We all first met in a cafe. I ate a muffin and made a mess, tried to remain professional, but got far too swept up in the idea of telling their story to catch every crumb. But I must have done ok, because not long after Louise and Dean invited me to photograph the birth of their first daughter.
Delighted is not the word. It is an eyes squeezed tight, wide smile, little fist pump type of feeling. Because this work really matters to me. I believe in the beauty of it, the need to tell it well and authentically, the absolute joy of it all.
Later, when we met for dinner at their home, Dean would look over at Louise and smile, telling me about the first night he saw her, how they talked, how they laughed, how they spent as little time apart as possible from that moment on. Louise would look down at her baby bump, still a bit in awe of becoming a mum, deeply in love with Dean, heed over heels with this other little person she was still to meet.
We chatted and laughed and planned for the time when I would get the call. It’s exciting just to write that. I remember the wonderful expectation, the adrenaline rush of jumping in the car, the thrill of seeing them both again, together in the kitchen, cooking me pizza, counting the contractions, waiting.
I watch the ebb and flow of excitement, Louise’s short spells of discomfort, how they stretched and lengthened, how her head dropped, how she swayed from side to side, how Dean held her, rubbed the small of her back, kissed her forehead. Then the call to midwife, the gathering of bags, the darkness falling, the short drive to the hospital.
And then more waiting. Laughing like school kids outside the headmaster’s office. The incredible, unreality of it all happening. The frustrating reality of it not happening quick enough for them. Being sent home to wait some more.
The atmosphere at the house now hushed. Louise retreating into the very personal pain of labour. The only sound her gentle pacing back and forth, breathing deep, low and slow. Progression.
Back to the hospital. On to the ward. In to the room. Birthing Room 5.
Hours passed. I melt into the background to watch and capture. This is their story. Dean whispers to Louise, calms her, pours her water, holds her hand, kisses her fingers. Louise is now deep in the burn of her labour, breathing in gas and air, clenching fists, always moving to the edge of the bed, closer to Dean, away from the pain.
They wait. Louise shifts, tries to find any way to become more comfortable. There isn’t one.
And then, everything moves very quickly. The baby is on her way, she’s kept us waiting, kept Louise working so hard.
I look at Dean. Fearless for Louise, he only looks concerned when she can’t see his face. Moments of biting bottom lip, expectant dad, caught and held in the camera.
Baby’s coming, says the midwife. Collective breaths held. Freja arrives. Beautiful, wonderful, Freja.
Those precious moments afterwards. The happy grins of people become proud parents, the wide smiles of joy. The three of them together. A family born.
I was witness to all that. I cannot thank them enough.