The Build Up…
It all started when I popped round to Dianna and Chris with their Wedding photographs in July 2018. We chatted about their Wedding day and how perfect it was and because Dianna is a midwife and I’m inquisitive we somehow got talking about the future, more children and birth photography. I remember Dianna saying, ‘When we have our next baby we will definitely be calling you!’ -and that was that. Life continued for a little while, then in November 2018 the message came. Dianna and Chris were expecting their 3rd baby and would love me to capture their pregnancy, birth and newborn session for them. You can imagine my excitement! I live for these moments of excitement; life is a huge adventure, and this was something very new to me. I had obviously been at both of my own births (in some kind of parallel universe) but I had never been present at another woman’s birth.
After talking through logistics and discussing scenarios I booked in 6 weeks ON CALL into my diary for March through to April. Apparently 3rd babies are unpredictable and with two previous babies born around 37 weeks we needed those extra 2 weeks on call to be sure.
Being on call was exciting but also took some planning. Every day I made sure all my camera gear and spare clothes were lined up ready for me to grab and run out the door as well as plan where my son would go from each day to the next. I had a group of superstar mummies on the end of the phone should I need them last minute and my husband was fully on board and ready to jump in the car to come home from work if I needed him. My feeling was that I would get a call when I was least expecting it, sometime in the middle of the night.
It was 3am on 5thApril 2019, my son cried out and wanted me to sleep in his bed with him. I remember drifting in and out of sleep as I clung on to the edge of his small cot bed. At 4.25am I woke up with a startle trying to work out what the noise was but within seconds of waking I had launched myself out of bed and ran to my phone, it was Dianna.
I will remember this phone call for the rest of my life, I will forever cherish the sound of Dianna’s calm, relieved and excited voice. Hello? Hello, I replied, how are you? She must have heard my excitement- my heart was pounding!
I was the first person she called as things had started progressing through the night (after waking her husband) and as I had to hit the M25 she wanted to make sure I didn’t experience any of the rush hour. I put the phone down, screeched and did a HAPPY DANCE around the room. The excitement and anticipation felt incredible! I was in the car with my camera bag and spare clothes by 4.35am and the butterflies were flying around my tummy. The journey was emotional; all this build up and it was all just falling into place. I remember the slight glimmer of sunrise on the horizon and thinking what a lovely time to have a baby. I blared out GIANT by Calvin Harris and Rag’n’Bone man and sang my heart out while the happy tears fell! (I’m the soppy one who wears her heart on her sleeve and at the best of times find it hard to contain my emotions!)
I arrived, parked and as quietly as I could approached the house. I was greeted by a very calm looking Chris (husband) who quietly showed me into the living room.
I’m not really sure how I was expecting everything to go, I knew I could photograph the birth- my camera is like another limb, so I had no worries about that. I just remember feeling like I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure the birth was everything Dianna hoped for, respecting her wishes and providing support where possible to those at the birth. I had prepared myself for change and for the different phases of labour. I was so emotional on the way but as soon as I stepped in the door, I felt determination. Determination to make sure that Dianna & Chris’s birth story was captured perfectly.
Dianna was so calm, when I arrived she was using her tens machine to manage contractions, an app to monitor contractions and a hypnobirthing relaxation track was on in the background. It was still early hours of the morning so it was dark in the living room with only a small lamp on in the corner. I had done a lot of research prior to the birth to see what kind of lighting birth photographers take for during the night. In my research it turns out there is quite a debate on lighting. I asked Dianna what she would prefer and she opted for a continuous light but she did say that she probably wouldn’t even notice towards the end. The last thing I wanted to do was to be there with a flash gun going off on every shot so I decided to take a continuous light which I could always put on dimly if the light was poor- the most discrete! Luckily for me none of this was necessary as baby decided to arrive after the most incredible sunrise. The sky was bright pink and brought the perfect start to the day.
With every wave that came Dianna used her breath to focus quietly within and it wasn’t long after I arrived that she decided to call the community midwives. Dianna knew what her body was doing. She was so in tune with the waves that were coming and it wasn’t long after the midwife arrived that she started to transition and feel the urges to push. Just before this Chris began to fill up the birthing pool QUICKLY! I remember from our birthing pool research when I was pregnant that the pool takes around 40 minutes to fill up, it’s not a quick process- imagine filling a jacuzzi! At 37 degrees and around 7.30am Dianna got into the pool and I could just see the relief on her face.
A new baby brother or sister…
Half an hour prior to this, two little siblings came into the room- both with big smiles and wondering what was going on. Why were we all in their living room for breakfast time?
Dianna had hoped that the children could be around for the birth. Birth is natural and completely normal and as a midwife she wanted all of them to share this moment together. You can read about how she prepared the children in her birth story.
At 7.55am a little man came into the world, in the pool, at home. After a quick untangling of his cord he lay on his Mummy’s chest for the first skin to skin contact. This moment was absolutely incredible. Capturing his arrival was one I had waited for for months and it was beyond anything I could have imagined. Seeing his arrival into the water and then Dianna bringing him out into the world was nothing short of magical. The female body and what it is able to do is miraculous, Dianna’s strength and power in that last half an hour was insane; she was a warrior!
