I’ve rarely been so nervous in my life and seriously doubting whether I made the right decision being here. I love photography, I love thinking about different ways of portraying people and I love babies, but those three things combined are novel to me. Beginning of 2014 I was not a seasoned photographer yet and birth photography was definitely not a well-known genre in the south of the Netherlands. But not time to doubt myself as this baby is on its way!

Am I too afraid to take birth pictures?

A few weeks before this moment, I had told my then neighbor Michèle that I was looking for an angle for a photography course assignment. She then asked me if I was interested in photographing the birth of their baby. My initial reaction was to say no as I had no experience with this whatsoever and next to that I’m terribly afraid of needles, blood and the overall smell of hospitals. After some consideration, I decided to take on the assignment. I figured it would only help me grow as a photographer. And the fact that it’s a non paid job and Michèle promises that I can leave the room in case I need to, also helps!

The moment that labor starts

Back to the moment Michèle embarks on her birthing journey. I had been feeling restless the previous days. We celebrated New Year’s Eve with all the neighbors, including Michèle and Geert-Jan. I decided to stay away from alcohol out of solidarity with the expectant mother (but probably also because I wanted to be completely clear headed when action started!) That moment comes on Sunday morning January 5 at 07:30. Father to be Geert-Jan phones me to tell that they are in the hospital with regular contractions and even some dilation. I ask them to keep me updated on dilation progress and stay put.

I almost forgot to take the first photos of this lovely baby girl

Around 12:00 I arrive at the hospital and the moment I see Michèle I realize that I’m not the one who has the difficult job today. She went to 9 centimeters dilation in about five hours, but not much progress in the hours after that. I see she’s in pain but she’s incredibly strong and doing great in the hours that follow. At 17:00 she gets permission to start pushing. I see her visibly changing and I now experience for the first time what people mean when they say that nature (and Michèle’s body!) knows exactly what to do. At 18:15 I see Veerle being born and I’m incredibly touched. I wipe my tears and can only admire the wonder I just witnessed. Veerle is an adorable little wrinkled baby and I see her slowly turning a nice shade of pink when she starts to breath. I take photos of the new family cuddling and holding each other and I document Veerle being measured, weighed and dressed for the first time and after that I leave quietly.

We have a new neighbor!

Veerle’s birth has been without complications and as such they are allowed to leave the hospital after a few hours. This is custom in the Netherlands, as general belief is that healthy new families will recover and adjust best in the comfort of their own home. Just an hour after I arrived home, I see Michèle’s and Geert-Jan’s car pulling up the drive way and their family and close friends welcoming them and especially little Veerle into their home. We have a new neighbor!