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Top tips for a successful water birth

Tips for water birth in general

  • 2017-01-28 Re-do Jim waterbirth-6Know that at any time the situation can change and you may need to let go of your dream water birth. Hold the dream lightly so you can let go of it at any moment yet at the same time prepare well so you know you have done all you can to achieve your goal of birthing your baby in water.
  • Stick a sticker on the bottom of the pool. This can help to indicate how much blood loss there is. If you can still see the sticker post birth then it is usually fine. Also if you can still see what colour your legs are then your blood loss is safe.
  • To prevent the baby’s breathing reflex from kicking in the baby needs to stay completely under water till its whole body is born. The water needs to be at least 65cm deep. The water should ideally come up to under your breasts if you are sitting.
  • The water should be refreshed after 24 hours to prevent bacteria forming.
  • It is wise to not stay longer than 2 hours in the bath without a break of 30 minutes or so. This gives optimal pain relief and the movement of getting out of the pool can help the baby move through the pelvis.
  • Have an anti-slip mat to lay beside the pool for when you want to get out, old (or cheap)towels that can get dirty, a warm dressing gown and slippers.
  • Think about using dark coloured towels as any stains do not show and it looks better in the photos (says the birth photographer in me☺)
  • Take two or so of your own large bath towels, the hospital towels are not so big (and that is an understatement!)
  • It is a good idea to have a good torch/flash light with extra batteries for when the lighting is low and you want to see better whats going on in the water.
  • Some pools have a place for the partner to sit. It is nice to have the option of having your partner in the water with you for support, especially during the pushing phase. Make sure he has swimming shorts with him, just in case.
  • It is also nice to have candles, fairy lights or lighting that is dimmer for a more cozy and intimate atmosphere.

Extra tips for an enjoyable home water birth

  • If you are planning a home water birth, or renting a pool to take to a birth centre, you should usually have the pool in the house by week 37. Some midwife practices and doula’s rent birth pools. Find some links to where you can rent a pool on this prior blog post.
  • If you have a wooden floor make sure your floor can handle the weight of the water filled pool. A large pool carries about 800 liters of water, which is 800 kilo in weight. With a good floor this should not be a problem but in some old houses it is worth checking this first.
  • The room should be large enough to allow access from all sides. The midwife needs space to access the pool well.


  • The temperature of the room you will be birthing in should be comfortable. It can be nice to have a blow fan close by in case you get too warm in the water.
  • Have a practice run setting up the pool before hand. Time how long it takes to adequately fill the pool.
  • The midwife may at any point need more light then it is handy to have a moveable spotlight.
  • Have a low stool or children’s chair for the midwife to sit on next to the pool so she can sit comfortably too.
  • If the pool will be set up in the living area or on a different floor than the bedroom, make a comfortable place in the same room as the pool for mother and baby to lie on. A good sofa or guest bed/mattress work fine. This way you can lie there and enjoy the baby after the birth instead of moving upstairs or to the bedroom. This can also be used if you need to birth the baby or the placenta outside of the water. Make sure it is protected well from bloodstains and covered well with an old sheet and plastic if needed. The box you get from the insurance should have special mats in for this.
  • Have a few warm blankets or a duvet close by to keep mama and baby warm and lots of dark coloured towels 🙂

A glimpse of 2016

So excited to share my 2016 video with some of my favourite photos of last year. Some are my favourite because they are amazing shots and some are my favourites because of their special birth story. There are many, these are the ones I have permission to share. There are many special stories not represented here, that does not make them any less special. Enjoy <3
I love to figure out my stats and fun facts for the year. Here are some fun ones:
38 births, 39 babies
First twin birth 🙂
15 boys
24 girls
7/10 Successful VBAC’s (vaginal birth after cesarean)
6 Cesareans (1 planned)
19 First time mothers
30 Hospital births
4 Home births
4 Birth Centre births
7 mothers used medical pain relief!
4 Water births
6 mothers used a birthing pool for pain relief but did not give birth in water
28 international clients
5 repeat clients 🙂
1 birth missed (mother gave birth too quickly)
1 time (and the first) I sent my back up to a birth, because I had two at once.
3 Birth photography only

Not one but two Daniels!

On the 24th and 25th of December my last two births of the year took place. Two Daniels born to two different families in the same hospital and the same delivery room. I still got to spend Christmas eve(ning) with my family and Christmas afternoon with extended family. Apart from being a little tired I had a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas. Blessed <3


A labour of love and letting go (trigger warning)

One day in the month of May, earlier this year, I received a request from a midwife to photograph a very special birth.

In the early hours of a morning in June I received a call that labour had started and asking if I could join. When I arrived at the house there was a peaceful atmosphere and Jorinde was labouring in the birth pool. The midwife, her sister and a friend were there too and her son was sleeping in the room next door.

What I was about to witness that morning was a very brave yet brokenhearted mother who had faced many tough decisions throughout her pregnancy. She had decided to carry her baby full term after finding out that he had a rare form of dwarfism and a heart defect and would not live long after birth. She had walked a lonely journey and met misunderstanding as she sought for a way to give birth as she felt she wanted to. She found a support team willing to support a quiet respectful labour at home and a hospital team as back up if needed.

