Why Water Birth? A Birth Story

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Mother and newborn with umbilical cord still a...Image via Wikipedia

Ever since I started to plan this birth, I knew that water would be a key element.  Water is just one of those things that I can always count on to make me feel just that little bit better when I am sick, a tad more relaxed when I am stressed and revitalized when I am tired.  It only makes sense that I would also use it during labour for the same reasons.

It's not just my personal preferences, though, that make this an appealing choice.  Water births offer proven benefits for labouring women and babies.

For Mom:

Pain relief.  (Through deeper relaxation, buoyancy, comfort, softening of the perineum relieves burning)
Better Mobility provided by the opposition to gravity.
Buoyancy reduces pressure on the abdomen producing better circulation and blood flow.
Relaxes pelvic floor muscles.
Lowers/eliminates need for interventions

For Baby:

Transition from womb to outside world is more gentle (moving from water on the inside to water on the outside)

The overwhelming benefits of water birth make it a increasingly popular birth practice, even in hospital births as many hospitals now offer birthing suites with jacuzzi tubs.  Some risks are attributed to water birth, although these risks appear to be quite low and non life threatening, such as baby breathing under water and cord trauma.  A skilled attendant combined with the low risk, make this a completely safe and viable option for labouring women.

Women who have water birth have overwhelmingly positive birth experiences.  Here is the lovely water birth story of a dear friend, who has been a powerful inspiration to me throughout my own birth planning. <3

A Water Birth Story: Baby Connor
By Alison Kennedy (Written while NAK)

Part 1 - Pre/Passive Labour

My due date is October 7th, 2009 as such I was officially full term on Wed. September 16th. Having been swelling like crazy when I went to my prenatal appointment with my secondary midwife, Rhea, on Monday the 14th of September, I jokingly told her that I was giving out an eviction notice for Wednesday. She said that as long as I waited more than 24 hours to go into labour (in other words Tuesday afternoon) I could still have my homebirth. 24 hours and 15 minutes later my water broke.

Trevor was at his friend William’s house on Tuesday afternoon and Logan had fallen asleep for his nap. I was exhausted, not having slept well the previous couple of nights so I decided to take advantage and nap as well. Good thing! When I woke up a couple of hours later, about 3:30 pm and went to the washroom (downstairs), I was fine. I started walking upstairs for a snack, when as I was walking I thought, “Why am I still going to the bathroom?” The amniotic fluid just soaked my pants so I raced to the upstairs bathroom and continued gushing into it. Two thoughts occurred: The first was – Exactly how much amniotic fluid did I have because it just kept on coming? And the second was “We all live in a Yellow Submarine” (I have no idea where that one came from, but heck, it is such a fun song, why not).

So I called my husband and asked if he could come home. He responded, sure no problem, why what’s up? I replied that I was in labour because my water broke. Pause, he replied, “Alright then, I’ll be home as soon as I can.” I had my primary midwife, Lucia, paged and verified I could stay at home. She said that I could (yay). In the meantime I needed to clear out the kitchen to set up the birthing pool. Contractions hadn’t really began so I was just clearing out the chairs and table and I swept up the floor – didn’t want this morning’s cereal to poke holes in the pool! In the meantime I changed my FB status to read that Alison is in labour and got lots of chatting done with various online friends. I called a few RL friends to let them know what was happening, as well as my mom and my FIL/SMIL. I also called William’s house to see if Trevor could stay longer, and he was able to stay until my Mom came home and he went over there.

I got into contact with Lucia and as I wasn’t having particularly strong contractions she decided to wait until after dinner to get checked out. I’d called my husband, asked him to pick up some Swiss Chalet and go to the store for a few groceries as I didn’t really want to go myself. He got back around 5:30ish and by the time Trevor came back we ate around 6 pm. Contractions were stronger now – I had to pause between bites for them, but still not that bad. Lucia showed up around 7 pm and did a cervical check (ouch). 2 cm dilated and still about 90% thick. She then said we would have to go to the hospital if things didn’t progress fast enough since my waters had broken. We made plans to go after Trevor was taken to school (his first day of Senior Kindergarten). Oh, I did e-mail his teacher to let her know he might not be there as I was in labour.

