Oh, water birth….
The first time I heard of it, I thought it sounded weird. And kind of gross. And, just kind of…wrong. Why would you want to birth your baby into water when it was trying to learn to breathe immediately? What kind of sense did that make? Of course, I was super mainstream with my first pregnancy (OB all the way, hospital birth, disposable diapers, and so forth).
That all changed slowly after my first baby arrived, and water ended up playing a really integral part in my second birth. Keep reading to find out why I love water birth now.
After the semi-disastrous experience the first time (“semi” because ultimately, everyone was healthy…just not very happy, and we had various feeding and other minor struggles in the early weeks), I knew I wanted things to be different the second time around. We went through a whole bunch of different thoughts about birth; first saying we were thinking about a home birth — but we were very nervous about that (I was convinced, because of my first experience that I “couldn’t do it” on my own). So we decided to do a hospital birth in a practice that had midwives and OBs.
But then even that ended up seeming too ‘medical’ to us, and we sought a doula…who happened to be a midwives’ apprentice too, and we discussed homebirth with her. I expressed my concern that I wouldn’t be able to take the pain and I’d have to get an epidural again. She very practically said, “If you need it…then you transfer and get it.” Oh. Right. We were less than 10 minutes from the nearest hospital, and it happened to be a very mom-and-baby-friendly one too. It gave me just enough confidence that I wanted to go with a home birth. If I could do it, great. If I couldn’t…that hospital was right there waiting for me (and they have tubs, too!).
(As a side note, I now think that mentality — that I “couldn’t” do it, that I could always transfer, that I really didn’t have full confidence in my ability to give birth without ‘management’ really held me back. I spent quite a lot of time in active labor wondering if I actually could do it, and made no progress for hours and hours, almost 12 hours of active labor. When I kind of forgot about whether or not I could and relaxed, things moved fast. But I’m getting to that.)
So, then it came time for birth. My contractions got into a regular pattern, 5 minutes apart, right at 8:30 (bedtime!) on July 15th. I was able to rest/sleep/ignore until about 2:30 am, when a strong contraction woke me up. After that things were too active for me to get anymore rest. Still I made no progress at all from 2:30 until 7:30, when I started crying and begging them to just take me to the hospital, even though trying to walk around, pack a bag (no, I didn’t do it in advance…), and get in the car was the absolute last thing I wanted. I also didn’t want to be separated from my daughter for a day or so, whom I hadn’t (and still haven’t) ever left overnight. I didn’t like anything about the “let’s go to the hospital” scenario, except the chance to make the intensity stop for awhile so I could rest.
At that point, they all (my husband and the two midwives) told me I needed to just rest, find something to slow things down (my contractions had been every 2 minutes for hours), and relax. My husband dragged me down the hall and said, “You will get in the water, right now.” I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to do anything. But he basically made me. Then they all left the room and (I later learned) had a little conference about what to do. He said I didn’t mean what I was saying and I didn’t really want to go to the hospital. They decided to try using the water and coaching to help me through.
At first I just tensed up in the water, fighting the pain, because I was so exhausted. I just wanted it to stop. But they all came back and coached me to relax, brought me water, talked me through it. They realized the water was rather cool (I hadn’t said anything) and replaced it with warmer water, which helped me to relax further. I reclined in the tub, forcing my body to work with the contractions and breathing deeply, instead of fighting.
I regained some composure. I felt that I could do it again, I could get through it. I was semi-watching the clock, just to see how long it had been, at first making deals — if nothing was happening by a certain time, maybe I’d ask to go to the hospital. But I was mostly focusing on my body and my baby at that time. I was no longer distracted by what I “should” do, or movies on TV, or anything else. I was just thinking about my baby. I kept my hand on his head most of the time (that ought to tell you how far I really was then — though I didn’t realize it!). Very soon, I started to bleed a bit, and feel a strong urge to push.
This freaked everyone out, because I had gotten in the water maybe 30 minutes earlier! I’d been stuck at 4 cm for hours upon hours and they were sure couldn’t be anywhere near ready. But I was about 6 cm then. Within 10 minutes, I was still bleeding slightly with each contraction and having an even stronger urge to push. They were worried about the bleeding and made me get out. (We’ve learned I tend to bleed easily from my cervix, but it’s normal for me, it’s not a problem — and it wasn’t much, anyway.)
At that point I still wasn’t sure I could really do it. But then the midwife checked me and I was 8 cm! She called the other midwife (who’d gone to breakfast) and told her to get back right now because the baby was on his way! That was when I suddenly realized I was doing it, this was really going to happen and it was almost over! The rest of this is mostly a blur to me. I remember her suddenly appearing in front of me, trying not to push, my husband breathing with me and yelling at me to blow and not push…. I remember them trying to move the last lip of cervix then telling me I could actually push. I didn’t even really hear them, but then I thought I had and said, “Wait, I can push?” They said yes!
In just three pushes, about two minutes, Daniel was born. It was that fast. I didn’t tear, either.
The water made the difference. He wasn’t born in the water because they were worried about the bleeding, but he would have been. I was in the water until moments before he was born and I did not want to get out. It was the water that allowed me to finally relax, and trust my body, and just focus on how my body felt and how my baby was doing. I felt disconnected from the experience up until that point. Then after I got in, I lost sight of everything but what was going on inside me. That was what I had needed — because in just over an hour I went from 4 to birth!
It’s safe to say that we will definitely be using a tub with this new baby! And much sooner, too! As soon as I am in really active labor and feel the urge to get in, I will. I had actually asked to get in sometime around 3:30 or so in the morning but they told me it was too soon, that it would slow things down. But of course that’s not what happened. (We know this now — so they’ll let me get in sooner!)
Water birth is amazing. It truly is. It removes the weight of your body so you aren’t focusing on positions or soreness or anything; you are able to just focus on yourself and your baby.
Have you had a water birth? Did you love it?