Our Home Water-Birth Story

Non-TMI version here

Our Water Birth at Home
Our little family...
The birth story of our home water-birth of our second daughter - here goes! After a somewhat crazy week of prodromal labour, I woke up just after twelve on the evening of Friday the 17th of June, or the morning of Saturday the 18th of June depending on how you want to look at it. This was nothing unusual. For the last month or so I had been waking sometime in the middle of the night, wide awake that is, only to get back to sleep about 2 hours later. I'd seriously recommend that you read Week 38 of my pregnancy diary - it really helps put the rest of this story in context!

The contractions were also not unusual; I had been having contractions on and off for a week. The fact that the contractions carried on for another 12 hours was admittedly a bit unusual, but after the week I'd had, I wasn't getting my hopes up! So I tried sleeping between contractions, and managed to get a couple more hours in.

We took a leisurely stroll...

We took a leisurely stroll to the Farmer's Market nearby at about 8am, and the oddest thing was that the contractions actually calmed down quite substantially while I was walking. Side note: The fact that I could get them to go away by moving is apparently a symptom of 'false' labour. Whatever!

I was over it!

I didn't keep track, because I had been keeping track of contractions all week and I was over it! But the contractions were pretty irregular, some about 3 minutes apart, sometimes 15 minutes apart, there was no pattern I could discern.

'Another false alarm,' I thought.

So hubby looked after the toddler while I just went upstairs and had a nap, or at least tried to have a nap between contractions, thinking they would go away like they had been doing the whole week. They did. At about lunchtime the contractions stopped and life went on. 'Another false alarm,' I thought.

I didn't want to try and get things moving before my body was ready...

Throughout that week I had been feeling sensations ranging from lower backache and menstrual pain to twinges and even serious contractions where I couldn't talk and had to focus and breathe through them. I had a 'show' on Tuesday morning, but almost nothing happened on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I had been trying to rest as much as I could. I didn't want to try and get things moving before my body was ready, and then end up exhausted without having made any 'progress'.

...at 6:45pm I had 2 very strong contractions quite close together...

I found warm baths had really helped me to relax so at about 6:30pm that Saturday I went to bathe and at 6:45pm, after about 6 hours of not having any contractions, I had 2 very strong contractions quite close together while I was in the bath, probably the strongest I'd had. I got out the bath and had another one and could feel my legs trembling. In retrospect I figured out that was a sign that I was already in transition.

My mom wanted a time estimate; I think I said, 'Soon!'

I called hubby upstairs and told him I thought things were finally happening, and happening fast. We phoned the midwife first, and then my folks, who had just arrived at a formal dinner a 45min drive away. My mom wanted a time estimate; I think I said, 'Soon!' Impeccable timing this baby has! We called hubby's folks to come and help with the toddler and they were just finishing their dinner at a restaurant! We also texted those who wanted to know, and those whom I had invited to join us for the occasion.

Most of everything had already been set up since Monday...

So with all systems go, hubby did some last minute prep with cranky toddler in tow while I went upstairs and put some music on while I breathed and huffed and snorted through contractions. Most of everything had already been set up since Monday, so there was just some last minute clearing to do.

I really appreciated that time alone...

I found being on my hands and knees the most comfortable - as comfortable as you can get in transition that is... I really appreciated that time alone just to gather my wits and just breathe and focus. Between contractions I just sat cross legged on the bed and relaxed as best I could. As each contraction started there was just no way I could stay in that position though! I tried to, and it felt like I was going to crawl out of my skin!

...a relaxed jaw encourages a relaxed cervix.

So, as I was saying, I was on my hands and knees, rocking forwards and backwards, and side to side. I found that swiveling my head around in a figure eight motion (i.e. right ear to shoulder, right nose to shoulder, left ear to shoulder, left nose to shoulder) also helped to keep my jaw relaxed - something I did instinctively although in retrospect I often tell other people to remember that a relaxed jaw encourages a relaxed cervix. It's amazing how we just know what to do!

...instead of fighting each contraction and tensing against it, I surrendered to it...

Later I found that bending forward with my hands on the bed and my legs slightly braced was also good as I was able to move my hips and back in that position - I could actually feel the movement helping the baby move down. It was like I felt intense power surging through my body with each contraction and instead of fighting each contraction and tensing against it, I surrendered to it, understanding that this was all working to get my baby out. At the end of each contraction I experienced a warm glow through my entire body - like that feeling when you stand under a hot shower or lower yourself into a warm bath - call it an 'afterglow' if you will - I think I might...

So anyway, while I was doing my thing, the midwife, hubby's folks and two of my friends who had been constant companions throughout all our ups and downs that week arrived. I don't remember the order!

...thank the Lord for laminate flooring!