Anyhow, we did the whole night-time routine, my SMIL came over and helped put the kids to bed as well as tidy up (God bless her). I went on Facebook and had numerous conversations with many people. By about 11:30 pm the contractions were intensifying, but as I was keeping track of them, they were completely irregular. I contacted Lucia and asked for some pain management techniques so that I could try to sleep (ha-ha). She told me hot bath and Gravol. The bath really relaxed me and I think the Gravol helped to kick start more coordinated contractions. Within an hour, I’d asked Rob to fill in the hospital paperwork just in case. While he was filling it in, I was contracting strong enough to moan. He paused and asked if every time I was moaning it was from a contraction. I replied yes and could he keep track of them. They were about 3 minutes apart and 1 minute long … after about 45 minutes of this I asked him to call Lucia. So he called at about 1:30 am. She got packed up and arrived within 15 minutes (she said that she knows it is time to come when she gets the call from the husband and can hear the wife groaning in the background). In the meantime he started filling the birthing pool – to the perfect temperature I might add!

Part 2 - Passive/ Active Labour

Lucia got there helped me work through the contractions and got set up. She did another cervical check … 4 cm and about 90% thinned out – baby in the perfect position, bent correctly for an efficient birth. Thanks Connor. By this point it was 2 am and I wanted in that tub!!!!

I got in and life was so much better. The warmth relaxed me between contractions, because it was a blow up pool, it was like being surrounded by a pillow, so I could lie back comfortably. We had the digital photo album going with some of my favourite 80s music (although no Yellow Submarine – I’ll have to remedy that). The contractions were intensifying to the point where I had to do deep guttural sounds to keep focused (thanks Paula). By 2:40 am Lucia decided, based on my incredibly pleasant and calm demeanour, to check me again. 7 cm, completely effaced, cervix totally thinned out. She said that I needed to feel the pain and when it moved towards my rear, to let her know because that would mean I was about ready to push and she’d call Rhea at that point.
Rob was rubbing my forehead during the contractions and oddly enough it helped to keep me a bit more grounded – for one contraction he didn’t do it and I was like Rob – forehead – now. I guess I needed the connection.

3:10 am I am very politely saying that this whole no pain relief thing was a mistake and I was an idiot for doing this, I was not strong enough to do it – oh and the pain has moved to my rear. She said she knew it was almost over because when the mom starts complaining like that, she must be almost ready. She called Rhea and went to get her flashlight to check on things. She went to the car and came back, shone the light and said, okay the babies head is right there, and when you feel the urge to push let me know. 3:17 am – I needed to push! I said I have to push now. She said listen to your body and do it. The most intense feeling I’ve ever experienced was Connor moving through the birth canal. Because of the water it hurt, but it didn’t really burn. I felt as though I was just doing one long push with one big contraction instead of a bunch of little ones. Rob was holding up my left thigh, Lucia was holding up my right and I was bearing down – screaming that I can’t do this. His head came out and Lucia asked if I wanted to touch his head, I was like NO, I’m busy. 3:21 am – Connor was completely out and in my arms. I don’t think that I have ever been prouder of myself than I was at that moment – and I would never go back to a hospital birth again. The first thing I said when I saw Connor was “I love you”. Rhea showed up about 5 minutes later – which was too bad because I’d asked her to take pictures of the birth. :( Oh well.

Part 3 - End of Labour/Post Labour

We waited until the umbilical cord had stopped pulsating, about 15 minutes, before Rhea cut it (so that in Lucia’s words, Rhea actually did something to help). We then very gracefully and elegantly got me out of the tub and moved to the mattress that was set up in the living room. I lay down, Connor got some lovely skin to skin with me and he showed his true self – a boob monster through and through. He latched on and I am pretty sure the Jaws of Life weren’t getting him off of me. In the meantime we were waiting for some more contractions to get the placenta out. I waited, and waited, and waited. There were some contractions, but every time I tried to push out the placenta, it just didn’t happen. After about half an hour, they said that we needed to get the placenta out so I could either get an oxytocin shot or go to the hospital to have it manually removed. I basically said that I didn’t just go through all of that to end up in hospital now … give me the shot! Rhea did and 4 minutes later the placenta was out cleanly. Now, the normal range in length for the umbilical cord is 20 cm – 80 cm; the longer it is the more the baby moved around in-utero. Connor’s cord was about 1 metre long, now I can safely say why I didn’t sleep well near the end of the pregnancy. After the placenta was delivered, Lucia looked for tearing and said there was a teeny one at the base of the vaginal entrance that was small enough not to need stitches but because of the placement, she wanted to put in two, so ensure that it would heal properly. I said sure, she gave me some local freezing, as I was getting the shots; I asked why does freezing burn when it goes in? They said they didn’t know, so I asked is it freezer burn? They thought that was funny and in very little time I was all stitched up and ready to start the next phase of my life … mother to three beautiful boys.

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water birth said...

I've been following your post since last six months and I must say it was so interesting.

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