Her labour was a labour of love and letting go. Letting go of the son she so loved. The son whom she hadn’t yet met but whom she knew so well. She knew his kicks and his movements better than the back of her hand and as he grew she knew his life inside her womb was life indeed. Knowing that that life would not be sustainable on the outside was something she wanted to postpone for as long as she could. Now he was very much alive and kicking.

The letting go was agonizing and the pain of labour mirrored the pain on the inside. She patiently went through the process and we with her. The journey took her to the hospital and finally to let go of her sweet Valentijn via a cesarean section. He came into the world and looked his mother in the face for a short while and then closed his eyes and passed away.

Sweet brave Valentijn you were so loved and so wanted, you couldn’t stay for long but will remain in the hearts of the family and the friends who met you.

And dear Jorinde,  your strength and determination is bold and beautiful and i hope it will carry you in your grief. Thank you for sharing your story.


Lieve Sophie, ik ben je enorm dankbaar voor het feit dat jij bij de bevalling van mijn lieve Valentijn wilde zijn om hier prachtige beelden van te maken. De ontmoeting en het afscheid van mijn dappere mannetje! Ik kan uren naar de foto’s kijken en voel dan weer extra sterk mijn oneindig grote liefde voor hem ♥
Naast de prachtige beelden heb ik ook je support tijdens de bevalling als heel fijn en steunend ervaren, dankjewel daarvoor!
Liefs, Jorinde


09-12-2016 ~ Welcome to this little bundle of joy who is Gaia! Glad her Dad made it back from his business trip just in time to welcome her into the world. So glad my paths crossed with this sweet family.

gaia-hospital induction-doula


3-12-2016 ~ And we have entered the last month of the year, the most festive time of the year. I welcomed the first December baby on Saturday evening. A very patient and brave mama laboured long and peacefully to birth her baby girl in the way she had hoped. #VBACbaby #rockinmama I was thrilled to receive this lovely testimonial from Laila.

“The birth of our first child via emergency c-section left me feeling “robbed” of the birth experience I had hoped for. After moving to the Netherlands, and falling pregnant, I consistently received positive feedback on doula support.
Sophie was recommended to me by a friend and after our initial meeting my husband and I decided to hire her. Turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. Sophie’s wealth of knowledge was crucial in our decision making process regarding choice of hospital and birth plan. I really appreciate how she listed all available options but never tried to steer us in a certain direction.
As the big day came closer she frequently followed up and listened to my fears and concerns. Once I started having slight contractions a week before the due date she provided me with useful advice, made sure I got enough rest and most importantly spoilt me with a long massage, which I am convinced helped to speed up the whole early labour.
Throughout my long labour she was by my side and helped me focus on my breath, answered my husband’s questions, massaged some of the tougher contractions away and explained the steps along the way in a wonderfully calm manner. In a great team effort, together with my husband, she kept me going, resulting in the VBAC I was hoping for. A truly healing process which I will always be grateful for.” Laila Weinhardt



30-11-2016 ~ Yay for girls! Another sweet baby girl? Welcome on this planet Elin. It was an honour to support your lovely parents and witness your birth-day


chloe-hospital birth-doula

21-11-2016 ~ Darling little Chloe. With her 2,555 kilo’s and her dainty little body she entered the world keeping us on the edge of our seats, not that we were sitting any of us, til the last minute. I am thrilled to see this little one happy and healthy in her Mama’s arms. When Papa got his cuddles the relief and love for his Chloe was tangible Welcome sweet girl.

Maybe I want a doula after all!

21-08-2016 ~ Welcome sweet Ayden.

Some women move heaven and earth to create the environment that will optimize the chances of a natural birth. Women hoping to have a vaginal birth after a c-section (VBAC) sometimes feel options are taken away from them because of the risk of uterine rupture. Deborah had a dream team in her mind as she met several different doctors in different hospitals. She chose for a hospital that was willing to allow her midwife to do the birth with the full cooperation of the gynecologist. This meant that even though she had a medical indication her own midwife would do the birth but would discuss the progress and decisions with the gynecologist during the labour.

We had met early on in the pregnancy but she had not asked me to be her doula. As the time came closer Deborah realized she really did want the support of a doula after all. This birth was important enough to give it the best shot she could. She had prepared so well but kept having the feeling that a doula was missing from the picture. So a week before my vacation would start I agreed to support her if she went into labour before the Saturday evening. Ever since we met I had had the feeling this was a special lady and our paths were meant to meet. The week passed and Saturday came and sure enough labour started just in the nick of time.