The midwife took my blood pressure and checked the baby's heartbeat between contractions which were coming thick and fast by that stage! Hubby's mom took over with the toddler who promptly threw up on the floor in our bedroom. I'm not sure if it was all the excitement or overdosing on milkshake earlier that day, or a combination of the two, but it thank the Lord for laminate flooring! We had all the supplies for mopping up on hand in any case, so no stress there. What it did mean though, was that hubby's parents waited downstairs for a while, loathe to put the potential vomiter in their car, and so they ended up sticking around until the baby was born! It was really great to have them there!

I do think the kettle was enlisted at some stage...

Also, we hadn't checked for pipe-tap compatibility concerning the birth pool, but hubby made a plan and our two friends, let's call them J and K, worked on getting the pool filled. To be honest, I didn't think we were going to make it, and I don't think the midwife did either! But fortunately, even though our hot water pressure is dismal, the geyser is set quite hot so it doesn't take much to warm things up. I do think the kettle was enlisted at some stage, but I wasn't really noticing much of that.

...this was a sign of full dilation.

Once the pool was on its way to being filled, hubby joined me and it made such a difference to have him there! I felt like I could really relax, and it seemed like just the smell of his hair was the best smell ever! One or two contractions later I felt the fronts of my thighs burning and aching with each contraction - and I remember reading that this was a sign of full dilation. I was quite surprised! Transition had been much longer with my first, and to be honest, when I first started getting those intense contractions as I got out the bath, I was fully expecting that it would go on for hours! I was so relieved!

Things got a lot easier after that! People often think that pushing is the most intense stage, but I find that the most satisfying actually. I think transition is the hardest, and then it's like downhill from there. Well, at least it's like that for me!

...I could feel the baby's head...

At that stage I felt best in a wide kneeling position on a little mattress we had next to the bed, while hubby sat on the bed. I think my waters broke then, and I started feeling a definite sensation of the baby moving down. What an incredible feeling! I hadn't had any internal checks up to there, partly because I hadn't wanted any, and partly because things seemed to be moving quite quickly so it wouldn't really have helped! So I checked myself and I was so ecstatic when I could feel the baby's head without even having to stretch! It was awesome to know I was the first person to touch my baby. I can't tell you how deeply connecting that is. I could even feel the wrinkle in the skin of her skull from the moulding of the bones. So for that time I worked with contractions when they happened and just sat quietly between.

I had discussed with my midwife at our previous appointment that I really wanted to deliver the baby myself as much as was possible, and so at that stage, she mentioned to me that I might struggle to do that in the position I was in, and that the pool was ready. I was already in 'the zone' at that stage and not really keen to do anything other than just sit there, but fortunately I listened!

So I got into the water...

Not as uncomfortable as it looks
Not as uncomfortable as it looks!
So I got into the water and although the picture may look really uncomfortable, that really was the most comfortable for me! It may look like I was reclining, but I was supporting myself on my knees or in a squat as I felt comfortable. At one stage I rested slightly on my sacrum and it sent shooting pain through my pelvis and legs - how I managed to do this last time while sitting on my sacrum the whole time, I have no idea! Sometime soon after I got into the water the midwife checked the heartbeat and all seemed fine.

Because this is a real life birth story, here is a real life detail: I had felt throughout the day that I needed a number 2, but was feeling constipated. I had tried a glycerine suppository which helped a little, but I remember still feeling bloated. So it wasn't surprising when my bowels gradually emptied themselves as the baby moved down. I popped the bits in our special waste bin as they emerged. For people who haven't had kids before that may seem very undignified, but seriously, by that stage it isn't even an issue. I was actually quite amused, and encouraged as well because it showed me that the baby was moving down!

...I growled, grunted and groaned that baby out!

So again, I worked with the contractions as they happened and made what I thought was a lot of noise, although my folks-in-law said they barely heard a thing from downstairs! Anyway, I think I made some crazy noises! Some women breathe their babies out, and I was kind of hoping I might do the same, but when it came to it I growled, grunted and groaned that baby out! The noises were not out of pain, but they were my way of staying relaxed while working with the contractions. At this stage I checked to see where the baby's head was, and it was right there, just out of sight.

My folks arrived sometime while I was in the water and my mom rushed upstairs. They had had to stop for petrol on the way and apparently had engaged in some low flying to get there. They made it about 5 or 10 minutes before she was born!

As each contraction started my hubby would help support me in the water. I could hear encouraging murmurs from around me, but it was my hubby's voice that seemed to pierce through everything and his words that seemed to wrap around me and keep me going. I think one of the great things about natural birth is how it can really be such an amazing bonding experience! I wouldn't change that for anything!

...like pulling a door with one hand and pushing with the other...

