The birth of a child is powerful, life-changing, sacred and intimate, and because every woman’s experience is unique, I felt it would be most apt for this particular mama, Tiffany, to write about her own experience. She sent me her birth story in the form of a letter to her baby Hannah. As I suspected, she described the day far better than I could have, and my hope is that the photographs I took will help to convey the grace and gentle determination with which she birthed her baby, and the love with which Ross supported her. I see this as an immense privilege and it is with sincere gratitude to Tiff & Ross that I share these images with you all. – Rebecca
Sweet child, I hope that one day when you’re big enough to understand, that you will read this story and know, without a doubt, of the Great Love your story was woven with. Your birth date was of the most considerate planning on your part (haha, clearly your Father’s child!). Your estimated due date was 6 December, but you decided to make a courteous early arrival on the 30th of November, just sneaking in to not be a December baby. On the 29th of November we went to bed thinking we still had at least a week before we’d meet you, but to have you arrive a little early was SUCH a joyous surprise. At around 2am on that Thursday morning I woke up to go to the loo (as all pregnant ladies do around this hour) and felt some rather strong Braxton-Hicks contractions. These had been happening since 32 weeks pregnant with you, so I didn’t think much of it and went back to bed. By 4am, though, I could no longer sleep through them and so I woke your Dad up to ask him what we should do. He of course cracked out the Contraction-Timer app and excitedly began timing them. Although they weren’t yet regular, they were coming on very frequently – 3 in the space of 10mins. We phoned our lovely midwives to get some advice, and spoke with Glynnis who said we should keep timing them and update them once they were more regular. I also messaged our doula to tell her we might be in labour. During this time your Dad went into high-organisation mode – packed the car, sorted out the house and made us smoothies. The man sure is good in any demanding situation! I had already gone into my ‘zone’ by this point, finding it easier to focus inwards, concentrate on my breathing and connecting with you, sweet one. Each breath felt like it gave me the grounding I knew I needed to allow my body and yours to do the work they needed to get on with. It truly is amazing to feel another type of ‘power’ take over in your body – a little scary, but also so reassuring to know that it was time for me to release into the process. All I could keep thinking was that today could be the day you would join us!
Amy arrived at around 6h30 and she and your Dad were absolutely amazing – together they rubbed my back, pressed on my hips and supported me in various positions as the surges intensified. I was most comfortable either leaning on our dresser or on your Dad’s lap – it felt good to be in such a safe space and to feel that amazing support around me. At around 8h00 Sue phoned us (I was so happy to hear her lovely, reassuring voice!) to ask how things were going. After hearing how the surges were picking up, we decided that we would leave for the hospital at 9h00 once the traffic had died down. Amy suggested I take a nice hot shower before leaving, which felt so great on my tummy and lower back. The car ride to the hospital was not the most fun, but your Dad kept cracking jokes and played music to try make it more bearable. The main thing I remember is the 3 speedbumps at the entrance to the hospital – totally jarring! On arriving at the labour ward, there was a tech guy fixing the AC in the only room still available (it was a scorcher of a day), so we waited in the passage. I remember thinking that if they couldn’t fix it, I would quite happily deliver in the corridor, haha!
Sue & Becs arrived then, and at that point I knew I could just fully let go into the space – Sue would lead & guide us exactly as we needed. We got into the room at around 10h00 and everyone started setting up the space. It’s so interesting how you just don’t know what is going to work for you once you’re in labour – I’d thought I would definitely want to use the tub and that I’d want candles lit etc. In the moment the thought of sitting down in a tub did not interest me at all, and I also found it best to keep my eyes shut, focusing inwards. The one thing that was amazing was having music – that helped so much, and all the songs we chose for that playlist bring such powerful memories back for me.
Once Sue had sorted everything out she came over with her beautiful, calm presence and asked if I wanted her to check how far dilated I was. She said she didn’t have to check if I didn’t feel ready, or she could check and not tell me if I didn’t want to know. I cannot begin to express how much I felt empowered and encouraged through each step as a result of the way she handled us – a presence to be reckoned with and trusted, but never forceful or dis-empowering. Bracing myself for MAYBE 3 or 4cm, Sue checked and happily and with such encouragement, informed us I was already at 7cm! That was it for me, I started crying and saying ‘she’s actually coming!’. Until that point I hadn’t really allowed myself to believe I was in labour (as if the past few hours of contractions didn’t count!) – having nothing to compare it to I’d really braced myself for the long haul.
Sue & Amy then guided your Dad & me through the surges – he sat on the bed and held me whilst I stood or knelt. It’s amazing how powerful the sense of touch is – the pressure Amy put on my back, stroking my legs, your Dad rubbing my shoulders – that all allowed my body to relax. Amy also kept speaking our affirmations over us – constantly grounding & encouraging. There was a small cervical lip preventing you from descending fully, which Sue needed to move out of the way during a contraction. Unfortunately at that point my membranes also ruptured, showering poor Sue! Luckily she has a very good sense of humour, so it was a moment of a laugh for all of us.
