WHAT MADE IT SPECIAL
I don’t think I quite have the words to explain what a profound effect the experience of documenting Luna Jane’s birth had on me. When Megs asked me a while ago what my thoughts were on doing birth photography I was incredibly honoured that she would want me to be there (I don’t ‘officially’ do birth photography) but was also a little concerned about making sure the logistics work. I have an exponentially greater respect now for the logistics that go into being part of a birth support team (doulas, midwives, doctors, birth photographers and nurses y’all are damned amazing). Luckily we could not have been more blessed with how the stars aligned for us :)
I would say I’m pretty accustomed to treading lightly on sacred ground – in photographing weddings one realises the importance of being present to document, but also blending into the background as much as is humanly possible. Well, this experience was on a whole other level. Because, you see, on the day a baby is born it’s not just a new little soul joining the world earth-side. Their very existence changes everything for the two humans that created that little life. The space that this happens in is also not to be taken lightly. One sees all the horrid, frantic experiences portrayed in the movies, or even worse, real-life harrowing events relayed for their shock value. It’s actually incredibly saddening how often the narrative around birth is so negative. Something that can be so beautiful and empowering (regardless of the logistics) has been taken and twisted to instill fear and dread. No small wonder then, that so many women (and men for that matter) are terrified or disgusted at the very thought.
It does not have to be that way, and seeing how Megs & Wallie prepared for Luna’s birth, and how they created such a powerfully beautiful, still, protected birth space, made me realise just how much power there is in preparation. Sure, there are the things that are out of your control which no one can foresee, but being surrounded by a supportive birth team and readying your body and soul makes a world of difference.
Megs was a warrior that night, and Wallie was her rock. I’ll never forget arriving in that room to the sound of Luna’s heartbeat on the doppler, beautiful music playing and everyone at peace. And that’s how the night went on – Megs fully in her warrior-mom birthing zone, Wallie quietly responding to her every need, their doula Amy supporting them. What a phenomenally supportive environment for a baba to be born into! I think it’s pretty impossible to document something like this and remain unchanged – that post-delivery elation and wonder at a new little life in a room that a few seconds earlier was not there, how miraculous is that? :) To witness the teamwork it takes to support a birthing Mom – the beauty of marriage and how your relationship translates into that space, it’s beyond words.
Megs & Wallie, thank you for the immense honour of entrusting me with documenting this life-altering experience for you beautiful humans. The strength, grace and love you show to each other was just magnified in this space, and it blessed my heart more than I can tell you. Not least of all because we now have our own little girl on the way (I don’t think it’s just coincidence that Luna’s birth date and our little girl’s suspected conception date are one and the same! :) ). Thank you for sharing your story, not only with me (and I can’t tell you how much I learned and how passionate it made me about taking charge of our birth space) but with other people, who I can only hope will see the immense beauty and be equally inspired. Your little girls are SO blessed to have you as parents! And viewing these images, they will ALWAYS know that their stories started with love, abundant, overflowing, uncontrollable love.
Love you guys
Here is Megs’ beautiful account:
The Night You Were Born – Luna Jane Fleitmann
10 March 2017
Sharing not only Luna’s birth story , but the pictures of those sacred hours doesn’t come easily to Wallie and I. But we decided to share it because we have something important to say…
Birth is beautiful, it is the most incredible experience you will get to share with your partner, an intimacy you didn’t even know existed as you bring life into the world – however that looks for you, natural, cesarean or osmosis – women are incredibly powerful.
I know how inspired and encouraged I was by others birth stories and I hope by Wallie and I sharing our own story we will be able to impart some of the beauty, magic and intimacy we find in birth.
I am not particularly brave and I don’t have a high pain thresh hold (I am actually quite a chicken).
So at first, when I gave birth to our first born, Stella, my decision for a natural, medication free birth – was made out of fear. I believed if my body was in control, if the pain came from within me, rather than from outside (knife, needle etc) then I could handle and control it – so I was far more fearful of a cesarean.
My mind was settled – it would be a waterbirth for me. In London, that is easy enough to find and achieve and I had a beautiful birth (long at 22 hours but the experience was incredible and Walter and I shed tears for days at how beautiful the birth and our sweet little girl was).