Despite all the preparation, it was tough going! There were moments of panic and despair, moments where Deborah wanted to give up, moments where the pain was so intense that she regretted not opting for the elective cesarean. Every time the panic came she would look into my eyes and we would breath together. With her partners firm hand to hold, we helped her through the process one contraction at a time. An epidural gave the needed relief but still allowed her to be present in her body and feel the process without the high intensity. Many women expect to feel nothing with an epidural and are disappointed when that isn’t the case. However afterwards I often get the feedback that they were happy they could still ‘feel’ and felt like they were still participating in the process. The epidural helped the process along and it wasn’t long before she pushed her baby out into the world and into her arms, just as she had dreamed of.


The midwife, the doula and the Dr. were indeed the exact dream team Deborah had hoped for! Each one was important in the process, each one playing their part, and in the end she got her dream VBAC! And this doula made some pretty okay photos here and there when she could… yes, because Deborah is a birth photographer and that was pretty important to her too!! 🙂


And it was a surprise boy!! I always love to see a happy relaxed mother looking on at her partner and their new baby snuggling together. Such sweetness, such pride and such awe <3

VBAC geboorte/Gouda/doulasophie

Oliver & Merlijn

07-11-2016 ~ Welcome Oliver & Merlijn

(My 120th birth;)


I have so much respect for this couple. They walked a path so different than they originally had hoped to because they were expecting identical twins, and they did it so graciously. It was a medical journey with many hospital visits and check ups. They made informed and sometimes agonising decisions throughout their pregnancy. This mama was(is) strong and determined and she grew her little ones on the inside for 37 weeks. Women bodies are AMAZING! They surrounded themselves with a supportive team: a favourite midwife, a rather special gynaecologist, and me (their doula;) and were lucky that exactly those people were working on the day. And she… she gave birth so peacefully and yet with such power. Beautiful Mama, beautiful woman
These two little ones have a big brother who is all of 18 months old. A precious family


29-10-2016 ~ Vimal came into this world even faster than Santi! So fast that the midwife and I both missed it. People often say that they hope for a fast birth but don’t realize just how intense that can be. Vimal was caught by his Dad on the bathroom floor, midwife arrived just after shortly followed by me. It took quite some talking to process the birth and a week later the parents were still in shock. No home water birth as she had hoped for but an exciting birth story non the less.



27-10-2016 ~ Oh Elijah, what a long journey your parents had to walk to have you. And here you are! Welcome little guy. What a pleasure to be part of your birth into this world and into your family.



14-10-2016 ~ Milan

One long labour, one strong mother determined to have a VBAC, two fierce and loving midwives, one gentle sweet father, one big brother excitedly waiting at home with his rather nervous Grandmother and little Milan who, for reasons we may never know, needed to be born by cesarean.
Milan was placed straight on his mother after the birth of the placenta, had 5 hours continual skin to skin, his placenta stayed attached, his parents loved on him and the doula? She was allowed in the OR to document the whole birth!! So grateful


I love seeing how excited parents are to show their older children their new sibling. I watch as their hearts expand with love for that new little baby and as soon as their firstborn enters the room the love that already filled their hearts is so loud and clear.  Big Bro Luca was oh so proud!




11-10-2016 ~ Welcome on planet Earth Leonard!

It was the first time since becoming a doula 6 years ago that I needed to call in my back up to go to a birth for me. While I was at Santi’s birth Leaonard decided it was time to be born too. Santi was born within the hour of me arriving so when his parents were settled I joined Farola in the hospital just in time for the pushing phase and to see Leonard be born. Farola has been my back up for a long time but this was the first time ever I had two births simultaneously and needed her. It was fun and unique to support a couple together through the 2nd phase of labour.



11-10-2016 ~ Welcome Santi!



We suspected this little man was going to come quickly and he did not disappoint. I was called shortly after Kim thought that labour might of started. I arrived at their home 25 minutes later and Kim was obviously in pain. Her older son was still at home and she did not want to be in labour with him around so was trying to tame it down a bit. Labour held off a little bit til the babysitter got there but not fully. Kim got in the water and within 55 minutes of the midwife and I arriving little Santi was born. Pure nature, hands off, just a mother instinctively birthing her baby. Such raw and primal beauty!




2016-09-27-david-13Welcome sweet David. Born on 27-09-2016 after a long and intense labour that pushed his Mum to the edge of her limit many times! Every time she thought she could not go on any further she had even more endurance and surprised herself. The biggest surprise came when she actually pushed her baby out with her own strength. She was thrilled and could not have been prouder!

“I’ve changed my mind, I think I want a home birth!”


The ‘Team Tula’selfie!

When I got the first phone call from Jessica she had found out she was pregnant a few weeks earlier. She was incredibly sick and her body felt so out of control that she just needed to talk to someone about it. I remember I had arrived at a postnatal appointment a little early and was sitting in the car when she called. I sat and listened as she talked and poured out her fears and experiences and just how weird she thought this pregnancy thing was. I assured her it was normal what she was going through, blamed the (wonderful) hormones and empathized with just how much it sucked to feel so crappy because your body is growing a baby. Being American she knew it was normal to wait a few weeks before going to the midwife but felt a strong need to talk to a professional about what she was experiencing. All she wanted was to hear some advice on how she could take care of herself and hear that what she was going through was normal.

