How Bram was born

Bram will be 11 weeks old tomorrow. He’s doing so well — he is so healthy and growing so beautifully, and he is as sweet and content as he was from the moment he was born.

Bram was born at home on the 17th of March, very early in the morning. Unexpectedly, he didn’t come early like I thought he would. Considering the rhythm of things (Sara was 10 days late, Pim was +5, Ava -3 and Casper -5), I was counting on having Bram about a week or so before my due date. But… the days passed. And even though I had been crampy and baby’s head was fully engaged (and there had been a few instances of false labour during the night), this baby seemed not to be in a hurry. And neither was I! Despite the physical discomfort I actually enjoyed those long, quiet days — the calm before the storm. Tamar had been spending most of his lunch breaks with me whilst the children were in school, so we had lots of time together, just the two of us. It was slow and lovely.

The 16th of March was a Friday. I was nine days overdue. I had seen the midwife for a check-up that morning, and all was well with baby. I was still feeling ok myself. Uncomfortably heavy and crampy, of course, but I was in good spirits and still hopeful for a peaceful, natural delivery. The midwife stripped my membranes for the third time that week, and told me that if my labour wouldn’t have started spontaneously after the weekend, she felt that she should have to break my waters to speed things up. An idea I didn’t like much, because with Ava and Casper, my waters had been broken mid-labour which resulted in an immediate and overwhelming storm of extremely painful contractions without pause! I told her I didn’t want this to happen, especially not since I was going to try to have this last baby at home. We decided that we would talk about it more after the weekend, and make decisions later. We made a follow up appointment for Monday.

So I went home again, had lunch with a friend (including a lovely, chilled glass of Chardonnay!). I picked up the children from school and went out to buy our usual Friday evening snacks. We ate ‘dinner’ (little snacks) in front of the television like we typically do on wintery Friday nights. We love these cosy evenings, all curled up on the sofa together, easy and lazy. The past few Fridays we had always wondered if the next week we would have a baby on the sofa with us. But this week I knew that for sure there would be a baby next week. For the midwives would not let me go past 42 weeks… But when or how that baby would be born, I didn’t know yet.

It ended up to be quite late that Friday. Casper fell asleep on the sofa (as usual). We were not in bed until after 11. I fell asleep, but woke up not long after, around midnight, feeling crampy. I tried to sleep through it, expecting it to be false labour again. (All my other labours had started in the morning, and the babies being born in the afternoon or evening. Of course I thought it would happen the same way this time around!) But around 12:30AM, I started to time the contractions. They were regular, and were getting stronger. After about an hour I was sure that I was in labour. I got up, lit the candle next to our bed (bought for that purpose!) and woke Tamar.

bram birth

At 2 AM my contractions were strong and came every 7 minutes. I felt the need to call Sophie, my midwife. After talking to her for a while, she told me to wait just a little longer and call her again when contractions would come every 5 minutes. Which happened almost instantly! I called her again less than half an hour later. She was at our house at 3AM.

At that point I also called my friend Maud, who would come to take photos. Her telephone went straight to voicemail! I sent her a text just in case, and told Tamar to get our camera ready. But at that same time, in Maud’s house, her toddler woke up crying. She picked up her phone to look at the time and saw my text! Such a crazy coincidence, especially since Maud told me that Max rarely wakes up at night!!

When Sophie arrived I was walking around in our bedroom and the adjacent bathroom. During contractions I made my way over to the bathtub, bending over it while holding the edge — I had discovered that that pose allowed me to circle my hips which helped me to stay calm and breathe/sigh through the contractions. Sophie immediately checked me and our baby’s heart rate. All seemed to be going well, and I was a good 8 centimeters dilated already!

I decided to have a bath. We recently built our bathroom and I was keen to be in our big, comfy tub. And indeed, the feeling of the warm water surrounding me was relaxing. I managed to keep breathing through the contractions, trying to remember all the things I had written down before. At some point I saw Maud coming in, and I managed to crack a joke about something I now forget. I also saw the maternity nurse arriving (to assist during delivery if needed, and to help care for the baby in the first hours after birth).

bram birth

But slowly, something heavy came upon me. The contractions were starting to overwhelm me, they pulled me inside, away from my surroundings. I had to close my eyes. It was just me now, dealing with the powerful pressure of the contractions. Sophie checked me again and told me I was fully dilated. She also told me she was going to break my waters now, to increase the pressure on my cervix and speed up the last bit. But when she broke my waters she noticed meconium.

She told me to actively start pushing. But even though the urge to push was there, it wasn’t strong enough yet. After two contractions, Sophie felt that progress wasn’t fast enough with a baby in possible distress (meconium!), and asked me to come out of the bath. Because I was still on planet ME, I wasn’t really registering. But Sophie urged me — I had to come out of the bath!

I felt defeated. There was no way I could get out of that bath! It just was physically impossible! Why couldn’t I stay in there? Was something wrong? I felt so overwhelmed at that point of my labour. Then, I felt Tamar’s arms around me, and he lifted me out of the bath. I struggled the few meters to our bed, feeling so much pressure and so incapable. (I might have said that I wanted to die at that point!)

