Aiden Emanuel: A Hospital Waterbirth Story
I am here to announce the happy news:
The birth of our son:
August 23, 2005
8 lbs. 6 oz.
Aiden was born the day after his due date, but only after days of practice (prodromal) labor. I had been having on and off contractions and crampiness since the previous Friday evening, enough that it was disturbing my sleep and making me anxious and kind of cranky. I called my mom to come out on Sunday just to be sure.
Monday I had contractions on and off all day, intensifying a bit in the evening to the point where they started to feel like real contractions and not just pre-labor. They also started coming fairly regularly. I called my doula Erin, and my midwife, Dale, who had stripped my membranes that morning at my well-visit and reported I was 1 cm. dilated. Since I had walked around 1 cm. with both my first and second children for a couple weeks that didn’t excite me at all! And boy, I was anxious to get things moving. I had been taking Red Raspberry Leaf and I started some homeopathic remedies Dale gave me as well.
Monday evening I thought for sure I was in labor but then I went to bed and the contractions just petered out. I was so aggravated I stayed up really late trying to walk around and get them started again but that was a BIG MISTAKE. I hadn’t slept well for days and it would come back to haunt me later.
Tuesday morning I got up and nothing much was happening, so I put my five year old on the bus for the last day of camp, and got breakfast for everyone. Then the contractions started up again and within an hour I was pretty sure this was it. They got more intense fairly quickly although not much closer together after getting to 7 minutes apart. I called my husband, who was in the OR (he’s a surgeon) and told the nurse to let him know I was in labor but it wasn’t urgent yet. He called me back about 45 minutes later and I told him not to start his next case but to just hang out until I called back to say “meet me at the hospital” (the hospital was midway between his work and our house). Erin (my doula) arrived and we hung out for a while. The contractions started getting so that I had to stand and rock a bit through them, and my mom was getting kind of anxious so I decided it was time to go.
I got to the hospital where my midwife met me and they triaged me and said I was about 4 cm. We had a bit of a hard time locating my husband as it is a BIG place and we had never been there before. I didn’t like that they didn’t let him or my doula into triage with me, but luckily it didn’t last too long and my contractions were still somewhat manageable. If it had gotten much later I would have been really irate about lying on my back for 25 minutes! Dale told us to take a walk for about an hour and come back.
So around the hospital we walked. I would stop and lean against the wall for contractions. From the number of people who stopped to ask if I was “okay” you’d think no one in the hospital had ever seen a laboring woman! Sheesh. When I got to the point of having to moan a bit I decided it was time to go back up to the unit. Good thing. I got there, Dale got me into the water birthing room (has a bed and a big Jacuzzi tub) and checked me again. At that point I started shaking and feeling sick, and lo and behold, she told me I was almost 9 cm.! Very shocking, because even though the contractions were definitely getting extremely intense, they weren’t much closer together than 4-5 minutes.
Into the tub I went. It took forever to fill it up, but oh, wow, what HEAVEN! Such a difference I can’t even believe it. It really took the edge off. It took me a while to find my spot because the tub was just a little too short and I had to sort of cross my legs beneath the knee to fit properly. I was in there for a while, maybe over an hour and kind of feeling pushy. I actually dozed between contractions though they were really very painful by that point. I kind of blew off my doula by then because when I was at the top of a contraction the only face I wanted to see was my husband’s. Also I didn’t want to be touched as much this time — between the contractions the massage etc. was great but during one – I wanted everyone off. The nurse was able to monitor the baby’s heartbeat with an underwater doppler which was pretty cool, and I must say that the nurses were really on the ball with the waterbirth natural childbirth thing and very supportive.
After a while it was clear the baby wasn’t coming yet and I was getting very frustrated and reaching the edge of my patience. Dale made me get out of the tub for awhile. (I wasn’t happy with her at that point!) She asked me if she could open my water bag (which can speed labor at this point) and I agreed to let her do it. Afterwards I walked around the bed, tried sitting on the toilet, then tried the bed again. I totally lost it. The contractions had started coming much faster and more intense then before, and I had already been in transition for over an hour. I must admit, to my eternal embarrassment I started crying and begging for drugs. The nurse, doula, my midwife and my husband all were very supportive and told me this was as bad as it was going to get and that I was doing fine. I didn’t believe them and all I wanted was to get AWAY from the pain.
Dale finally let me back into the water after I guess she saw I was really starting to progress again, and that was much better. I perched on the bench part and hung on to the metal handles, and then pushing became more productive. I had a hard time “letting go” — all I could think of was that I was going to poop into the water and how gross that was. Finally I guess I convinced myself to push through the pain, and when I did that, the baby came pretty fast. I think I remember Dale telling me to pant a little so the head wouldn’t deliver too fast, and I do remember thinking “oh yes, now I remember the ring of fire, it SUCKS”. But even once the baby was out, I had a full couple minutes before I processed that there was a baby on my tummy instead of in it! He was very long, and so slippery! He was on his tummy on my tummy and my husband had to lift his leg to see that he was a boy!
Dale left him on my tummy until the cord stopped pulsing then I think my husband cut the cord. They took him to the warmer and cleaned him up while I birthed the placenta (pretty easily actually). Then Dale drained the tub and hosed me off, which I must admit was a real benefit of the water birth…immediate cleaning! I got into the bed, and Dale put in a few stitches where my old episiotomy scar tore (from my first child’s over-medicalized birth). That process was less than fun.
Then Aiden came back to me, latched on immediately like a champ and nursed for over an hour! The hospital stay was pretty uneventful, except that I checked out a bit too soon because the day after I came home I was still exhausted (no sleep for days) and a bit of a wreck. I felt like I might need to go back to the hospital actually. But thank God, we got through it, my milk came in pretty quickly, and after a few days of terrible nipple pain (not bad latching, just a very aggressive suck!) that resolved.
So we named Aiden Emanuel on his eighth day, he is gaining weight beautifully (at almost 3 weeks old I think he is very likely over 10 lbs. now) and we are all adjusting. His birth was an awesome accomplishment for me…my first completely intervention-free birth (my 2 year old was induced with pitocin, although I didn’t have pain meds with her) and my first totally naturally-progressing labor and delivery. The water birth was just amazing — I cannot imagine doing it any other way now. And I must say having a midwife as opposed to an OB made a world of difference. She really cared about me, kept me in touch with my body and the process not only during labor and delivery but during the pregnancy and still now. I hope she will be a friend as well as my caregiver (I plan to use her for well-woman care as well) and it is abundantly clear to me why women have always had women attend them in childbirth historically. The difference between the view of pregnancy and labor/delivery as a natural physiological event, is an awesome one — and the view of it as a probable pathological event is like day and night. It’s all in the attitude, and everyone else picks up on that as well.
Thanks for letting me tell my story!