Catherine Abegg » wedding & portrait photographer from seattle, wa... specializing in lifestyle, travel, and film photography.

haakan’s birth story // abegg adventures // photos by madeline manalo

Haakan is within his sixth month on this earth… which not only means that this blog post is six months in the making, but it also means that even though my plan was to finally share these photos on his half-year birthday, I’m having to concede that doing it within his sixth month will just have to be good enough. Jeez. Our life is forever changed; admittedly sometimes in annoying ways such as how a blog post can take six months to make it’s debut, but mostly our life has been changed in a beautiful way that leaves us wondering how we even existed before having the pleasure of breathing the same air as he.

Introducing Haakan Van Abegg.


I’ll tell my birth story too, because I need a place to archive my thoughts and also because I have loved reading the stories from my other parent friends along the way. Haakan was due to arrive on December 6th, but on the morning of November 23rd I woke up and told Michael that I had had several contractions in the night, but that it wasn’t anything to worry about. Michael said, “I have a feeling that today is the day! You need to pack!” To which I said, “It could literally be today or it could be four weeks from today, so don’t get too anxious!” But I packed my bag anyway, took what would be my last waddling trip to Target to pick up a nursing bra and some leggings, and for good measure I sent Michael a list of things that I didn’t pack but that would need to be grabbed when I went into labor. And then I took an amaaaaaaazing nap in our van, which is a nap that I literally still think about with love & fondness, and am still very thankful for today.

As many of you know, we were living in our van at that time; however, we had plans of staying with Michael’s parents after Haakan’s birth while I recovered, so Michael had actually moved our van into one of the garages at his work while we waited for the big day. Besides the luxury of being parked inside next to a bathroom and also being able to plug in an electric heater (as opposed to our propex), it also made sense because we wouldn’t have to worry about packing up the van when I went into the chaos of labor and finding parking for it near the hospital and whatever-whatever… Michael is endlessly prepared for all scenarios, and his foresight in this was very much appreciated.

Anyway, that night as we were parked in our giant van-within-a-garage home, Michael made us some “van s’mores” by roasting marshmallows over our gas stove, and I laid there with my giant belly while we started to watch an episode of Jessica Jones on netflix (spoiler alert: we have yet to finish that episode, six months later, as if it’s an imaginary marker of time in space), and I was text-lecturing Madeline about getting a job, but otherwise feeling very happy. Then suddenly I felt a POP! very low in my belly, followed by a strong & sudden cramp… and I didn’t really say anything to Michael about it, but then a few minutes later I felt a warmness oozing between my legs. I sat straight up in bed probably faster than I’d moved my whole pregnancy, and I yelled, “I think my water just broke!!!!!” And then I texted Mads the same, so that in one text I was lecturing her, and in the next I was alerting her that I was about to go into labor… such is our life these days. Michael took a quick look but said it looked like I had just peed myself (um, I’m pretty sure I would know if I had just peed myself!), and then he started googling what it would look like if my water broke. In the meantime, I got up and started walking to the bathroom, and then there was no mistaking that my water had just broken because there was a trail of liquid following me everywhere I went… along with our beagle Sable following me everywhere I went to “clean up” my mess!!! I then got an insane surge of adrenaline and started to shake violently as my mind & body processed what was really about to happen, but I was laughing uncontrollably, Michael was running around like a mad man trying to pack the remainder of our things, while he called his parents to come get Sable (his dad got there so fast that I think his car actually sprouted wings!), called our midwife’s office to tell them what was going on (and the phone mysteriously SHUT OFF during this phone call, go figure!), and his voice seriously went up about three octaves and he was yelling at everything for god knows what reason. All the while I was walking around with a true waddle because I couldn’t close my legs from all the fluid coming out, and of course Sable was doing her due diligence the whole time by following me around everywhere I waddled to. It was pure chaos & hilarity, just like in the movies!

We got to the hospital and all was good. I had tested positive for GBS a few weeks prior, which made it even more urgent for inducing me than just having my water break so suddenly. I was still in good spirits during this time, laughing, joking around, having Michael take photos of me, talking to Madeline on the phone… but when they started to talk about inducing me, my mood changed real quick. I had been induced with Mads eighteen years earlier due to a severe case of preeclampsia, and even though I was only in labor for seven hours, I had very bad memories of being induced… think being fine one minute, and then being induced and going into violent contractions the next minute without the luxury of slowly easing into the transition of labor, with the contractions being at full intensity with almost no breaks in between for the whole seven hours. I did not like it at all, and was terrified to go through the same. Michael had to calmly remind me that we chose these midwives for a reason and that we agreed to wholeheartedly trust that they had all of our best interests in mind; well, it turns out that a lot has changed in the past eighteen years, and that now they can slowly “ease” you into being induced, with a much lower dosage. Which they did, and after about one hour they took me off of the pitocin to see if my body was responding to labor on it’s own… and it was! So they stopped inducing me and let my body naturally take over.