I met her and her dutch partner, Emiel, a week or so later and they hired me to be their doula. Jessica had no idea what kind of birth she wanted, she just knew that she DID NOT want it to be at home and she was really strict about that from the beginning. Home births just aren’t part of how things go in the US where most people are convinced a room full of doctors is the safest way to birth. Emiel shared how he was only four when his brother was born at home and he remembered crying the entire time. It was not exactly a pleasant memory for him but he was open to whatever Jess wanted.

Jess had no plans either way in terms of pain relief, she was pretty much open to everything but more than anything she wanted to have options. I recommended a midwife practice and the midwife recommended a kraamzorg and after discovering it was a baby girl Jessica and Emiel gave her a name and ‘Team Tula’ was born. Jessica joked about getting t-shirts for everyone with ‘Team Tula’ on it.

As time went on they started discovering more about the birth process (at the Confident Birth Course) Learning there were limitations that came with medical interventions, like no longer having their midwife taking care of them and the use of water in any form being out of the question, caused them to reconsider their birth plan. Jess loves water and doesn’t love being hooked to machines and so this news started to change things for her. Sure, she still wanted the option for medical pain relief but was much more aware of the trade-offs that would be made if she opted for it.

So they came to the conclusion that a home water birth would provide a relaxed atmosphere and help Jess stay calm and feel safe during labour. This ended up being the birth plan, unless, during the process she decided otherwise. She was not closed to having an epidural if needed, she was just now open to trying warm water as a pain relief option instead of immediately jumping to a medical form of relief.

I went on vacation and had my back up cover for me in case labour started before 39 weeks. Two days after my return Jess was awoken at 3 in the morning with light contractions that were enough to keep her awake. They were uncomfortable but not painful and they continued for a few hours. In the morning they subsided and she was able to catch up on some sleep. She continued with her day aware this pattern could continue for some days still.

That evening they indeed started up again and she didn’t really dare to believe she was really in labour. She knew that early labour could stop and start before really kicking in and she kept thinking the contractions were probably temporary. However her husband saw they were progressing and coming quite often and decided it would be good to let me know. I encouraged her to get into the shower to see if that would make the contractions intensify or slow down and agreed we would have contact in 30 minutes or so again. The next time I talked to her she was very chatty but when the contraction came I could hear her breathing to get through it. I timed a few at every 2 minutes. This seemed to be going fast, so I said i would make my way to them and be there in an hour and that they should definitely call the midwife.

I arrived at the same time as the midwife and we went upstairs. It was 11:10 at this point and clear that Jess was in deep labour. Her favourite 80’s music was playing and Emiel said that 30 minutes earlier they had been dancing to the music. This was going fast. She was emotional and struggling to cope. I suggested the shower again while the midwife got the birthing pool set up.

water -birth-tula-delft-doulaThe shower was a dark place, she said later, where she later came to realize she had been in transition (the phase just before being fully open and ready to push the baby out.) It felt so intense and the contractions just kept coming with little break in between. She started to feel the urge to push and I encouraged her not to be afraid but to be mindful of what her body was doing and let it happen. We took turns to stay with her and help with the pool. When Emiel was with her he held the shower on her back and when I was with her I applied some counter pressure on her back. Meanwhile the midwife was working hard to get some water in the pool. I took over so she could go and check the heartbeat of the baby. The baby was doing fine. The midwife suggested Jess get into the pool.

Thuisbevalling-water-tula-DoulaAs soon as she got it in, the water soothed the pain in her body a bit. It felt good and she relaxed but then a contraction would come and she wouldn’t know where to grab or what to do! I brought to her attention that the space between the contractions had gotten longer again (this is common for the pushing phase so mother and baby can recover from the intensity of the contraction.) As soon as she realized that, she could relax better in the breaks because she had more time to. We talked about how if she pushed with the contraction the pain would likely be less and it was as if that suddenly clicked for her and during the next contraction she got more focused and in control. I could see she was mindfully feeling what was going on in her body, listening to it and gently pushing the baby down. The warm water was all used up so the sweet midwife continued to warm the water every way possible wanting to have enough warm water in the pool before the baby came and wanting to allow the father to be in the moment with his wife!!


Jess moved onto her knees in the pool and after the next contraction all of a sudden said “I think something just came out” The midwife grabbed the mirror from her bag but as I looked down I saw a little tiny hand peeping out from underneath Jessica. The baby was already half born. Jessica and Emiel looked down together and there she was, sweet Tula, staring up at them from under the water. Jess wasn’t sure what to do but the midwife assured her she could just bring her out of the water herself. She did and pulled her baby’s wet little body up to her chest while sitting back in the pool. “There you are my little nugget” she said and as we all laughed with slight disbelief at what had just happened. The midwife said “Team Tula, Yay!” and we all cheered! It was just past midnight 🙂


Tula let out a loud cry and then quietened down and enjoyed being in her mama’s arms in the water… which wasn’t quite full enough but was plenty warm enough. Playing in the background as she was born was “I want it that way” by the Back Street Boys! We laughed again and all put on our team Tula t-shirts as we had not yet had time to do.