Our birth story ended in theatre and I had to have a spinal block with assisted delivery so I had no awareness of my babies placenta being born. Seeing a placenta for the first time was so amazing. For 9 months this incredible organ kept Dianna and Chris’ baby boy alive providing him with the nutrients and oxygen he so needed and was key from the moment he became a possibility- incredible!
Before the birth, I would say that 90% of people I mentioned capturing a birth to had a reaction of wow… then the realisation of what I was doing set in on their faces. Some even said why would you want to do that with a look of horror on their face!
Let me tell you why and why I want to do it all over again…
From the very beginning my art work has been about people, celebrating life and capturing emotion. Be that a painting, a photograph or a sketch I just love expression, the lines, the stories. For the majority of women, the moment their child enters the world is up there as the best day of their life. The moment you see the little life you have been growing for the first time, that first connection, the first skin to skin, the first kiss why would I not want to capture that?
Birth is so incredibly beautiful, it is where our stories begin and where love explodes. Your stories and love make me burst with excitement and fill me with such satisfaction. To be able to give a family these memories to cherish and help you to digest and understand your story makes me incredibly happy.
This little man has inspired me and opened my eyes to a whole new world. In the coming years I plan to complete a Doula course and cannot wait to be able to learn more and experience more births over the years.
If you would like me to capture the birth of your beautiful baby please contact me, I am already excited to hear from you!
Dianna’s Birth story
Due date: 1st of April
Birth date: 5th of April
Weight: 7lb 5 1/2oz
Length of labour: Established labour was under 2 hours.
Baby no: 3!
How did you feel during pregnancy:
Very tired with regular nights shifts to fit around two children and school runs, and a bit sad that I wasn’t able to enjoy the pregnancy as much as previous ones due to nausea, tiredness and pelvic girdle pain. But I was also incredibly excited about having a new baby again.
What were you most looking forward to?
Seeing my children meeting and bonding with their new sibling, seeing all three of them together.
What did you do to prepare for the birth of your baby?
I did Hypnobirthing/breathing and relaxation exercises. I also read lots of positive birth stories of women having their third baby (3rd ones are unpredictable), tried to chill and trust my body and my baby.
Your labour story:
After going overdue and lots of false starts, I didn’t actually believe that I was going into labour when I woke up to tightenings at 23.30. I’d had nothing at all before going to bed. Thinking it was just some more random tightenings, I decided to ignore them and went back to sleep.
When I woke up again at 1.30 I was surprised to find the tightenings were still happening and decided to see what happened. Around 2am my back was uncomfortable so I got up to sit on my ball and put my hypnobirthing tracks on.
By 3.15 I started to believe that it was actually happening, so I woke up my husband to help put my tens machine (my BFF) on, and then downloaded a contraction tracker app so I had something to distract myself with.
Once the contractions were coming fairly regularly and getting a bit more uncomfortable I decided to ring Zoe as she had over an hours drive. I’d been excitedly planning this moment in my head for weeks, and then when it finally came to it I ended up saying something lame along the lines of ‘sorry to wake you up this time of the morning!’
Once Zoe arrived and we started chatting I found the hypnobirthing tracks annoying and turned them off, but continued to do my up breathing and counting.
By 6am my midwife brain was worrying about the traffic and rush hour starting so I called the hospital and my mum who was coming to look after my older children.
After chatting to the midwife on call at 6.20, the contractions really picked up in intensity and I had to really focus on my breathing.
By the time the midwife and my mum arrived at 7am, I was wanting to get into the pool, so my husband started getting it ready. I remember worrying about what my husband was dressing the children in (no fashion sense) bearing in mind they were going to be in all the photos- (he chose well btw)
By 7.30 I was desperate to get into the pool but it was too hot so my husband and the midwife were hurriedly trying to cool it down. I was starting to feel some pressure but was trying to ignore it as the thought of having to birth on dry land suddenly filled me with dread. 10 long minutes later I finally got in-bliss!!- and just let myself relax. My children popped in and out, apparently my son was smiling the whole time!
Within a few minutes I needed to push, and then at 7.52 he was born.
I lifted him out of the water and then had to untangle him from his cord just so I could hold him properly and finally find out we had a new son!
It was definitely my calmest and most relaxed birth. I’m so happy it all worked out having my children there, and so glad Zoe was there to capture it all.
How did you feel at the first sight of your baby?
Simultaneously relieved it was over, excited he was finally here and also focused on untangling his cord and encouraging him to breathe, because I can’t turn my midwife brain off even when giving birth myself!
What three pieces of advice would you give to your pregnant self now?
1) Chill. It’s baby number three, he or she is going to do whatever he or she wants no matter what you want.
2) Don’t panic about going overdue, there is still plenty of time.
3) don’t fill the pool with so much hot water that it takes ages to cool it down again!
How was the first week for you?
Hectic and stressful. Baby had a tongue tie but my usual lactation consultant and osteopath were away,so we had to find new ones and then arrange urgent appointments. My daughter came down with tonsillitis at the same time so it was everything all at once.
Despite all that it was wonderful getting to know my new little man, and so precious watching my children starting to bond with him.