At that stage I realized I had been working too hard with the contractions, like pulling a door with one hand and pushing with the other. I consciously 'let go' and felt her head start crowning on the next contraction! I could feel some stretching and I huffed and puffed a little to keep her back a bit so I could have a chance to stretch. It felt like she popped 2-3cm back (or more!) at the end of the contraction, but on the next contraction I felt her crowning for sure.

I think someone mentioned something about looking to see her head, but I was happy with my eyes closed just feeling what was going on with my hand. On that second contraction I felt her crowning and tried to huff and puff to give myself a chance to stretch again. I remember saying, 'Ow!' once or twice at that stage but her head slid out without even a tiny tear, something I was quite relieved about as I had a slight tear with my first (3 stitches I think) and their head measurements were about the same. Relief!

'Is there anything I'm supposed to do now?'

At that stage I remember saying 'Is there anything I'm supposed to do now?' The midwife just checked to see if the cord was around her neck, but otherwise we just waited for the next contraction. We were still in the water all this time, which is completely safe as the baby hasn't yet started to breathe and won't try to take a breath until she feels the cold, which she would only feel when you take her out the water. One very good reason to not let the pool get too cold!

Also, the baby would only try to breathe if she was in distress, which is far more likely to happen if you have had chemical intervention of some kind - like artificial induction with Pitocin or something like that. It was the best thing in the world just tickling her head and waiting for the contraction that would push her body out!

Hello Baby!
Hello Baby!
She rotated on her own and her body emerged with relative ease and I lifted her up out of the water myself at 8:24pm, just under 2 hours after those first contractions in the bath. What a flood of emotions and sensations! The pictures say it all...

So the midwife dabbed her face with a cloth and she opened her mouth and let out a squawk but was otherwise very calm. She was covered in vernix, millimeters thick in some places, probably because she was 2 weeks early. So I just held her close to my chest and held her body under the water to keep her warm and we stayed like that for a while. I don't remember the exact sequence of events, but I remember just checking to see that she was a girl, and we told everyone present the name we had chosen.

Toddler meets Baby Sissah
Toddler meets 'Baby Sissah'
The toddler came up to be introduced and her first remark was, 'Lotsa team!' (Translation: Lots of cream!) She was so fascinated! In retrospect I would have liked to have her there a little earlier so she could see the baby coming out, but I just didn't think of it! She had watched birth videos with me before and was completely enthralled! Maybe next time...

Everybody got a chance to peek into the room and see the baby and then we were left alone with our little one, just chilling in the pool. When it looked like she was interested I offered her my breast and she latched like a pro first time! Her feeding gave me some more contractions which would help prevent any bleeding and help get the placenta out. I think we had been in the water about half an hour when hubby clamped and cut the cord.

The placenta had not yet come out so I got out the water and pushed it out on the bed (which was covered with suitable covering of course!) The midwife checked the placenta and showed us the 'bag' and again, the toddler was fascinated! It was then deposited in an ice-cream container and later placed in the freezer to be buried at the base of a tree yet to be planted. I put on some jammies and dressed Eloise and we went and sat downstairs and chilled with the grandparents for a while.

What joy!
What joy!
So that was that! No internal checks, no needles for me or for baby, no suctioning, no chemicals, no whipping the baby off somewhere else, no loud noises (other than squeals of delight!) - all so intensely sacred but so terrifically normal!

In retrospect, recovery has been so much easier this time! I had a drug-free birth with my first, and I know that the second one is usually easier, but this was way better! I struggled a bit with incontinence for some weeks last time, but have had no problems of the sort this time. I'm putting it down to being able to squat to give birth rather than sitting on my sacrum. Also, tearing was avoided - apparently another benefit of water birth!

Seriously, on the Sunday morning the area was slightly sensitive, but no cold packs or any other treatment was necessary. I barely felt as though I'd given birth at all! Before you get worried I have been resting and taking it easy - I can feel my muscles and body adjusting to not being full of baby and I have had one or two aches but otherwise I'm feeling great!

One thing that has been more painful than last time is the contractions while breastfeeding which help to shrink your uterus back to size - but really, the only medication I've had the whole of this week was a Panado (paracetamol / acetaminophen) about 4 hours after she was born for those breastfeeding contractions, otherwise my arnica tablets got me through!

So, in summary, our home water-birth included a week of prodromal labour, or pre-labour, or early labour - whatever you want to call it - then a solid 12 hours of contractions - then nothing for 6 hours - then straight into transition and baby born less than 2 hours later! I think if I hadn't been with a midwife I would have had induction recommended at least three times that week, and would probably have ended up with a c-section because my body just wasn't ready yet. I think I would have been diagnosed with 'failure to progress' when really the problem would be a simple case of 'failure to wait'. Fortunately, we waited, and the experience far surpassed my expectations! Wow!

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