Thuisbevalling-home birth-Doula-SophieThe kraamzorg arrived, put on her t-shirt and joined the team Tula selfie. The dogs were introduced to the new addition and were very relaxed about the whole thing.

After a few hours I went home with an Oxytocin high, a bit of jet-lag, a bit of doula-lag and needing to get up the next day to teach a new Confident Birth Course! Doula life can be crazy but I love it!

Welcome sweet Tula, you are already very loved… even by your furry friends who are starting to get used to you now too. Emiel and Jessica thank you for letting me share your story.


17-07-2016 ~ I love to witness the enthusiastic and loving support of a partner. Elena’s Dad gave amazing support to his wife last night giving relentless, and I mean relentless, sacral pressure through every single contraction. His wife, oh wow… she rocked it with a boat load of patience and determination and laboured and birthed their beautiful daughter, in water as she wished, during the early hours of this morning. Welcome Elena.


08-07-2016 ~ This was a sweet family birth that I got to capture last week. Reminds me of that quote “There is such a special sweetness in being able to participate in creation” ~ Pamela S. Nadav
Welcome Juliette, you were surrounded with so much love, right from the very first moment.

2016-07-08 Sneak Peek Juliette-5-2

2016-07-08 Sneak Peek Juliette-14-2

2016-07-08 Sneak Peek Juliette-10


Lea ~ 20-06-2016 ~
I love my repeat clients. Especially sweet when the first hire was only for birth photography and the value of your presence during the birth meant so much that with the second baby they hire you for your doula support too.
This is one strong Mama! So much respect for her journey to parenthood.
Two photos of the two sisters, one born by c-section and one VBAC
Read big sister Anna’s, birth story here. https://www.doulasophie.nl/?s=anna

2016-06-20 Lea sneak peak-7

2014-04-01 Anna-67


11-06-2016 ~ Welcome Cesare ? Repeat client, 2nd son, boy families rock!

2016-06-11 Cesare sneak peak-7


And there she is, Greta!! After a long but stressful pregnancy, that doctors tried to keep convincing her was high risk, this Mama kept on believing in her little girl and made it through to 39 weeks and 4 days of pregnancy. Her labour started naturally and was a long VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) journey.

2016-06-09 Greta Sneak Peek-3

After many hours with little progression she made the difficult decision to have an epidural. Thankfully she was rewarded by being one of those women where the process speeds up after receiving an epidural and she birthed her little Greta vaginally as she had so hoped to. VBAC mama’s are so strong. In the early hours of this morning the 9th of June 2016, little Greta was born joining her sister to make a family of girls. A long awaited VBAC birth. Welcome tiny little one.

2016-06-09 Greta Sneak Peek-6


2016-06-09 Greta Sneak Peek-8

18 years of 3 boys!

On this day 18 years ago I gave birth to my third son. His was the only pregnancy we found out what gender we were expecting and i don’t need to tell most of you why. Yes he was to be my 3rd son 😉 After the initial disappointment that he was not a girl, I thought “3 boys, wow cool.”

three sons doula


I would have so loved a daughter. And before you think it… yes of course it was important he was a healthy baby but when I was 27 I presumed my baby would be healthy, that’s just the honest truth. Knowing the gender before birth was more unusual back then. I knew that finding out before would help me prepare and not be disappointed at birth. An hour after finding out I was over it and so looking forward to having three boys!

I never imagined being a boys Mum but with hearing we were expecting another boy my fate was set in stone! More testosterone in my life than I ever imagined more sports in my life than i ever imagined and more ‘boy movies’ than i ever care to tell!!


When Joel was born he brought so much into our family. So many smiles and cuddles and he was my first super easy baby. Easy going and happy. We were more relaxed as parents I think and the older two boys had each other and did everything together which gave me more time to enjoy Joel as a baby. The age gap was a little bigger between son 2 and 3 than between the first two, this also added to the ease in which Joel came into our family. We lived in California where it was sunny all the time and the older two boys (then 3 & 5yrs) lived outside which suited their personalities really well. Yes Joel is our American son!

I sometimes wonder what our home would have been like with 3 girls. Maybe the house would be more cleaned up, maybe there would be less shoes left under the coffee table, maybe there would have been more reading and colouring (3 boys together don’t find themselves doing that very often:) maybe just maybe there would… well i can go on and I know for sure there would have been way more chick flicks!! But many of my friends tell me the clean house and less shoes is definitely not true with girls so I will be happy and thankful and keep cleaning up and tolerating the boy movies til they are all out of the house and I know I will long back for those moments.

Beach shoot


On the day we celebrate Joels 18th birthday I am so thankful. Thankful for all the happy times, thankful to have 3 healthy boys who have turned into 3 loving, healthy fantastic young men. And even though the house is too small for 5 grown human beings, from 1 family, I am happy that this evening we will eat together and celebrate 18 years of Joel in our lives.

Alone in the labour room!

For much of the time you are in labour you are alone with your partner, busy labouring in the best way you know how. My last blog talked about the reality of what it looks like for much of the time you are in labour and the misconception about the support you will get from your midwife or the hospital staff.

