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.
Jaime and Trevor had a plan. It was an ideal birth plan that involved labouring gently at home for some hours, during which time they would call their friend Bec to come over for extra support and they would call me to come and take some labour images at home, and finally they would call their friend Annie to come and stay with their daughter Isla when it came time for us to head to the hospital. It was a good plan but baby Archie was having none of it.
I received a call from Jaime as I was putting my kids to bed for the night. She sounded happy and fresh, and just wanted to update me that she was having some contractions which felt quite strong but were still irregular as it had only been an hour or so since the onset. Jaime is a midwife and I knew that she would know the right time to call me, so I told her to keep me posted over the next hour or so, and started getting myself organised for the long night ahead. I was starting to feel nervous an hour later. Something that I couldn’t put my finger on was making me feel like I needed to start moving but I was still waiting on the call asking me to come over. Suddenly my phone rang and it was Trevor saying that I was welcome to make my way over to their house whenever I felt ready. I didn’t waste any time and left immediately. When I knocked on the front door and was greeted by Trevor, I asked how things were going and he replied “Yeah good, I think we might need to head to the hospital soon!”
I peeked into the bathroom where Jaime was labouring in the bath and could see that she was deep in her zone. Her friend Bec was holding her hand and Trevor was whispering affirming words. I quietly knelt down in the doorway and it was a few minutes and a couple of contractions before she looked in my direction and gave me a half smile. I knew then that we wouldn’t make it to the hospital. The contractions were intense and coming almost on top of each other.
I had only been there about 10 minutes when a strong contraction swept over Jaime and her waters broke. She knew it was time to do something but was at that point of transition when things seem very confusing. She got out of the bath and Bec gently suggested maybe we needed to call an ambulance and I quickly agreed and got my phone. Right at that moment there was a knock on the door and I ran downstairs to find Annie who had come to mind Isla (who was sleeping soundly through all the action)! Annie’s expression of wide eyed excitement grew when I quickly told her that we were about to have a baby. After a couple of minutes on the phone to Emergency Services I handed them over to Annie so that I could get back to capturing this birth and making sure that every time Jaime opened her eyes she had someone smiling at her and reassuring her that we had this.
What ensued was some of the most incredible moments I’ve ever been witness to. Jaime reached a point of realisation that her baby was coming quickly and she got herself into an optimal birthing position. Bec prepared to catch this precious baby boy and Trevor didn’t miss a beat with the encouraging words of confidence that all would be well. Annie relayed the advice coming through the phone to Bec, and it was only a couple of minutes until she was passing beautiful baby Archie through to his mama. The ambulance crew arrived about 5 minutes later but by then we were all laughing at the lack of emergency and the perfect baby who was crying and turning a lovely shade of pink.
Archie’s birth affirmed in me just how natural this process is. How women who are well supported and feel safe, progress so beautifully and instinctively know how to birth their babies. It is with such a grateful heart that I am allowed to share this birth with all of you!! X
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.
I have been so busy for the last 12 months witnessing amazing things! So many babies arriving into this world and so many families rejoicing in their arrival. In the crazy haste of it all, I have fallen ridiculously behind with my blog, but fear not! You can see snippets and slideshows and just general amazingness from many of the births I have been photographing over on my Facebook page.
Here’s a little insight. A compilation of some of my favourite moments of birth. A testament to the strength of women and to the love of their partners. Enjoy!
The first time I met the lovely Lucy, it was supposed to be just a relatively quick first meeting to discuss the impending arrival of her first baby and what she was hoping for in her birth photography. After coffees were drunk and lunches were eaten, we were still talking…and continued to for three hours! Lucy had recently finished a course in women’s wellness and she was absolutely pumped about her upcoming birth. She had so much faith in not only herself but also her birth team, and she was more than prepared mentally.
On the evening of Eddie’s birth I received a call from Lucy. She had been quietly labouring all day at home and things were progressing nicely. The incredible thing about that day was that Lucy’s Mum and Grandma (who live in England) were on a plane headed to Australia in the hope to be here to lend a hand when the baby arrived. They touched down in Sydney to the news that Lucy was in labour and they raced to Newcastle not knowing if they would make it in time for the birth.
It was a lovely sight when I walked into Belmont Birth Centre to see Lucy being supported by her Mum and Grandma and of course her hubby Shane. She hopped into the birth pool and with the gentle support of her lovely midwife Nancy, she handled her pain beautifully. In the end, sweet baby Eddie came out in a big hurry and surprised us all. Lucy and Shane were immediately besotted and entranced with this new little person. Their first family member.
The day before beautiful baby River arrived was Easter Monday. I spoke to Claire and asked her how she would feel about me traveling to the Hunter Valley to spend an impromptu night away with my 5 sisters, since she was not quite due yet. Claire is one of the loveliest people you could ever meet and of course she said “Go Kate! Have fun. If I need you, I’ll call.” I assured her that I would only be an hour away, I would have all my camera gear with me and would be ready to drop everything the second she called. As I had dinner with my sisters and sat around until well after midnight chatting, I had a feeling. I found myself checking my phone every 5 minutes. Sure enough, just as I was closing my eyes for the night, the phone beeped, and I was up and out the door.
I arrived at Claire and Nath’s house to find Claire well into established labour. The beautiful Belmont midwives were being amazing and attentive as always and little Orlando was helping support his mum with gentle pats on the arm and soft words. Claire’s mind was so focused on that baby, she didn’t show a moment of hesitation or doubt and it wasn’t long before baby River was delivered in the birth pool and thrust up into his mother’s waiting arms. The beauty and peace of that moment took my breath away.
The moments after River’s birth, when two brothers met for the first time, when a father embraced his two sons and when a mother put her new babe to her breast as the first rays of sunlight crept in through the windows…blissful, fleeting moments that I will never forget.
I knew the home birth of baby George would be beautiful, what I didn’t anticipate was how completely lovely Jenni would look in the midst of labour. When I arrived, just two hours before the birth, the midwives were already there, sitting comfortably on the couch sipping tea. Jenni and Bender were busy keeping little Addy entertained. It was four in the morning and she was awake with all the movement in the house, and with a sense of excitement she had no intentions of going back to bed. Something was going to happen, and she was not about to miss it!!
Jenni moved around the room with ease, her floral robe flowing around her looking like a birthing goddess. She was looking SO relaxed in fact that I honestly wondered if we had all arrived prematurely. But no, this experienced mum knew her body and knew her baby would be greeting us before long. So after an hour of wondering around, she gently stepped into the birth pool and within an hour baby George was being lifted up to his Mum’s chest, all covered in vernix and perfect, with big brother Will helping out down ‘the business end’.
Jenni and Bender had made the decision to leave George’s cord intact, and allow it to dry and fall away by itself in the days that followed his birth. The placenta was thoroughly checked over by the midwives and George had all his first checks, weighs and measurements before the birth team, including myself, walked outside into the beautiful early morning sun and left this family to soak in their new baby.