Welcome, Baby Ruari | Home Birth in Waringstown, Northern Ireland
This is the story of the birth of Ruari, born at home in Waringstown. Ruari’s mother was supported throughout her labour by her husband, Craig, alongside two Community midwives. Clients who book me understand that birth is a STORY and that I am a STORYTELLER.
I had been a professional photographer for over a year, when Jill contacted me to photograph the birth of her second child. There is no greater compliment when a family reaches out to have such a special moment, a new chapter of their lives, documented and captured by the photographer who captured their first child turning one.
I met Jill when her first child, Elsie, was turning one, and we had a little birthday photoshoot in Hillsborough Forest Park. She was the most adorable, smiley little girl, and the whole family was so vibrant and loving.
“[We] found out I was expecting when Elsie was about a year and a half.....was a little bit of a surprise. As with Elsie during this pregnancy I was sick right through. But apart from that I loved being pregnant. [I] loved the feeling of growing another little person - being pregnant for me is a massive confidence boost. Elsie was born at home in the birthing pool with a couple of lovely midwives and our springer Harry sitting waiting patiently at the back door. And we wanted the same experience for this birth.”
“There was definitely a lot of nesting [with this pregnancy]. The whole house got painted, sofas got recovered and lots of clearing out. Other than that we spent time talking to Elsie about the baby arriving, how that would happen and what mummy might do when having the baby. We had planned to have Elsie there during the birth. I also did a bit of what Roberta (our midwife) called pimp my pool. Decorating the kitchen with fairy lights and candles so that the atmosphere was calm and relaxing.”
This brings me back to 26th October 2015.
I received a phone call around 6:15am, from Craig, saying that Jill was in active labour. I jumped out of bed, grabbed my camera bag, jumped in the car and made the 35-minute drive to Waringstown, where the McCambley’s lived. I can vaguely remember the adrenaline rushing through my body, as I drove through light traffic, seeing the sun come up on a cold, autumn morning.
I arrived before the midwives, quite literally abandoning my car outside the front of their home. I entered their home and started to photograph Jill walking about, breathing through each contraction, each surge. She used her armchair in the kitchen, leaning over, using the wooden frame to grip onto.
“I’m very lucky in that both my labours were very quick. With both I started getting contractions around 2/3 am these were very manageable and being at home I was able to rest in between and potter round the house around 5am I knew things were starting to get more advanced and started to fill the birthing pool. At about 5:30/6am I contacted the midwives and Rebekah. Around 7am Rebekah arrived first followed shortly by the midwives. The lead midwife was also the lead midwife at Elsie’s birth and a good friend who i had also worked with as a student midwife and always admired the gentle yet empowering way she worked alongside women.”
“The midwives got set up and then checked my progress. I was around 6cm along. Elsie woke up shortly after everyone arrived and was happy to come down and help the ladies look after mummy.”
The pool was ready for Jill to get into, and when she did, Elsie thought this was the most exciting thing ever, at nearly 7:30am in the morning. She played with the midwives a little, and also wanted me to play with her and her wooden bus.
Jill was in the birthing pool, using gas and air as contractions got closer and closer. Craig moved with Jill and her body. He provided her with comfort, love and was present, physically, emotionally and mentally throughout labour.
Contractions were becoming more intense. Elsie and one of the midwives played, and put some of her wooden pieces of fruit in the water. I witnessed one of the most amazing things, as Jill puts it: “[Elsie] helped listen to the baby’s heartbeat with the Doppler and poured nice warm water over mummy’s back.”
On the outside, dimmed table and floor lamps could be seen, with very little suggestion as to what else was happening inside. But on the inside, a strong and brave mama was about to bring her little one into the world. Craig massaged Jill’s back and shoulders, whilst Jill used breathing techniques through each final contraction.
Jill was ready to birth her baby.
Craig jumped into the birthing pool, and the midwife placed a mirror under her and baby’s head was showing.
Just before 10am, Baby Ruari was born. So much love and joy was felt in that room, at that moment. Mummy held baby in her arms. Daddy stared at mummy with so much admiration. And little Elsie was captivated by another tiny baby, trying to adapt in the outside world.
“Things moved along well and just before 10am Ruari arrived. And the next thing his big sister was in the pool to welcome him.”
“I remember lifting this little baby out of the water and thinking how tiny it was compared to Elsie and then feeling his ‘little bits’ and realising it was a boy. It was awesome. I also remember being so proud of Elsie for being so calm and helpful through the birth.”
The midwives helped Jill to her bedroom, upstairs, to get cleaned up. Elsie found this the perfect time to show me her 'kitchen' and to make me some ‘tea and dinner’. She also wanted to figure out what my ‘big camera’ did. She was (and still is) full of life, with so much to give, and is the perfect big sister for little Ruari.
Fast forward a short time, I came upstairs and found Jill, Craig, Elsie and baby Ruari in the master room, getting cosy in bed, and enjoying the first few hours of having little Ruari. Elsie was amazing with him already, helping mummy and daddy dress Ruari in his first little outfit, and kissing and hugging him, just like a big sister does.
This was most definitely a key part, in my photography career. I witnessed my very first birth, documented moments unfolding and out of my control. It was beautiful. It was what I knew I wanted to do. I’m so glad Jill and Craig hired me to be their birth photographer and very grateful for the friendly midwives on-call that morning.
“At Elsie’s birth there was a student midwife there who had taken picture on our camera and it was really lovely to be able to look back over them and see the very stages and actually see the birth. This time around I was keen to have proper pictures that were of a good quality and captured more of this little moments that are often missed or forgotten. So it was so lovely to have Rebekah there just slotting into the background and capturing moments that we can show to both our kids and help normalise birth and all it’s glory!”