2015-12-25 Levi-13

How can you prepare for those hours alone in the birthing room with just the two of you?

1 ~ Follow a birth preparation course together. This can help you and your partner know more about what to expect during the process. Your partner will feel more at

ease because he knows how the process of labour works and will have learned some ways he can coach you through the process. It is very common for the pregnant woman to

do a lot of reading about labour and birth but the partner is often reluctant to read or just can’t find the time to.

Why take a course as a couple?

  • There is nothing better than having your birth partner be as educated as you are!
  • It forces you to spend time together preparing mentally and emotionally for the baby and not just practically (with all those jobs and endless lists that need doing/buying     and making.)
  • Good birth preparation is worth the money and will educate and prepare you for a better birth experience.
  • Preparing alone and having your partner just come to a ‘partner session’ is (better than nothing) but not even half as effective as preparing together.
  • It will blow your partner away because he will actually enjoy it and feel better equipped for the job and that… is awesome… for you and him!!


Not… be with just the two of you!!

2 ~Hire a Doula. Consider what a difference a doula will make to your birthing experience. I know it is quite an investment but you will not regret it. What ever your birth journey ends up being, doula support will improve your outcome. She can’t guarantee your dream birth or a perfect birth but she can support you and your partner in a way that makes the whole experience a more positive and supported one.

  • A doula will be with you from beginning to end. Better still she has gotten to know you a bit in the months leading up to your birth so she feels familiar and you feel safe with her present.
  • When labour really starts to kick in she will be making sure you are comfortable, helping you find whatever position feels comfortable, massaging you, giving you sips of water. At times she may sit in the corner chair and just “be there”
  • She will help your partner feel at ease and giving him ideas of how to “be there” for you.
  • She will encourage and motivate you when you feel like you can’t go on. She will believe in you and your ability to birth your baby.
  • If interventions are advised she will help you weigh up the pros and cons and walk you through whatever is necessary to make a healthy decision.
  • You will feel safe because she is familiar with birth. During those seemingly endless hours, she understands what is going on and will tell you that what you are experiencing is normal.
  • Your partner will feel less stress because he can ask his questions as they come up and not feel the responsibility of knowing if he should or shouldn’t call the midwife or the nurse AGAIN!
  • Your doula will do all she can to keep those stress levels down. Stress will hinder the process and slow it down so she will spend time in her prenatal visits finding out what your fears are and what causes you stress so she can make sure your birthing environment FEELS safe to you, so your birthing experience will benefit.
  • A doula lightens the load and brings a dose of humour to the atmosphere bringing a sense of calm and confidence.

If you are not planning on using a doula, or even if you are, be as prepared as you can for your birth, take a course and be informed about the birthing process so you can minimize the stress and the unknown.

Shameless plug: Check out www.birthinholland.com for great couples courses in English!

Hospital birth in The Netherlands

A lonely reality of hospital birth

“Oh I don’t need a doula, I am giving birth in the hospital” is a statement I often hear when talking to women expecting their first baby. The truth of the matter is that if you really knew how much time you and your partner will be alone in that labouring room, you may feel differently. One of the reasons for this misunderstanding is the expectation of how physically present the hospital maternity staff are while you are in labour.


The reality is that upon arrival in the hospital you get a maternity nurse and a clinical midwife or resident doctor assigned to you. The nurse sporadically comes in and out to check on you or to do her routine tests and even more sporadically the midwife or resident doctor are with her to check how the labour process is going. If it is very quiet on the ward then you may get some extra attention, the nurse usually wants to assist you as well as she can, but if she has more than one birth at a time she cannot physically be in two places at once. If you are being transferred, or handed over to the hospital, by your midwife, because of a complication or the use of certain pain relief options, then she may or may not stay with you. Probably not! If you are under the care of a gynecologist for your pregnancy, because of a medical indication, then you will definitely not have continual physical support in the room during your labour.

The Gynecologist only comes if there is a complication. He or she is keeping an eye on your situation by looking at a computer screen, with your contractions and the baby’s heart rate, in the office room down the hall! They are in charge of the ward and are mostly referred to outside of your room. You will likely only meet them face-to-face if you need an intervention of some sort or if the midwife needs to confer about an issue in your presence.

At any time you can call on them by pressing a button that alerts them you need assistance or help and they will be there as soon as they can. But, in-between there are quite some hours that you and your partner are alone. Just the two of you!

birth-natalia-delft-doulaDuring the time you are alone with your partner, you are busy labouring in the best way you know how. You may appreciate being alone but it is very likely that your partner will feel helpless and have questions plaguing him like: Should I call the nurse now? What can I do? Isn’t it time? And, Why are they taking so long they said they would come and check again in 1 hour? What if the baby comes and no one is here? Is this normal, so much pain? He will want to support you but inside will likely feel stressed out however prepared he felt before hand. You will likely also have a variation of these questions circling around in your head at some point or another. A birth is very unpredictable and takes turns we don’t expect that can cause uncertainty and concern.