[I’m going to take a quick pause to sing the praises of the midwives at Swedish Ballard Midwifery. We had a 100% positive experience from the beginning of our pregnancy all the way through my recovery and transition to being a new mom again, and we couldn’t be any happier with how everything happened. I am so thankful for them.]

In the meantime, around 1am, Madeline arrived at the hospital. Madeline was a huge part of our birth plan, as we wanted her there to photograph the birth, for support, and to welcome her brother into the world with us. She had her camera, and a couple of my cameras, and she was in the room with us the whole time. Mads & I like to joke around together a lot, so at first we kept things light and she was making fun of me a little… but soon the contractions really started to take their toll on me, and she quietly watched on all through the night and into the morning, and occasionally gave Michael a break when he needed it. She later said that she had never seen two people look at each other with such trust, and that it wasn’t until that day that she realized the strength of Michael’s & my love. Having gone through this life with Madeline has been a real pleasure, but for it to all come full circle like this and to have her here with me during pregnancy and then during birth, is more than my mama heart can handle…

Michael held onto me all night, and let me hang onto him with the full weight of my body and surrender all of my emotions to him, and he pretty much never took his eyes or his hands off of me. He was quiet–which is a rarity for him–while he waited for my every request or hint at needing something from him. When I first looked at these photos of us, I couldn’t believe the shared intensity with which I’m holding onto him, and with which he’s holding onto me. I was alone when I gave birth to Madeline, and I was okay with that because I knew that it was how things were meant to be with us… but having Michael there to literally hold me up during twelve hours of feeling like I couldn’t go on another minute, reminded me that this is how things are meant to be with us now. I am deeply in love with Michael, but it was that experience during labor and delivery that has me in absolute awe & admiration of his devotion, love, and strength.

I thought I would write about this minute by minute, but I guess now I just don’t know that that matters anymore. I remember being checked for the first time and I was five centimeters dilated, and then being checked again after being in the tub for two hours and being seven centimeters dilated… and I remember at the time I felt like I would die, and that two centimeters felt like NOTHING, and that I was ready to give in. I remember that after seven hours (the amount of time that it took for me to give birth to Madeline), I really started to lose hope, and feel like something was wrong–even yelling at the people around me that they didn’t know and I knew that there was something terribly wrong!–and I started to say real mean things to myself in my head. And then I remember them telling me that I was over nine centimeters dilated, and I remember that suddenly the room took on a whole new light and a whole new energy, as more people came into the room to prepare for this baby’s arrival… and I remember our midwife (who has been a midwife for forty years, by the way) telling me that it was time to push. Michael was there by my side, but he later said that it felt like this massive female empowerment moment, where all of these women were surrounding me and laying their hands on me, and speaking to me in ways that may as well have been spoken with an ancient tongue… their voices made no sense to me but within their hands was all that I had left in me and those hands held all the weight of my child crossing the threshold into this world.

And then, after about fifteen minutes of pushing, Haakan arrived with a loud & fierce cry. He was born on 11/24 at 11:24am, and the sound of him brought back to me the sound of Madeline being born, and it brought back the sounds of Michael & I loving him into existence… and with the sound of him, we were suddenly all here together. We were all together in a moment that was our whole lives in the making, and with our whole future wrapped up into it.

Haakan Van Abegg. The Chosen Son.

With Haakan, our lives changed in an instant. It may have taken me over six months to sit down to start to write this, and a period of four nap cycles over two days to actually complete it… but the time that wastes away with Haakan around is time with a baby that I honestly never thought I’d be able to hold again. When he arrived, and when he looked us in the eyes, our life as a family that we thought was complete suddenly became more so; and I know that I’m speaking for all of us when I say that every time we see his face, speak his name, and hear his voice, we feel forever and again thankful.


{here are some thoughts during my pregnancy, that I happened to write exactly one week before he was born:… and also a short documentary by Stateless Media, where you can hear Haakan’s first cries, can be found here:}

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