My little baby and I snuggled up in bed and went to sleep.
Even though Jeri was getting impatient to meet her baby, when labor started she decided another day would be better after all. But there was no going back! It wasn’t long before Calvin was born at home, in the water.
Our baby was due on December 16th, but my husband John hoped he or she would be born on 13th since that is both his birthday and our little girl Ellen’s birthday. The 13th came, and Ellen turned three and John turned 28, but our baby stayed contentedly in my tummy. By December 15th, with still no signs of labor, I started getting slightly impatient so see my baby. Ellen had come 10 days early, and I didn’t like waiting for so long! As the evening came, Ellen had bounds of energy and I felt tired, so as the night wore on I dozed on her bed while she played in her bedroom. After a while I woke up and realized it was getting close to 11:00 pm, and Ellen was wide awake. Finally, after another attempt to help her get to sleep, I told her I didn’t feel good (my tummy area had started feeling achy). She agreed to stay in bed, and I said I’d check on her in a little while. I went and made my husband’s lunch and did a little laundry. Then I decided to go to bed a little earlier than normal (I usually would’ve stayed up later and checked my e-mail).
I thought about how I didn’t have much time left alone with Ellen as my only child. I went and checked on her. She had fallen asleep, so at 12:40 am I laid down beside her, and we slept together for the last time before our little baby’s birth.
I vaguely remember waking up at around 2:00 am to go to the bathroom. I guess I must have felt somewhat uncomfortable, because I went and laid down on the bed in our spare room. I awoke again at around 3:40 and went to the bathroom. When I went to the bathroom I had loose bowel movements and knew that was a possible sign of labor, plus I seemed to be having mild contractions. I felt cold, so I turned up the heat. I laid on the bed on my side for awhile and finally at 4:00 I went and laid down on the couch–again lying on my left side–in our family room. After John got up at about 4:10 to get ready for work, I went and told him I thought I was in labor.
Since I acted so calm, he didn’t realize how real my labor was. He asked if it was okay if he got on the Internet, since he usually did for a little while before he went to work in the morning. I said it was okay.
I turned on the water in the bathtub so I could take a nice warm bath, and then I went into the kitchen to make some red rasberry leaf tea and toast to have while taking my bath. I guess I took longer than I thought to make the tea and toast, because when I checked on my bath to see if it was almost ready, the tub had filled all the way up and was draining out the top drain. Since I accidentally used so much water, the hot water had run out, and the bath water felt too cold to be very relaxing. I quickly washed my hair and shaved my legs. I have really long hair and during my last birth my hair had been a mess, so I really wanted to braid my hair, but the contractions felt so intense that I didn’t.
I went into my bedroom after the bath and chose a nightshirt to a labor in… a pink striped shirt with kitties on it. Then I laid down on the couch and timed my contractions while my husband finished surfing the Internet. I called my mom at about 4:45, and I talked until I had a contraction… then I became quiet, and Mom asked if I was having a contraction. Yes, I was! She said she’d get ready to come over and suggested that I call the midwife.
I called my midwife, Suellen, and told her I was having contractions that were at the most four minutes apart and 45 seconds long. She said she would come if I wanted her to, but I said she could wait a while. She said to let her know when the contractions got more intense. Soon after I hung up the phone, they started lasting 60 seconds long.
My husband called work at 5:07 and told his boss he thought I going into labor so he probably wouldn’t be coming into work that day. About 20 minutes later, I told my husband I needed something to throw up in. He quickly brought me a garbage can, and I promptly threw up. It honestly felt better throwing up some food and my tea rather than throwing up empty stomach acid, which is what I threw up in my last labor. My husband then realized that this was probably the real thing, and asked if he should fill the waterbirth tub. I said, “Yes!”
The tub, already inflated and cleaned and sitting in the living room, was ready to be filled, but my husband soon found out that he needed to wait until we had more hot water in the tank since I had used it up when I took my bath.
I also called my friend Laurie who was going to come to the birth. Her husband answered the telephone, and I told him I was in labor. I just let him tell Laurie for me… I didn’t feel like being on the phone any longer.