If you are prepared for this then you may be okay with the idea of labouring with just the two of you. If you and/or your partner are uncomfortable with the idea, then you may want to consider what a difference a doula will make to your birthing experience.

Tomorrow: Find out how hiring a doula can make a difference to your birthing experience.

“If interventions are advised she will help you weigh up the pros and cons and walk you through whatever is necessary.”


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Nothing more precious than a fresh wrinkly newborn in his Dads arms for the first time. Little Guus was born a little before midnight on my birth-day: 27-05-2016 which was also the same date (different year;) that his parents had met!! Welcome little guy, you are so wanted and very, very special.


9-05-2016 His Dad had gotten very impatient waiting past the due date for his son to be born. On the 18th April it was time. It was a gentle start to the labour and when active labour really kicked in these two slow danced their way through it until it was time to give birth. It was hard work and little Isaac was born in a beautiful hospital birth on the birthing stool with their wonderful midwife, Anouk. Sweet birth day! Welcome Isaac.

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Essentials that contributed to my VBAC

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Good and thorough preparation:

Being committed to practicing my Hypnobabies, practicing positivity and doing my research.

My Birth Team:

My doula who listened to me and processed my first birth with me for 2 years (above and beyond) through post traumatic stress and my desires and fears to have a second baby. She stayed with me through my almost 3 day labour journey being that consistent support and encouragement. She knew my journey.

My (caseload) midwife who gave me all the time i needed at appointments and believed in me, never saying my baby was too big or doubting I could give birth to him vaginally.

My husband who supported me through my ups and downs, diligently studied the hypnobabies with me, massaged me a lot and knew how much I wanted to birth my baby in this way!

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Labouring at home:

Feeling comforable and labouring at home as long as possible, allowing labour to establish well. Having my doula with me and having

contact with my midwife allowed me to relax and be patient.

Supportive hospital protocol and staff: 

I was very lucky to now live in one of the only places in The Netherlands there is a special protocol for women wanting a VBAC, Groningen (of all the places;). This meant I could stay under the care of my midwife for the last weeks of pregnancy and under the supervision of the gynecologist during labour also. (Usually women who want a VBAC transfer to the gynecologist at 36 weeks and don’t see their midwife again til after the birth)

Luck!! Yes luck!!!

Who would know I would be lucky one and not belong to the 0:8% who’s scar would rupture? Who would have known that when we moved to Groningen for my husbands job that we would live close to the hospital that had special protocols for VBAC? Who would

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have known I would find a caseload midwife who was perfect for me? Who was to know that I got lucky enough to have a doula for my first birth who would be crazy enough to come up to Groningen from Rotterdam to support me through my second birth, who would have known that my baby would fit through my perlvis (no that’s not luck, of course he would:) who would have known I would be so lucky that everything aligned and all my hard preparation paid off? So yes, luck too!!

Angela’s VBAC interview

The struggles and the victories!


What were the circumstances that led to your c-section?

I was induced at 39 weeks for suspected big baby due to diabetes (despite several negative tests results). For three days I got prostaglandin pills and membrane sweep but never went further than one cm dilation. The medical staff decided to try with the balloon catheter. What happened next is apparently very unusual.

As soon as they reached my cervix with it, I started to bleed and the heartbeat of the baby decreased. I began to feel weak while the Gynecologist entered the room shouting “I want the baby out now!” The nurse asked me to move on a different bed but I fainted. When I could open my eyes again I saw different people rushing, they were undressing me but I could not feel it. I was looking for my husband but couldn’t find him. I had an oxygen mask and was asked if I had heart or breathing problems but I could not reply. I was sure I was dying.

After sometime I woke up and a doctor showed me a picture of a baby, he told me his name and gender. It took me a while to realize the baby in the picture was my son. I couldn’t believe I had just given birth. Alone and in shock, I had to wait to be fully conscious again before meeting him and my husband. These moments felt like ages.


2014-c-section-birthWhat were the effects of the c-section on your well being?

(first two photo’s of the time after Angela’s first baby was born)

While holding my newborn after the C-section I felt incomplete and devastated. My instinct was telling me I was still pregnant and I could hardly believe I was holding my own baby. I would take care of him following my rational reasoning, not my heart. I felt useless and I thought my husband could raise our child without me. I couldn’t accept my scar. I did all I could to get back to the busy and active life I had before the baby was born, to prove to myself I was alive and nothing had changed. It took me a few months to realize how depressed and traumatized I was. Like a person that doesn’t want to drive anymore after a car accident, I was too scared of getting pregnant again, thinking I would die while giving birth. It was only after EMDR treatment for post traumatic stress disorder that I became open to conceive again.



How did you know you wanted to birth vaginally with your second baby?

The idea of having my scar opened again terrified me. I needed to see that birth could be different. Also, I was scared the recovery needed for a C-section would remind me too much of my trauma and would not allow me to take care of my newborn and my toddler as I so wanted to.

What was your greatest hope for this birth?

All I wanted was to see and feel the birth of my baby.