I discovered that my body knew more than I did and that my husband is a champion of a birth partner – as Stella was born, so was I, all shiney and new, a mama.
Fast forward to 3 years later with Luna, finally pregnant (after a long journey of trying with PCOS – a story for another day) and I knew I wanted the same. Unfortunately, my pregnancy was high risk – I had gestational diabetes and a big baby, so I had to research more and fight harder for the birth I desired, I had to choose my caregivers and birth team carefully.
I booked the lovely and talented Tiffany Burnham before I was even pregnant – this birth would not go undocumented! Next, I looked at hospitals. Vincent Pallotti was the only hospital that did water birth so it was an easy choice.
As for a gynae, since no midwife would take on my birth as it was classified high risk, I researched again and found Dr Jacky Searle, she was a wonderful choice, such personal care and a real nurturing spirit – she truly cares about her patients.
A doula, I knew with my pregnancy being high risk and the fact that South Africa is a very different environment to give birth in – I set about hunting for a doula. Everyone I came across wasn’t the right fit for us, until my pre-natal yoga instructor invited me to a birthing workshop which was led by her daughter Amy, and herself. Amy was a student doula at the time and I knew straight away that she was perfect for us and our birth. I left the workshop feeling encouraged and inspired.
So that was my birth team, Walter and I started preparing for birth with Amy guiding us. We learnt valuable tools and started putting together our birth plan as well as a detailed plan of my specific needs and wishes for Walter – I packed candles, affirmation cards and photos of my safe place that Walter put up around the birthing pool. We also had a birth music playlist which I found to be very helpful as well as an all important cooler box with snacks and water.
We were organised and felt ready. At 38 weeks Dr Searle advised we do a gentle induction (cervical ripening with a gel) as Luna was measuring to be a big baby, as a result of gestational diabetes, the concern is that the shoulders would get stuck. As a rule, I believe in most cases, our bodies are able to deliver our babies perfectly, so I had dealt with all the ‘big baby’ fears and set that aside, believing my body and baby had this all sorted.
We went into hospital early on the morning of 10 March, excited to meet our little girl – although we had not yet decided on a name. The gel was put in at around 9am and I was then monitored for an hour. After that, we walked down to the coffee shop. I remember feeling distinctly uncomfortable, I didn’t want to be surrounded by so many people, I wanted privacy. I knew then that I was in early labour. When Dr Searle checked in on me at midday she asked how I was feeling and we made the decision to admit me – labour had officially begun. The afternoon progressed and the contractions increased in frequency and intensity. My doula arrived at 4pm, by then Walter had set up our birthing space and I was between the water and Walter holding me and swaying with me. I felt cherished, at peace and in control. Amy was an amazing doula, she was there when I needed it and when she saw how calm and supportive Walter was she stepped away to give us space. Tiffany arrived at 5pm and slipped quietly and unnoticed into the room – I can’t think of anyone more amazing to have documented our birth.
Dr Searle popped in shortly thereafter and I had only progressed by 1cm, bringing me to 5cm. She had hoped for more progress and offered to break my waters and I declined. She said she would pop in two hours later and we could evaluate then. The next two hours were peaceful and time seemed to melt together.
At 7.30pm Dr Searle checked me again and I hadn’t progressed so she opted to break my waters. I was then put on the monitor for 40 minutes. This is where my labour shifted. My contractions became incredibly intense and they were almost back to back, I struggled to relax on the bed and I filled with panic, I felt like I was losing control of my labour. At this point Amy stepped in and I had Walter and Amy on either side of me, helping, supporting and calming me. Thinking back, I felt the first urges to push on the bed, but I brushed it off, thinking it wasn’t possible. Amy and Walter then helped me back into the birth pool. At this point, although I didn’t realise it, Luna was already descending and close to crowning which is why I was so uncomfortable – in those 45 minutes I had dilated the last 5cm and my body and the intense contractions were bringing her down. At this point I was panicking, this labour felt nothing like my labour with Stella. With Stella, I had to push and work hard to get her out, with Luna, my body was way ahead of me and she made her way down, almost on her own. My body hadn’t had a chance to soften and the labour was faster with the intervention of having my water broken.