I went and laid down again on the bed in our guestroom. Mom arrived at about 6:00 am. Contractions were getting more intense, so they needed my full attention, but I talked to her for a short time between contractions. I mentioned something to her about not wanting to have the baby right now. The contractions felt so strong that I think I was asking myself why I had been getting impatient for labor to start–I had changed my mind and briefly wished I could go through labor on another day! … But of course once you start there’s no turning back… Mom once again suggested that I call the midwife, so, because I found it difficult to talk, my husband called our midwife a little after 6:00, and she said she’d leave right away.
John brought me some Recharge, a sports-type drink I bought at the health food store. It tasted delicious! Soon after I drank it I told John that I had to throw up. I promptly threw up on the floor beside the bed. Thank goodness we have wooden floors. When I threw up I remember thinking that some women dilate when they throw up, so I took it as a good sign. Mom cleaned my mess up, and John went and got me a wonderful cold rag for my forehead. It felt so good.
Suellen, our midwife, arrived at about 6:30. A few minutes later, Laurie arrived. Then soon after that, Ellen woke up. I think she asked about me, but didn’t come to see me. She must’ve been excited to see all those people at our house!
Suellen checked my blood pressure, which was fine, and used the doppler to check the baby’s heartbeat between contractions and during a contraction. It sounded great. It was 140 between contractions–the rate it usually was at my prenatal appointments.
For quite awhile, I felt that I handled the contractions well by myself. I didn’t feel panic like I remember feeling during my first birth. I didn’t do any special type of breathing. During my first birth I did Lamaze-type breathing–”he he he ha.” This birth I just kept slowly breathing in and out… and then I began breathing a lttle faster as the contractions got stronger.
I hadn’t been sure if I wanted anyone around me during labor except for my husband. I wish he could’ve been with me more! He was with me for about 20 minutes after he called the midwife until she arrived while he waited for the hot water tank to warm up–then he went and worked on filling the tub up in time for the birth. I felt relief when each person we had called arrived–even though they all had something they needed to do, and I didn’t have someone who constantly stayed with me until I got in the birthing tub. As the contractions intensified, I really appreciated someone being with me.
I stayed for quite awhile in our guestroom lying on my left side during contractions. During a visit to the room to see how I was doing, Laurie mentioned that kneeling and leaning against the bed or getting on all fours were helpful positions for her when she was in labor. I really just felt like lying on the bed on my side, but I remember a particularly strong contraction when everyone was busy doing something and I was alone. I got on the floor on all fours to see if that would help. . . nope. Laurie and the midwife came in at that time to check on me.
Knowing the importance of keeping my bladder empty, I decided to go to the bathroom again. When I wiped, there was some blood and mucous on the tissue. Laurie came in to check on me, and I excitedly told her about what I had found on my tissue!
I tried several times to get up off the toilet, but I kept sitting on there because I found out that I could handle the contractions on the toilet. During my first labor, I couldn’t stand being on the toilet because it seemed to intesify my contractions, but this time sitting there helped me handle them. Whenever I tried to get up and walk away, I had a contraction and quickly sat down again! I sat with my legs apart and leaned back against the toilet tank with my head way back.
After a while Suellen came in and told me I could get in the birthing tub whenever I was ready… it was finally full enough. I got up and made a quick dash for the birthing tub. A lamp with a sixty watt bulb dimly lit our large living room, and light filtered through the curtains as the sun rose.
Someone helped me into the water. I sat down and leaned back against the soft sides of the birthing tub with my legs floating in front of me. It felt good going down into that warm water. The contractions still felt strong, but the warmth helped. For a little while now I had been feeling the contractions down in my vagina–they started in my back and radiated around to the front and then down to my vagina. When they reached my vagina, that was when they felt the most intense and when I found it hardest to handle the intensity.
As I sat there enjoying the warmth of the water and breathing through the contractions, my husband continued filling the tub, and Laurie braided my hair so it wouldn’t get in the way. The hot water in the tank had been used up, so John boiled water on the stove. He alternated pouring pans of hot water and cold water into the tub until he filled it high enough to cover my tummy. I preferred it when he poured the hot water into the tub. As he filled it up, my midwife splashed warm water on my tummy. I liked the feeling of the water moving on my tummy.