I got on the bed, on my hands and knees as Sophie told me to do. I grabbed a bunch of pillows and leaned into them, burying my head inside. And that was just what was needed: I felt the urge to push, strong, this time! I pushed once, and pushed again, and then I felt the burning feeling of baby’s head crowning. I pushed again, with all my power, and I felt the birth of Bram’s head. Then, I felt his body twist inside me, and with another strong contraction, at 4:20 AM, the rest of his body was born.

Suddenly all the pressure was gone, the pressure of the contractions, the pressure of his body inside my belly. I felt such an incredible relief! It was done! I rolled on my back and Bram was on my belly. I felt his familiar weight on me, his slippery, warm body. He started to cry and I lifted him up to me. I studied his cute little round face, I discovered the delicious baby swirl in his hair. He was perfect. I told everybody: He is perfect! He is perfect!! Look at him! He is so, so perfect, and he is so, so cute!

Bram birth

I can still feel the emotions of these first moments. The wonder of it. Sophie told me to push one last time and I delivered the placenta even before the cord was cut.

bram birth

Tamar then cut the cord and Bram latched on and had his first little feed. The next hour or so I held Bram on my bare chest, discovering him together with Tamar, and Sophie did her checks. As I had already told everyone, he was perfect :).

I then handed Bram to his dad while Sophie checked me (I had a small tear, nothing major). While I showered the maternity nurse weighed Bram (3800 grams! Our biggest baby yet!), changed our bedsheets and helped Tamar dress Bram. We had a glass of champagne and the traditional Dutch ‘beschuit met muisjes’ and then Sophie made her way out.

bram birth

At 6:30 Tamar woke the other children and told them they had a little brother. Thinking back of the moment they entered our room to meet Bram still makes me tear up. They each held him and they all were in awe. He was so sweet and incredibly tiny.

We stayed in our bedroom the next 24 hours, recovering, resting, and riding that delicious wave of happiness. Bram must have felt the love and happiness, because I swear he has had a smile on his face from that very first day. He was just so content! And he has been that way ever since. He really found his belonging. And so did we.

Looking back at his birth, I believe that the fact that we were at home and Sophie didn’t break my waters until the last moment made my labour so much more bearable. I really was surprised that I managed to calmly breathe trough the contractions until I was fully dilated. The water sac really does work as a cushion! With my other labours this cushion was broken mid-labour, and as I said before, made my labour fast but hardly manageable (a so called ‘rapid labour’). I believe it’s better to take things a little slower, it makes for a better experience — both for the mother and the baby. A rapid labour may be fast, but is emotionally challenging — it really is out of control and the storm of contractions is impossible to cope with. And for the baby it can be stressful too (often the heartbeat of the baby drops dramatically during rapid labour). Being at home, in the bath, with my waters intact, made my labour (although still intense!) acceptable and in a strange way wonderful. (And I don’t mean to say that it was painless, or not difficult, because it was!) The support of my midwife was unmissable and her decision to move me on my hands and knees on the bed was very wise — the change of positions opened my cervix just that extra bit that was needed for the magic to happen.

Even though I kept my options open until the last minute, and I would have happily gone to the hospital if this would have been needed, I’m glad to have experienced a home birth for our last baby.

xxx Esther

PS all photos are by Maud Fontein ❤


Comments (23)

June 1, 2018

Wow, this is such a beautiful post! It was very moving for me to read, as I am due in two weeks time (first child). The photos also beautifully captures this special moment – the labor, the birth, the first couple of hours with your husband and newborn, and finally with your entire family. Absolutely magical!

June 1, 2018

Wow, Esther. I am having my first baby this fall, and to be honest, I am completely terrified of the birth. You (almost?) make me want a natural birth 😉 It seems so magical and from a complete stranger, I am so proud of you! Also, I am one of five kids – my relationship with my siblings is the great joy of my life. Your kids are very lucky.

June 1, 2018

Oh, these photos! How lucky you are to have them! I can’t help but feel a bit weepy seeing them and reading your story. I am finished having babies, but I would have a thousand more to relive that first moment they are placed on your chest over and over again. Those were the three most profound moments of my life.

Annie from Brimful
June 1, 2018

Your post made me choke up a bit…what a happy “ending” to this surprise pregnancy! And what a beautiful beginnng to Bram’s life…he’s a handsome little man.

June 1, 2018

Hi Esther, this must seem like an odd place to post but as I just read and loved your story about Bram’s birth – I was devouring old posts on yours and wondering what sorts of snacks you prepare for your Friday nights at home. Also, I live in New York – where did you used to live in the city and do you personally have any old favorites/a city guide somewhere with your favorite restaurants?

Sara in ireland
June 2, 2018

Ah thanks for making me cry when I’m sitting here in my daughter’s gumnastics class on this Saturday morning 😄 So beautifully written and the photos are so precious. And how adorable is baby Bram!