I remember being in the water, not understanding what my body and baby were trying to tell me – none of us thought she was about to be born and I looked at Amy and said ‘Something is wrong – this doesn’t feel right.’ (in hindsight, my delivery feeling so different, didn’t make it wrong, it was my fear and not listening to my body). I asked Amy to get help and she got the midwife, it was at this point that my mind connected to my body, instinct kicked in and I knew she was coming, I needed to get my game face on. I got onto my knees and let my body takeover, helping the sensations, guiding the contractions. In my periphery, the midwife came in and a flurry of activity was happening of which I was dimly aware. She checked me and confirmed the head was close to crowning – it was at this point that she announced the gynae had left the hospital, but was 8 minutes away. Don’t push! She said. I ignored her. This baby was coming, end of story, I couldn’t stop it even if I wanted to. Luna started to crown, Walter was in front of me encouraging me, Amy next to my ear, calm and encouraging. ‘Support your baby’, ‘Your body knows what to do’, ‘Release fear’.
I had wanted to deliver her and I got to do just that, she crowned and soon the head was out. There was a noticeable pause in contractions as my clever little girl adjusted her shoulders (I could feel her shifting into the perfect position to be born) and there she popped out, bit by bit…tiny miracle child – oh how we prayed for you! Into the water and glided out backwards to her pappa, to be brought out of the water and onto my chest. Wallie had the biggest smile on his face and kept saying ‘You did it!’
Luna stayed on my chest for a while, delayed cord clamping and then they took her away for some extra oxygen and Wallie went with her. Then in came Dr Searle, having run a marathon to get to me and out of breath, in time to see her weighed. 4.7KG – I am so glad I never knew! Were her words.
At this point I was in shock – shivering a bit and struggling to digest all that had happened. I was taken out of the birth pool, given some energade and stitched up for a 2nd degree tear (same as with Stella)
Amy never left my side, I was so grateful for her calm presence as Wallie was in another room with Luna. I was able to talk through the birth with her and come to terms with what had happened so quickly.
The room quieted as the hospital staff left. Wallie was still with Luna and Amy had heated my post birth meal (mac and cheese) and we sat quietly with Tiffs absorbing the space and the magic of the night…women supporting women…the way it has been since the beginning of time, the clock ticks quietly, my body is empty, my heart is full and these women shared something with Wallie and I that cannot adequately be put into words.
I am so grateful and blessed.
A little girl, born under the magic of a full moon, she made me a momma for a second time and in five months she has taught me so much about myself…our promised child…we called her ‘Luna’ – our wild child of the moon… ‘Jane’ – God’s gracious gift. Indeed. God promised us a moon to our star and He always keeps His promises.
Wild child – I can’t wait to see you light this world on fire.
So you see…I am not terribly brave, I am no magical pregnancy unicorn. But I have a husband who is pure gold and our message is simple. Birth is beautiful. Bringing a child into this world will change you in all the most wonderful ways. It doesn’t matter how your child comes into this world…what matters is that they were born and that space is sacred. So let’s all speak positively about the magic of birth and remember that our story and experience are unique to us as we embrace the power that is birth and the miracle that is your baby.
My top tips for a natural birth.
- Research – preparation for birth is imperative. Attend some good workshops and find your people – your birth team.
- Make sure you and your partner are on the same page and that they know how to support you.
- Don’t be fearful. We associate pain with thinking that something is wrong – when in actual fact, it is your bodies natural way of bringing your baby into the world. The pain is productive and with a good team and birthing tools (breathing, visualisations, music, affirmations – even water) you can manage it.
- I highly recommend getting a doula. She will hold the space for you, without being obtrusive, she will show your partner how to support you and in a situation like mine where hubby goes with the baby – you will have her there, supporting you and you will be glad for it.
I used the amazing Amy Mongie from Souls in Motion – I highly recommend her.
I also highly recommend Beryl Soal in Somerset West for pre-natal yoga (any yoga actually) she is also from Souls in Motion. (Top tip – their birthing workshops are AMAZING!)
Tiffany – thank you for the gift of these photos, for going above and beyond and for documenting our lives so perfectly. I could never thank you enough.
Please follow my journey on instagram, where I journal, share bits of our lives and family adventures @magicgirlmama
*When you watch the video, please watch on full screen and set it to HD for the best viewing experience :) *