I suddenly felt I couldn’t sit there any longer, so I quickly turned around and kneeled and leaned against the sides of the tub. Apparently I moved to several differently places around the tub and ended up on the side of the tub near the couch. I had my right knee bent and my left leg extended out to the side. I leaned with all my weight on the side of the tub and relaxed as much as I could. I remember really relaxing my facial muscles and closing my eyes.
The midwife and Laurie and John took turns rubbing and pushing hard on my lower back because my back hurt so much. It really helped. Sweet little Ellen reached down and tried to rub my back, too. She wondered why my back hurt. The midwife explained that it hurt, but that after the baby was born the pain would go away.
For a short amount of time, my mom sat on the couch in front of where I kneeled in the tub. I remember seeing her put her hands in front of her face, and then she left the room–she didn’t like to see me in pain. At that time she didn’t realize that many of the sounds I was making made it easier for me to handle the contractions, and that they were good. One time I–as my husband describes it–screamed like I was “in a rock concert.” I had read and heard and been told that it’s best to make low noises during labor, so it was no surprise when the midwife suggested that I lower my voice. Then I started making a kind of grunting sound and was told that was good and so I really went for it with the low grunt! My mom remembers my saying, “My back hurts!!!! Ohhhhhhhhhhh.”
Then my husband sat down on the couch in front of me. I had a cold rag on my head. After every contraction Laurie gave me a drink of water from a glass with a bendable straw. I was trying to relax my face so much that I found it hard to tense up the muscles in my lips enough to sip water through the straw. The water sure tasted good, though. Sometimes I burped, and then I would say, “Excuse me.” They laughed at my politeness!
I grabbed onto my husband’s hands and squeezed really hard during contractions. The strength of my grip surprised him. My husband gave me strength. It was wonderful having him there. After each contraction, I would relax and then as a contraction came the people in the room with me could tell. It was neat that they knew I was having a contraction. I felt very supported by the people present at the birth. My daughter was great! She would come by sometimes and give me pats of encouragement on my arm.
I started to feel like pushing sort of, but wasn’t really sure, so I gave a few gentle pushes and kept breathing. I prayed and asked God for a little break. I very quietly started saying “hellllp, helllp, helllp” when I breathed. Also, toward the end, I sighed when I breathed between my contractions. Laurie sometimes commented that the contractions were bringing my baby down. It was helpful for me when she reminded me of that.
As time went by, the pushing-urge grew, though I never felt it intensely. The midwife said I could probably reach down with my fingers and feel the head, but I told her I really didn’t care. I just wanted to get my baby out.
When we had interviewed our midwife, she had told us that she was good at telling what stage of labor a woman was in by the way she acted. I loved it that she didn’t give me any internal exams. She came around behind me and, for the first time during my pregnancy, looked down there to see what was going on. She said my water hadn’t broken yet. She gave me counterpressure on my perineum and told me I could push whenever I wanted to. By her pressure down there she gave me a place to kind of focus my pushing.
One time I said, “I can’t stand it!” My husband remembered from my first birth that soon after I had exclaimed a similar sentiment, I had given birth to Ellen. He rightly thought that perhaps I’d be having our baby soon.
The student midwife, Michelle, finally arrived. The whole time I had not seen or heard mention of any “medical stuff” except for the doppler and the blood pressure cuff. When the student came in she asked Suellen if the oxygen was ready. I wish I hadn’t heard her mention the oxygen. I also heard her ask, “Can she give birth in that position?” The midwife said yes, but that I’d have to lift my bottom as the head came out. It felt kind of weird hearing them talk like that.
We heard Mom banging dishes in the kitchen. She was busy cleaning and also baking cinnamon rolls. Suellen and Michelle mentioned that moms find it hard to see their daughters in pain. They also commented on how good the cinnamon rolls smelled–they did smell good! After a while, Mom returned to the living room, and I could hear her praying for me. You could hear concern in her voice.
Soon after, Suellen thought my water broke. The student midwife was going to check the baby’s heart rate with the doppler—I think to see how the baby reacted to the water breaking–but then I started having a contraction, and Suellen told her to wait. She decided that my water probably hadn’t broken yet.
