This beautiful home birth in Barnsley was a dream to photograph. As a birth photographer, you never know when you’re going to get the call. Before booking me, Hannah and Steve were made aware that there was one weekend I was already booked to be away for in London. This means that there was the slightest possibility that I would not be able to attend the birth if she happened to go into labour and give birth during one of those three days that I was away. In the event that I can’t make a birth, I have a backup photographer on standby (if the birthing person chooses) or I offer a Fresh 48 session to capture that postpartum newness.
I was in London on my last day when I got the text at around noon. It was from Hannah saying she has been having mild contractions since midnight, that they are only every 20-30 minutes and not seemingly speeding up but she’ll keep me posted. She used the Freya app to keep track of her contractions.
Every birth is different and I generally recommend that I’m called around the same time that you would call for a midwife (unless you want me there earlier), but if travel is involved then sometimes that is earlier. It’s something that I discuss with all of my birth clients.
Hannah had created a list of labour coping strategies prior to the moment and was practising the horse breath on the out during her contractions when I arrived. (She took a course with the Naked Doula and learnt this breath on that course)
Hannah and Steve also took a course with Sally at Blossom Hypnobirthing which Hannah said “part of this was educating both me and Steve on the options for every single thing to do with birth and the following hours after – because we knew everything in so much detail we were able to make a birth plan we were confident with.”
I slipped into the birth room quietly, introduced myself to Hannah’s mum and one of the midwives already present and got to work documenting the birth.
Hannah laboured and birthed in her home birthing pool. She bought the pool second hand from a couple who didn’t get the chance to use it. In total, she spent about 9 and a half hours in the pool.
Within an hour of my arrival, beautiful little Hallie was born. At the time, no one knew the sex of the baby. They didn’t have a name. But she was came into this world calmly and into the loving arms of her parents.
Three key things that helped Hannah
Hannah later shared three key things that were game changers in terms of dealing with the intensity of the contractions.
- “Keeping my whole body relaxed – for about 10 hours Steve just kept repeating to me to relax my jaw, shoulders, hands, feet. And because I was in water, I was able to just float. To keep my mouth relaxed to do floppy face floppy fanny (see The Naked Doula for more info)”
- “Being practised at using the breathing techniques taught to me by Sally at Blossom Hypnobirthing. Hypnobirthing teaches you to use up breathing, and down breathing – this style of breathing helps increase your parasympathetic nervous system – keeping you calm and relaxed – and helping move your baby down.”
- “The most important: having an incredible birth partner. Whether it is your mum, your best friend, your partner, your midwife – whoever – just make sure you have a known brilliant person by your side because that makes a HUGE difference to the outcome.”
One of the best birth choices ever: the photography
“One of my best birth choices ever that has given me something I will treasure forever, the incredible Elle – birth photographer. These [photos] are my most treasured possessions and I can never thank Elle enough. She was like a ghost – I never even knew that she had arrived to the delivery. She was silent – she used a silent long lens camera and I never heard a thing.
We had spoken lots in the run up, she is a birth geek herself, and very experienced at being totally respectful, calm, and brilliant at births. She had asked our preferences and managed to capture photographs I would have never got otherwise. In other parts of the world birth photography is much more normalised – I would think seriously about it if it’s something you would like because I’m so happy I did.”