Birth | Elisa Muller | Pretoria Birth Photography
“Completeness? Happiness? These words don’t come close to describing my emotions. There truly is nothing I can say to capture what motherhood means to me.” – Anita Baker
Birth is never predictable, and this little miracle took me off-guard. Not even a full week after being asked to photograph Elisa’s birth I found myself having to gather my equipment and rush to the hospital.
“Like so many moms, I’m sitting in the car waiting for my 6-month-old, little Elisa, to finish her nap. No better time than this to write down her birth story. In Brazil, a commonly used phrase for giving birth is “Dar Luz”, to give light. To me there couldn’t be a better description.
Our eldest, Samantha was born in Brazil. Her birth was intense and fast, correlating well with her personality!
It all took 6 hours from start to finish and although most people would think that it was an ideal case, the intensity, pace, and the fact that it was my first birth, left me overwhelmed to say the least.
My wish for Elisa’s birth was that it would be a slower process, one in which I could be fully present in the moment and process, engage my husband and surroundings, and even enjoy the incredible privilege of giving light to a new creation. God gave me my heart’s desire.
My contractions started on 4 April around 18h00. After waiting a while to confirm that it was, in fact, the real deal, I was able to take a relaxing bath with my toddler, have dinner and put her to bed. The timing of the contractions also allowed me to again explain to her what was happening, that Mom and Dad won’t be there in the morning, and that Gran will bring her to see her new baby sister later in the day. The whole evening was a prayer answered: Samantha in bed, peacefully aware of what is about to happen and Mom and Dad could focus on the early labour alone. Dad still had to rush back from the barber at this point! The contractions came on gradually and by 23h00 my husband and I tried to take a short nap. My contractions were already too strong for me to doze off, though.
A few days before, I had contacted Sam, enquiring about the possibility to photograph Elisa’s birth.
Just hours before my contractions would begin, we confirmed the shoot and decided to organize a meet and greet the next day since I was already 38 weeks pregnant.
Two hours later my husband phoned her informing her that my contractions had started. “I’ll quickly charge my equipment!” was her response. We would eventually meet-and-greet at the hospital a few hours later with contractions coming on thick and fast.
We arrived at the hospital around one in the morning. My sweet midwife, Christelle, had been there the whole evening preparing everything we would need. When we arrived at the hospital my contractions quieted down and became less intense and further apart. For the next four hours I would be in and out the bath, walking and swaying and hoping Elisa would make her appearance sooner than later.
This peaceful period allowed us to share so many laughs, stories and beautiful moments that I will treasure forever.
Thankfully Elisa’s heartbeat was as steady as can be throughout the long wait.
By 5h00 I was exhausted and anxious for things to start getting on. My incredibly supportive and loving husband and I tried to take a nap, but my contractions were still about a 6/10, not allowing me to really sleep. Finally, by 6h00 the contractions started getting longer and closer together. I still found much more relief by resting in the bath on all fours during contractions, listening to my worship music and steady encouragement from Christelle and my husband, Heinrich. Around 9h00 the contractions were in full swing, 10/10 and I tried some pain relieving “laughing gas”. It did help me regulate my breathing, but unfortunately made me nauseous, so back to the bath it was. At some point the assisting midwife, Heather, arrived and in the last hour she was in front of me, holding my hands and talking me steadily through every contraction and coaching my breathing.
Heinrich was by my side, telling me how proud he was of me and behind me was Christelle, checking every movement and ready to catch baby as soon as she came. Somewhere in the room was Sam.
I was almost never aware of her capturing the most special moments. I was hardly aware of her thanks to her intimate and respectful approach.
At around 9h30 I hit the climax of my labour and the scariest part of all. Elisa started crowning and the pain was unreal. I had oame face to face with the greatest fear I have ever experienced, the feeling that I couldn’t do it, that it wasn’t in me to push through one more contraction, to get this baby girl out. I remember crying and saying to Heinrich, “Ek kan nie, ek kan nie.”
Together with the midwives, Heinrich started speaking truth and courage over me. I remember calling out “Jesus!” at one of the very last contractions before Elisa made her appearance and then feeling an incredible sense of relief and victory the moment she popped out, hearing her behind me. I turned around, untangled myself from the umbilical cord and laid eyes on the most precious, fresh baby, covered in vernix and crying the most beautiful cries a mother’s heart could desire. What an incredible moment. She was there, finally, happy and healthy and perfect. And I did it. I made it. I conquered. God was so gracious, present and good to me.
For a couple of precious moments everything faded away. It was just me, Heinrich and Elisa. We had all the time we needed to hold and welcome this precious gift. Later, Heinrich cut the umbilical cord and Christelle helped me out of the bath and on to the bed for the final contraction to expel the placenta. She also started to stitch me up as I had torn a little bit.
Meanwhile Elisa was lying skin-to-skin on Heinrich’s chest, safe and sound.
She started rooting and Heinrich gave her to me. She latched immediately with such ease and drank happily. The midwives checked her APGAR and did all the necessary check-ups in such peace, allowing baby and mom to have all the time we needed to bond.
After a hot shower and a well-deserved breakfast, it was time for Samantha and Grandma Martie to meet the newest edition to the Müller family. This was another highlight. Big sis brought a home-made card and a pink bunny she had bought for baby sis. Tears flooded my eyes as I realised I have been graced with the privilege of having and raising the two most gorgeous gifts from God.
And just for a moment I cried with my Mom, wishing my Dad was still alive to meet little Elisa as well.
Elisa is 6 months old now and we are thankful for the village God has surrounded us with from the beginning that enabled us to have such an incredible birth experience. I looked fear in the face and conquered it with full force. I had given light and it was pure life. Raw pain. Full joy. Unconditional love.
Elisa Müller, meaning consecrated to God, born 5 April at 9h46. Weighing 3.8kg, 54cm tall. To God be all the glory!”
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The next hour was the hardest for me, it felt like torture. It had gotten dark and we lit candles around the bath. I was trying all different positions, but struggled to find something bearable. I had worked so hard on breathing and relaxing, but when the contractions came it was so crushing, all I could do was ride it out and wait for it to be over.
An emergency C-section is exactly what it says – an emergency measure. You will have to discuss any risk factors that you have for that happening with your gynaecologist. Common reasons are obstructed labour, failure of labour to progress, placenta praevia (development of the placenta in an abnormally low position near the cervix), foetal distress, gestational diabetes mellitus, and improper positioning of the foetus for delivery.
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