About two minutes later my water really did break. I felt a definite “pop.” I still wasn’t pushing really hard. I remember thinking that even if I didn’t push, my baby would still come out, so I wasn’t concerned about my not pushing very hard. But then I mentioned that I was afraid to push. The student midwife repeated what I had said to my midwife, and I think my midwife thought I was afraid I would tear, and she reassured me that she was supporting the area.
My foot ended up being on top of the heating pad that was under the tub and was being used to heat the tub, so my foot started getting uncomfortably warm. John went and got a towel to put under my foot, but my foot still was getting hot, so they turned off the heating pad.
Suellen mentioned that soon I would probably feel like pushing and not stopping. I started to feel the “ring of fire” burn. I did start pushing more intensely. I still breathed because I knew it was best not to “purple push” and didn’t want to distress my baby. Plus, my husband reminded me to breathe.
Suellen told us that the baby’s head was wiggling, trying to help me out! She put a mirror in the water and someone held a flashlight in the water so they could see baby coming out. They looked in the mirror and could see his face coming out, and my mom has told me since then how much she enjoyed seeing that.
I remember being grateful that during the slight pause I had between my pushes I didn’t feel pain. I really pushed hard because I wanted my baby to come out, and it felt like he was right there! And he was! My baby’s head came out, and the midwife told me I could reach down and feel it. I reached down and touched his hairy head for a couple seconds. I was amazed… but then quickly went back to the job at hand.
Then John and Laurie switched places… I squeezed her hands during contractions… so John could see the baby. He said he saw the baby’s face in the water with his eyes closed. This baby’s body came out much slower than Ellen’s did… she had shot out like a bullet. The student midwife later told us that the baby had his cord around his neck, but they just unlooped it and it was fine.
About a minute after his head came out, at 9:42 am, his body slid into the water and the intense pressure on my perineum disappeared. I felt immense relief and excitement. My midwife gently pushed him between my legs. I stepped back, quickly reached my hands into the water, and picked him up under his arms. With Suellen’s help, I lifted him to me. I put my arms around him and sat down. His body felt smooth and slippery. He didn’t need suctioning and breathed right away. He looked peaceful and content.
They laid blankets over his body as I held him in my arms while still attached to him by his umbilical cord. I could hardly believe that he had been inside me and had actually come out. I felt joy, elation, and amazement!
Ellen said, “Hi, baby,” and reached down to touch her new sibling. She had a huge smile on her face and excitedly commented that, “Baby come out!”
Our baby’s first criend when Michelle put his hat on. It didn’t fit quite right, so it didn’t stay on very well. His head was funny-shaped… kind of elongated. His hat soon fell off into the water. We put a dry one on, and right before I got out of the tub that one fell off, too.
A few minutes after his birth, our baby brought his fist up to his mouth, so I tentatively asked him, “Do you wanna nurse?” Suellen said to go ahead and try, though he might not nurse right away. I lifted my shirt up and held him close to my nipple. After a few tries he nursed a little, but at this time he mostly mouthed my nipple.
When I first saw our baby I felt quite sure he was a boy, but we still hadn’t looked to see whether he was a “he” or a “she.” I wanted to look and see for myself, so I started to move the blankets away to look, but couldn’t see right away, so for some reason I asked what he was, and the midwife said he was a boy.
Since I had already moved the blankets when looking to see if he was a boy or girl, and the cord had stopped pulsating, the midwife asked if I wanted to cut the cord. Ellen said, “It be okay, baby.” They clamped it in two places, and I cut it cord in the middle. The cord was tough, like gristle. Some blood squirted on him, but the midwife just washed it off with water in the tub. Because we had waited to cut the cord, he was quite a red little guy.
He had vernix on him. Mom commented on all the white stuff floating in the water, and the student midwife explained that it was vernix and told her she could rub some on the baby’s skin and told how great a moisturizer it was.
I offered him my breast again, and this time he nursed really well with a strong suck. I started having mildly painful contractions while I nursed him. The student midwife looked to see if my placenta was ready to come out; it didn’t seem to be ready as far as she could tell. Suellen assured me that it would be fine if it took up to two hours to come out. I appreciated it that she told me that, but I disliked the contractions and really wished that the placenta would hurry up and come out. The contractions made me feel tense and uncomfortable.