What was your biggest fear going into your VBAC?

To end up in the operating room for a life-threatening situation, loosing my baby and/or my own life.


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How did you prepare for this birth?

I had to reprogram my mind for a positive childbirth experience. I had to force myself to believe that the baby would not be too big for me and that my body knew how and when to give birth.

To do that, I discussed my fears with my doula, midwife and gynecologist to put those in perspective. With them I also discussed my wishes and plan for the birth. Then I did a lot of autogenic training: Hypnobirthing and meditation turned out to be great tools for that. Moreover, I looked up successful VBAC stories, did lots of research and firmly rejected any negative experience or thoughts about childbirth.


2016-midwife-vbacWhat was your biggest battle during the labour itself?

Despite all my optimism during pregnancy and the part of labour done at home, as soon as my midwife told me I needed to go to the hospital, fear started to arise. Every medical intervention seemed to draw a path towards the operating room in my mind. Which one was going to cause my uterus to rupture or my baby to go into distress?

During labour my mind was constantly trying to figure out how this process could end up needing an emergency C-section. Even the positive things seemed often negative to me. For example, seeing that all the hospital staff were so religiously following my birth plan scared me: Am I risking the health of my baby because I so much want to have a VBAC? Will they go against my plan to save the baby if needed? Should I just ask for a C-section instead of becoming a “code red” emergency?

Your mind does strange things to you when you are scared.



What was the moment you realised your VBAC was successful?

Even after the birth I was still worried something could go wrong. I think the moment that joy and positivity became predominant was when the midwife and nurse congratulated me and left the room. Then I dared to believe I was successful.


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What have you learned about yourself through this process?

That I can give birth, no matter how small, tired and scared I am! This might seem obvious to many but for me this was a

revelation, since for the past two years I had lost all faith and self-confidence with respect to giving birth.


Tomorrow: Angela names her top list of things that she is convinced contributed to her vaginal birth.

My fears of choosing a cesarean section

Angela’s email continued: Read the first part here

“In general, a C-section seems to me a weird way of giving birth. A woman is about to experience one of the strongest transitions in her life and we add to this, a major abdominal surgery, which persé is a difficult operation to go through. After such an operation you need a good recovery time and a crying, hungry baby with the hormonal shifts you go through, make it really hard to recover.


My fears of choosing a C-section

  • Not being in control and being completely dependent despite being a healthy human being. Passively watching other people intervening in something that is regarding me so much (my baby) and being the least active person in the room, drives me crazy. I am not having a heart attack and incapable of recovery myself, I am giving birth to my own child and I should be able to do that myself. The problem of this fear is that this bad feeling wouldn’t last only for the time of the surgery. A C-section implies I cannot be the main caregiver for many days. My child will be dependent on me while I will be completely dependent on my poor husband (at the least, if not on other helpers too)
  • I don’t know how painful it is to give birth naturally but I know how much pain you can feel with a C-section (without complications) It was very, very, very painful. A pain I was not happy about, and pain I really did not want to feel. I can imagine that when women ask for a C-section, they deal better with this pain. I didn’t. I hated my scar and the shape of my belly that for several months was blowing around this painful and ugly line. It would hurt every time I would breastfeed, I would sneeze, I would cough, I would go to bed and wake up. Every time I would remember what happened and this made me feel miserable. I could not exercise and I had to be careful and I did not quite understand why it happened in the first place and how I got here anyway. Why was this C-section needed? I hadn’t even tried to give birth.
  • C-section risks. Don’t need to list them, but the risks for both the mother and the baby are unpleasant. I would like to avoid them, but risks are a probabilistic matter, same reasoning made with the uterine rupture applies.
  • My physical and physiological recovery was really hard. I have mentioned that before. The part I suffered the most was that my heavy recovery did not allow me to enjoy my baby. For me breastfeeding was a torture and I kept doing it only because I believed it was right, but it was never pleasant. I feared the cry of my baby because that meant he was hungry. I was so mentally exhausted from what I had been through that I felt guilty, inadequate, and incapable to enjoy the moments with my baby that I had waited for so long. My baby was healthy, why was I not happy then? I would avoid a major surgery when having to take care of a newborn (and of a toddler too!). It took me almost 2 months to feel physically okay. It took much more to feel mentally okay. I started to feel better when I stopped breastfeeding, when my baby was approximately 5 months. I still have troubles accepting what happened. Am I okay now? I am not sure.


I guess giving birth is never easy and becoming a mother is even harder. However, fear of dying, experiencing a surgery, being under the effect of a drug (morphine is amazing) and becoming a mother, all first time experiences and all during the same day can be quite challenging.

I feel angry because I am having a second child without the benefits of it. I don’t know how it feels to enter into labor and I don’t know how I would cope with it. Knowing that women experience shorter labor and quicker delivery with a second child is also disappointing. This is my second child and I don’t have a clue about how to give birth, just like I was a first time mother.

Here is a link to a helpful site with information if you are trying to decide on having a vaginal birth or not. http://vbacfacts.com/

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