Jude's Birth Story~ Ann Owen Birth Photographer
On the morning of the 28th of September I received a message from Franki letting me know that she had woken up with on and off again back pain and that it was beginning to feel more like labour and that she had a bit of her bloody show too. She was 40 weeks and 4 days. As soon as I read the message I felt a burst of excitement knowing that it wouldn’t be long until I get to document a new life being born. I live 1 hour and 45 minutes away so we had already discussed that she should keep me updated with any developments.
A couple of hours later she told me the surges were definitely getting stronger but that she could still talk through them. She was on her way to forest school with her youngest but an hour later she messaged to say everything had slowed down.She was in such a beautiful space and I loved her confidence in trusting her body. It’s a funny life being on call, you are forever on edge, ready to rush out the door at a moment’s notice. There was a time that day where I thought I would be leaving imminently but then the surges slowed down and stopped. The whole day followed this pattern. Stopping and starting. Little Jude was obviously doing some important work before being ready to make his appearance. At some point I felt it wasn't going to happen on that day so I relaxed, changed and crocheted while the kids played.
The last message I received from her was around 9 in the evening letting me know that things seemed to have fizzled out again and that she was going to have a bath to relax. For some reason I intuitively knew that little Jude would be making his appearance in the night and that I should be getting some sleep but for the life of me I just couldn’t! I think I was just so full of anticipation and also anxiety that I would somehow miss the call which made it next to impossible to sleep. In the end I managed about an hour’s sleep before I got the call from Ryan at 2 AM to let me know that Franki was in labour and that it was time for me to head over to them.
I scrambled up and got dressed, brushed my teeth, grabbed my stuff and rushed out the door without waking the kids. It was pitch black out. And rainy. At times I had to slow down to 40 on the motorway because the visibility was so bad. I was so worried I would arrive too late and miss the birth. I was freezing too as I discovered our heating in the car was broken.
But as I approached their house (by now it was close to 4 AM), a feeling of calm flooded over me and I knew I was right on time. As I got out of the car I took a photo of their home and saw how bright the moon was. It was the last supermoon of the year and also the harvest moon. It truly felt like an auspicious night and everything just felt so right. I had the most beautiful feelings wash over me as I entered their home.
As I entered their home, I gave Ryan a hug and noticed Franki in the lounge riding a wave so before saying hello I walked into the kitchen and put my stuff down. Then with my camera in hand I went to her and gave her a hug but warned her first of my freezing hands. She told me she didn't mind and for a few seconds my hands were a welcome relief on her back and forehead.
Ryan was on the phone to the midwives and they were saying to him how they didn’t have anyone to come to their house so she should come into the hospital otherwise a midwife would arrive at 7 in the morning. There was no way Frankie was going to leave the comfort of her own home and leave the beautiful zone she was in to head to the hospital. She was more than happy and confident to birth without midwives surrounding her and they had already known that this could be a possibility.
She went through wave after wave with such an inner strength. She continued to labour in the corner of the lounge for maybe 20 minutes until she could get into the birthing pool. Ryan was busy getting it ready and there was a tube going from the sink down the hall and into the pool slowly filling it up. Once ready, Ryan helped her climb in and it took only a few seconds for her to get comfortable and find a new rhythm.
She went through her surges quietly, completely in her own world on the threshold of the divine. She seemed to be in the most profound and sacred trance, a communion between her and her son. Moments like these take my breath away. To be able to bear witness to these awe inspiring moments is not something I take for granted. It is truly the most incredible honour of my life.
The room felt so calm and peaceful. Just her & Ryan and me. Her other two children were sound asleep upstairs. After a while of her going though her surges quite quietly all of a sudden she, in a very calm voice tells us that she was pushing. I wasn’t entirely sure if this was going to be the moment Jude made his appearance but it turned out he & Frankie still had a journey to go on.
Frankie has the most beautiful and loving soul, always thinking about everyone else even while in the depths of labour. In between surges she would ask how I am, how Ryan was, wanting to make sure her kids upstairs were ok. She was the embodiment of love. There was also a lot of laughter.
It was also so beautiful to see the way Ryan supported Franki. I could feel his love and support for her everytime he held her face in his hands, the way he gave her crushed ice cubes and made sure she was drinking enough water. The way their eyes would lock and how in those brief moments time seemed to stand still. What was exceptionally sweet was how Ryan would ask Frankie how she was feeling and then her asking him the same question and how each time this happened Ryan just had the biggest smile on his face in complete adoration of her. He had shared with me how incredibly excited he was this time around as it was their second home birth and how he was quite nervous during the first one.
I loved how their bulldog, Archie, was always close by. He was her doula. Holding space, keeping an eye on her at all times. Every so often he would go and have a rest on the sofa but as soon as the energy shifted and it became time for Jude to make his appearance Archie knew and became so alert. It’s incredible how intuitive our animals are.
What struck me was how normal it all seemed. She laboured like a goddess. Riding through the waves , trusting the process completely. About an hour after I had arrived she told us she could feel his head turning and that was the moment I knew it wouldn’t be long before we would get to meet him. A few pushes later and she held him in her hands and lifted him out of the water and onto her chest. It was around 5:07. It was so incredibly peaceful. Little Jude was so calm, happy, content and so alert and curious just soaking his mama in. Withing minutes he latched onto her breast and had his first feed and about maybe 20 minutes later she birthed the placenta and Ryan grabbed a bowl so they could place it in. Her & Jude stayed in the pool for over an hour afterwards taking their time, following their instincts, just soaking each other in. It was just perfect.
A little while later Ryan woke up their toddler Rowan and their teenager Kaira so that they could meet the newest member of the family. The next few hours were spent just relaxing and getting to know each other. I ended up staying until the midwife arrived because it just felt that would be the perfect end to their story but she didn’t arrive until around 8:30 & by the time she did Ryan had already emptied the pool, Franki had gotten her and Jude dressed and life just seemed to have returned to a new normal for them.The midwife was even surprised that she had just had a baby! I was in absolute awe how seamlessly she navigated all the new family dynamics and made everyone feel seen and heard.
On the drive home I was overcome with gratitude. There’s something so special about witnessing a parent seeing their baby for the very first time, so many firsts happen immediately after the birth and it just makes my heart overflow with gratitude that I have this job. It truly is the best job in the world.