Matias' Gentle Birth Story | Grand Rapids Birth Photographer

Sweet Baby Matias was born in the Philippines at Shiphrah Birthing Home (part of Help International Ministries), shortly before I moved back to Grand Rapids. It was an absolute privilege to be a part of this family's special day. 

Silay texted me one Saturday morning letting me know she thought she was in early labor. A few hours later, Silay and her husband Vencer met me at the birthing home where she checked in with her midwives. The midwives advised that she head back to home to labor freely and return when labor had progressed further, but not before we got some shots of her early labor in gorgeous light. 

 Timing early contractions while the sun poured in the window.

Timing early contractions while the sun poured in the window.

 A midwife checks Silay's blood pressure.

A midwife checks Silay's blood pressure.

Later that evening Silay's husband Vencer notified me that labor had progressed significantly and that they were on their way back to the birthing home. I asked him to let me know when they arrived so I could follow soon after. I gathered my gear and waited for the call.

Vencer's message was short and to the point, "At the birthing home. Fully dilated. Come quick."

And so I did. Within ten minutes, I was tiptoeing into the birthing room. It was peacefully quiet. Silay was on the wooden birthing stool, resting back into her husband's arms. She was incredibly strong. The words "power" and "goddess" kept flashing through my mind as I quietly watched her bring their baby earthside.

Vencer stroked her arms, wiped her brow, and held her water bottle (mine actually!) while she drank. He groaned when she groaned. As their baby started crowning, he tried to peek over her to see his son for the first time. Silay and Vencer's love for each other was palpable. After Silay's last two intense pushes, Matias arrived! The intensity and quiet in the room turned quickly to erupting joy and chatter as Silay cradled Matias. I've never seen such genuine joy!

Silay and Vencer chose to delay cord clamping until the next morning, so the placenta that gave Matias life for nine months stayed connected to him while he laid skin-to-skin with his mother all night.

Welcome to the world, Matias. You are so loved.

birthing stool labor in a birthing home husband supporting his wife
 We groan together.

We groan together.

 The calm between contractions.

The calm between contractions.

birthing stool embrace during labor
 One midwife listens to the baby's heartbeat with a doppler as the other assists during crowning.

One midwife listens to the baby's heartbeat with a doppler as the other assists during crowning.

 "Baby na" (the baby is here)! "Maganda" (beautiful)!

"Baby na" (the baby is here)! "Maganda" (beautiful)!

 The first embrace, called "unang yakap" in the Philippines. Such immeasurable joy for the arrival of this healthy boy! Look at that beautiful spiral cord.

The first embrace, called "unang yakap" in the Philippines. Such immeasurable joy for the arrival of this healthy boy! Look at that beautiful spiral cord.

 I love that this brief moment was captured. Vencer helped Silay remove her strap so that she could breastfeed their baby within the first few minutes of life.

I love that this brief moment was captured. Vencer helped Silay remove her strap so that she could breastfeed their baby within the first few minutes of life.

 The first latch and a view of that beautiful, life-giving umbilical cord.

The first latch and a view of that beautiful, life-giving umbilical cord.

 A sweet embrace.

A sweet embrace.

 Joyful laughter after a long day of work.

Joyful laughter after a long day of work.

 Starting today, her body will nourish him for many months to come.

Starting today, her body will nourish him for many months to come.

 Quiet adoration.

Quiet adoration.

breastfeeding after birth
 A portrait of the placenta. Silay and Vencer chose to delay cord clamping: the umbilical cord won't be cut until morning.

A portrait of the placenta. Silay and Vencer chose to delay cord clamping: the umbilical cord won't be cut until morning.

 Her expression says everything.

Her expression says everything.

 A beautiful, healthy baby!

A beautiful, healthy baby!

Silay shared with me her thanks for being her birth photographer and gave some insight into why they chose to have an unmedicated gentle birth at Shiphrah Birthing Home. Her words are here:

"We decided to have a gentle birth with our second son in a wonderful birthing home with amazing and supportive midwives. And so it was important for us to document the whole experience, to be able to look back at that special moment which shows the incredible strength and bravery that all birthing women possess. We have Annica to thank for being part of our birth team and for poignantly capturing our gentle birth experience.

Annica’s photos of our birth have deeply made an impact not just with my husband and I but with family and friends as well. The photos empower us, show and teach us all to embrace birth, to do away with the stigma and fear that come with birth for as long as women can remember. The photos serve as a voice of birthing women all around the world which indeed tell us what we’ve known all along—that women are amazing and that women have profound strength and bravery within themselves. All women after all, are warriors. It takes a village to raise a child, so the proverb goes. But I also believe it takes a village to birth a child into this world, to be surrounded and supported by wonderful and encouraging women and people so that all mothers get the dignified birth they all deserve.

Thank you, Annica, for being part of our village!"