Shortly after Sue told me it was time to start pushing, but that lying on the bed would be the best position. I was concerned about lying down, as being upright had felt best so far, but trusted that Sue knew best. Thereafter ensued a pretty intense 2 hours of pushing – alternating between the bed and squatting, holding onto Ross’s legs. 3-4 massive pushes with each surge, which was absolutely exhausting. I remember looking at the clock and realizing how long we’d been at this, and started to wonder how much longer it would be safe. Sue kept checking your heartbeat between each contraction and it was so reassuring to hear your strong, steady heartbeat each time. Sue must have sensed how tired I was getting, as at just the right time she put her forehead to mine and told me ‘I know you can do this, I trust you, trust your body’. The photographs of this moment still make me tear up – those words held such power over me and gave me the resolve I needed to make it through those last moments.
I also just have to say what a hero your Daddy was – I’ve always known that he is our rock, steadfast, calm, strong, but during labour he was all this and more. He held me through each contraction, supported the weight of our bodies and carried us. We are so blessed to be loved by this man, my precious girl! He has been such a constant source of strength and wisdom these first few weeks of your life, his patience, steadiness and unconditional love are indescribable.After that I got back on the bed, with Amy & Sue supporting my legs whilst your Dad held my bed. They quite literally supported my body and yours for this last bit, I felt like the small bit of strength I had left might not be enough. Those last pushes to bring you Earthside took every ounce of strength in my body – everyone kept saying ‘she’s almost here!’ and that helped me dig deeper. Sue also had me reach down & feel your head – to realize you were quite literally between worlds, but almost with us, was such a powerful motivation!
I don’t know how many pushes it was, but eventually I felt your precious head crown and slip out – you immediately started shouting, probably indignant at how long I’d taken to help you out! Sue steadied you and had me reach down, grab your little body and pull you out and onto my chest. And there you were! Perfect, beautiful, shouting, YOU. There are no words to describe the wonder, the miracle of new life and that you, YOU precious girl, were finally here!
You were immediately positioned on my chest to latch on, which you did like an absolute champion . Those first few moments were so, so beautiful and sacred – a roomful of people who love you and who had created the most perfect space for you to be birthed into.
I had lost some blood which required some extra intervention from Sue, who handled everything amazingly. You went to your Dad then, who cuddled your tiny body on his chest – such an incredibly special moment. Sue weighed and measured you – 3.8kg! Surprise little strong, chunky monkey 48cm tall and beautifully healthy.
We then got wheeled through to our room where we got to just cuddle with you and marvel at your perfection. That post-birth high is a very real thing, I will never forget how it felt to be in that space with you & your Dad – I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything quite as powerful as the love I felt for the two of you in those moments. It’s like your world imploding and exploding at the same time, your heart and capacity to love increasing a hundredfold.
I feel so incredibly grateful and blessed for the birth experience that we had. We were so fortunate to have had things progress as we had hoped, and have to credit our amazing team for giving us the support to be able to do so. Making the choice to go with Birth Options, and having Sue deliver you, was 100% the right choice for us, and we will never be able to thank this amazing woman enough for the space and empowerment she gave us during this process. Amy was instrumental in the entire preparation process, gently guiding us to make the choices that were the best fit for us and our pregnancy and birth story. This has laid the foundation for the hopes and ideals we have as parents, and the journey we hope for your life, tiny one. Becs, who took these amazing pictures, friend, how do we say thank you for freezing these moments in time for us? I can’t look at these pictures without tears of happiness. Thank you, a million times over, for the beautiful way you have documented this time in our lives.
My dearest Hannah, this was the story of the day you were born, which, though it be but one day in the adventure that will be your life, was a significant one. Not just because it was the start, but because we hope that as a result of this story, you will know how very loved you have been, from the beginning. Your little life was conceived in love, carried in love and born into this world surrounded by love. This world can be a scary place, but we hope that this love will be instilled so very deeply into the fibre of your being, that you will be able to face any challenges this life may throw at you, knowing that love will sustain you.
‘And I will wait for you tonight
You’re here forever and you’re by my side
I’ve been waiting all my life
To feel your heart as it’s keeping time
We’ll do whatever just to stay alive’
-José González, Stay Alive
With all the love in the world
4 Responses to “Welcome, Hannah!”
What magnificent photos of such a beautiful birth story ♥
These photos made me cry. The courage and love with which Hannah birthed her beautiful baby is so evident in the magnificent shots Rebecca took (and always takes!) and in Hannah’s birth story. It’s so hard to describe what a midwife like Sue brings to a birth, but – through these pictures – Rebecca has so magnificently captured that Suemagic. That feeling that you are held, loved and trusted by this incredible, patient, kind woman who is holding your hand and walking this transformative journey alongside you.
What a beautiful story.
Seadog Pete (self-appointed honourary god grandparent!)
An incredibly well articulated, moving and glorious ‘photostory’. Grateful and proud to be even a small presence in this network of incredible people. More, however, to be a witness through these images and words to the miraculous power of our God who gives us a glimpse of His unlimited power and creativity through the development and birth of Hannah, and in our ability to love, network and be in relationship one with another – mother, father, child and a host of friends. We give thanks for and to each other (of course, including baby Hannah), and to our God. May Hannah discover this God too, in His and her own time.
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