I was supposed to photograph the birth of Sarah and Oceane’s first baby back in 2015, but little Dominique had other plans. While his mamas were trying to ascertain whether Sarah was actually in established labour, Dominique suddenly arrived before they even had time to call me! So when they again booked me to photograph their second baby’s birth, I was so excited to get a second chance at being with this beautiful family on such a special day.
Oceane was still a couple of weeks from her due date when her waters broke whilst they were out for breakfast. I had plenty of notice this time as Oce still had a full day and night of work to do before they would be meeting their baby. I arrived in the evening to find one of the quietest and calmest birth spaces I’ve ever worked in. Oce is a midwife so she understood the importance of minimal light (hence no flash on my camera), quiet voices and gentle music.
Whilst Dominique slept the night away in his bedroom accompanied by Oceane’s mum, the three of us had a blissful few hours together before the midwives arrived. Watching the way these two mothers worked together through labour was like watching a stunning film play before my eyes. They moved together so effortlessly, rocking through the surges. There was occasional excited chatter about the long awaited day having finally arrived, and how they would soon be parents of two!
It was almost dawn when baby Gabrielle came swimming into her mother’s waiting hands. A perfect baby girl! It may have been the squeals of excitement in the room, but Oceane’s mum awoke and came rushing out to kiss her daughter with pride, and Sarah carried Dominique out to meet his baby sister. The porridge was soon bubbling away on the stove while the midwives finished their paperwork, and the sun rose on a new day and a new life.
When starting out in the journey that is birth, all that can really be hoped for is a healthy baby and a healthy mother, but sometimes you also get the perfect birth experience. The smile on Oceane’s face following birth was one of pure empowerment. It was the smile of a mother basking in the knowledge that her maternal strength had carried her through and given her little daughter the gentle birth they had dreamed of.
Mel’s pregnancy was relatively uneventful. Her baby was growing beautifully and Mel was fit and well. It wasn’t until the final weeks that things started to get interesting, when it was discovered that Mel’s baby wasn’t head down all ready for birth, but instead was sitting in a frank breech position (presenting bottom first). Mel was a first time mum so this situation wasn’t ideal, but as a midwife herself, she had enough knowledge to know that she could birth this baby naturally, but she would need to get her head in the game.
She attended the Breech Clinic at John Hunter Hospital where they went over everything and decided that she fitted the criteria to attempt a natural breech delivery. There was a chance this plan wouldn’t eventuate as any number of factors could have arisen, but with the unwavering support of her wonderful husband Ben, she decided to at least try for the natural birth she had envisaged all throughout her pregnancy.
As the weeks and days passed, we nervously waited for this baby to arrive. For Mel to achieve a natural birth she could not be induced and needed labour to begin spontaneously, but she remained calm and trusting of her body and baby as she passed the 41 week mark. Finally baby Zoe decided on the 10th of April, that it was the perfect day to meet her parents.
Mel spent most of her labour quietly contracting under the shower, with Ben tirelessly supporting and encouraging her, and her second support person Denise (also a midwife) ensuring she didn’t doubt her ability to birth her baby for a second. When she hit 2nd stage and baby Zoe was deep down and ready to be born, Mel moved to the bed where she could kneel and safely birth her baby without anyone needing to intervene.
It was only around 30 mins until beautiful baby Zoe arrived in a completely calm and controlled birth, with Mel gently breathing her out and no one touching the baby during delivery (which is the recommended approach for a successful vaginal breech birth).
I can’t adequately express how impressed and in awe I was at Mel’s courage and determination, nor can I thank her and Ben enough for generously sharing these rare and precious images, in the hope that they might inspire a healthier way of thinking around natural breech birth.