of those first moments of relief that she was safe and finally here, after you saw her nourish herself at her mothers breast, after you cuddled her and felt her little warm body press against yours… and after you dressed her for the first time. Finally… that first proud papa selfie!
Oh your toes are so scrumptious little one… all shriveled and wrinkly from being in the amniotic fluid inside of my belly. As they unfold and pink up with your first breath, I hold them tight and will cherish them now and for as long as they will fit in the palm of my hand.
Just missed April the 12th by a few hours but hey April the 13th is a great day to be born… just in time for Easter!
Welcome little man ? The 12th didn’t have much space on my birthday calendar anyway!! ?
You 3 siblings, and especially your big brother, are going to be so happy to meet you.
12 of April has been a popular day for my clients to give birth! In 2014 sweet Violeta, 2015 darling Mahruyeh and in 2016 Dennis! Happy Birthday to these little and not so little ones… will there be a new name to add to the list today?
10-03-2017 There is something beautifully symbolic when a man starts making bread while his wife is in labour. The rhythm of the kneading, the rising, the wonderful aroma while baking. The loaves were baked and cooled by the time the baby was born. A beautiful healing home water birth with some exciting moments like when the baby decided she was suddenly in a hurry to be born and the midwife wasn’t there yet. But hey this doula trusted the process and had seen enough water birth to support these parents as they birthed their little one together. And just as she appeared the doorbell rang and the midwife arrived.
Welcome gorgeous little one. 42 weeks grown and still a lot of vernix on your little body when you born. You are perfect and your Mama was awesome A special thing to see when a second birth brings the healing so needed from the traumatic first experience. It makes being a doula all the sweeter.
4-03-2017 Little Peter was born. His big brother was born by c-section after trying for a vaginal breech birth. Peter decided to stay head down and his mama worked extremely hard to birth him naturally. She rocked it and promptly told me after that her respect for woman was now so much more than before this experience!! If you could measure Oxytocin after the birth this mama would have been off the chart. Welcome little man, may your first weeks on earth be peaceful.