June 2, 2018

Beautiful photos and a lovely story! So glad you got to have a home birth. Such a peaceful way to enter the world. X

June 2, 2018

Thank you Esther for that wonderful birth story and precious very personal pictures <3 what a beautiful documentary! I had two traumatizing c sections in the hospital, but still wish and hope for a natural birth next time 🙏🏻 My boy is six weeks now and I love to see Bram‘s development! Well thanks again Esther

June 2, 2018

Congratulations to you and your beautiful family! I, too, will have my fifth baby later this year and feel so lucky to get to experience this miracle one more time. Thank you for sharing!

June 2, 2018

What a lovely story and beautiful photos! I had my second baby 2April and I love following you on Insta and reading your posts because our babies are so close in age/experiences. Thank you for being so open and sharing so much these last several weeks.

June 2, 2018

Prachtig beschreven Esther, je verhaal samen met de prachtige foto’s maken me een beetje emotioneel. Die prachtige intieme momenten van de geboorte en de eerste ontmoeting met de broers en zussen zijn zo bijzonder on mee te morgen maken. Wij vieren volgende maand de 2e verjaardag van ons hekkensluitertje, geboren in het ziekenhuis maar heel rustig en natuurlijk… Dankbaar voor vroedvrouwen die de tijd nemen voor de natuurlijke gang van zaken. Dankjewel voor het delen! Ik heb ook enorm genoten van je instgramstories tijdens de kraamweek. Veel geluk met jullie mooie gezin!

June 3, 2018

Thank you for sharing this beautiful experience! Former birth doula, therapist specializing in maternal mental health and mama to two I love hearing women’s different experiences!!

June 3, 2018

A truly beautiful depiction, Esther! Many congratulations to you and your beautiful family. Being a woman is such a beautiful powerful thing…

June 3, 2018

Really lovely!! Congratulations!

June 4, 2018

I loved this. I’m all teary eyed. I had my third baby a few months ago. All of mine were rapid (precipitous) births, with my water breaking and the babies being born two hours later. When it first happened, it was rough, but by the last one, I enjoyed it. I knew what to expect. Congratulations. 🙂

June 5, 2018

Your story made me cry! What beauty, Esther. Congratulations, Bram is a beautiful baby!

June 5, 2018

A lovely birth story and gorgeous photos.

June 10, 2018

OOooohhh Esther I cried reading you story!!! It is just so beautiful and made me wish I could have another baby.

Erin Powell
July 11, 2018

Hi Ester! I have so loved reading this! Your little baby Bram is so beautiful and it was wonderful reading the birth story. My littlest is now 9, so it has been years since I have given birth (I have 3 children) but I completely agree with you about breaking the water too early which causes rapid labor. With my middle child, I was delayed for weeks at almost 4 cm dilated and so my doctor broke my water to move things along. It slammed me into active labor and my daughter was born 90 Mins after my contractors had started – it was unbelievablely painful and even after the baby was born, I felt like I couldn’t even talk for 10 Mins after as I needed to wrap my mind Around what my body just went through (the cord was around the baby’s neck — so on top of quick labor, there was a bit of panic to get her out quickly). Enjoy this time with your little one – it all speeds by so quickly.

April 15, 2020

Dear Esther (that’s actually an amazing video game, called “Dear Esther”),
Today I accidentally stumbled over your Blog and it nearly made me tear up. Your story is so full of love, trust and faith in nature and your boy is gorgeous. But the best part for me is, how similar your story is to mine. People always told me that I was lucky. Yes and no.

In November 2019 came my first baby, a boy. “Real” contraction started around 9PM, arrival in the birthhouse 11.45PM, 6.06AM peaceful arrival of my son in the tube (42 week).
When I look back, it was an amazing experience, highly painful, no doubt, BUT the strength and the power going through the body, the flow and the rhythm absorbing the conciousness – yes, that is for what we women are made for. I am so delighted to be able to have experienced that. And yes, I fully agree with you regarding the water. It is like a cushion, indeed. It hold the baby so nicely safe and sound. Mine, unfortunately, was indestructable and broke very late, which meant on the other hand a lot of pressure, A LOT!
In my honest opinion: perforating the water sac, inducing in any way, etc. creates an unnatural birth experience, because then there is no natural rhythm anymore between the mom and the baby and therefore needs to be avoided by all means. Of course in a total healthy setting.

I had two moments of conciousness during labor, once when the water broke and the second when his head finally entered this world. I probably will never forget this feeling of the instant pressure relief.

And I also experienced a very content baby. The midwife said, it is rather rare and always amazing to see when newborns are already “there”. With their eyes, the facial expressions, their behaviour overall. He is now turning 6 month and he seems like resting within himself – amazing.

Yes, well, very powerful, all of it. I am overjoyed for every mother. Thank you soo much for making your story public. This is now actually my first comment ever ever – I just couldn’t hold it back anymore.

All the very best to you and your family!!!
Greetings from Switzerland.

April 15, 2020

I need to add: He was 3620g.
Now he has about 10kg.

Esther in Amsterdam
April 20, 2020

Hi Kris,
Thank you so much for your lovely comment! And congrats on the beautiful birth your baby boy ❤️. Sending love back from Amsterdam!
Esther xxx

February 2, 2021

Thanks for sharing this beautiful story/birth. I am 38 weeks now and feeling so inspired and empowered by reading those births stories. This one is very touching.

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