Finally I decided that I wanted to get out of the tub. The water in the tub had gotten Calvin’s blankets wet, so Suellen splashed water on the blankets to keep them warm for him. Since the heating pad that heated the water had been turned off right before Calvin’s birth, I started feeling a little concerned that perhaps the water was beginning to feel slightly cool. Suellen assured me the water was warm enough, but I decided I didn’t want to sit in the tub any longer.
My midwife handed Calvin to John, and she and the student midwife helped me stand up in the tub. Suellen said she thought the placenta would probably come right out when I got up. She took a look and asked me to give a push and it slid right out. After that, the contractions mostly stopped, though, for a few days, I had a little mild cramping while nursing Calvin.
They took my wet nightshirt off, so I was standing there next to the tub in front of everyone with nothing on… I might as well have labored without a shirt! To catch the blood, they put a couple large pads between my legs, and my friend joked that I looked like a sumo wrestler. They wrapped a towel around me, and I walked to my bedroom. I put on a nursing nightgown and sat in my bed and leaned against the pillows they had set up for me. Then John brought Calvin to me, and I nursed him again. I held him for a long time.
Ellen came in the room, too, and mom brought us some food. John went to help empty the tub… with my next birth I’ll ask him to stay with us longer.
After a while, John came back into our bedroom, and it was now time to check out little Calvin. Michelle laid him on a warmed heating pad and checked his heatbeat, looked to make sure he had two soft spots, etc., and checked his reflexes. Calvin didn’t cry during his checkup and looked around with bright, alert eyes.
They weighed Calvin in a cloth sling-like pouch that was hung on a hook that was part of the scale. The midwife held the scale. He weighed eight pounds.
Suellen had forgotten her tape measure, so we decided to wait until she visited the next day to see how long he measured, but then Laurie found a ruler in one of my junk drawers. The midwife held it up to Calvin; he was 22 inches long. She put a length of string around his head, and then measured the string to check the circumference of his head. It was 13 1/2 inches. She also measured his chest in this way, and it measured at 12 inches.
Then the student midwife examined the placenta while we watched. She wanted to make sure it was all there. She showed us how it fit together and made a sack. She also showed us how it looked like a tree. The placenta was the top part of the tree, and the umbilical cord hanging down formed the trunk… She called it the “tree of life.” Michelle explained to Ellen that she liked to call the umbilical cord the “food tube.” It amazed us that our baby had lived in that perfect little home and had received nourishment through the cord.
They wanted me to try to go to the bathroom. Before I went, Suellen checked me while I sat on the toilet to see if I had any tears. I didn’t have any tears, but I did have a prolapsed cervix. Apparently it was hanging down, so she pushed it back up and told me to stay in bed for a day.
Soon after that, Suellen, Michelle, and Laurie left. Mom stayed the day to help clean up and take care of Ellen. My little baby and I snuggled up in bed and went to sleep.
My Thoughts on Waterbirth
During my pregnancy with my second baby, I really wanted to give birth to my baby at home in a birthing tub. I helped to prepare for the experience by reading other birth stories about moms who had given birth in water, and I watched a wonderful video on waterbirths. We rented a large inflatable tub from our childbirth educator and set it up weeks before my due date. We bought all of our homebirth supplies. We felt we were ready.
Of course, I didn’t know if I would actually give birth at home in water, because birth is such an unpredictable thing, and with my first birth, though I enjoyed laboring in water, I had a sudden urge to get out of the water to push. Also, since our hot water tank is a little small, I worried that we wouldn’t be able to fill the birthing tub in time for the birth. We put it in God’s hands, praying that He would help me relax during labor and that our baby would have a safe and gentle (and fast, but not too fast) birth.
Why did I want a waterbith? First of all, water can be a wonderful aid to help moms relax during labor; this includes both showers and tubs. Birth will have fewer complications and less need for medical intervention when mom relaxes during labor. Baby will be much safer, as will mom. Many moms attest to the powerful way that water helped them relax during labor.
Water helped me relax during my first birth. During labor I felt overwhelmed, nervous, and very tense. My cotractions really hurt, especially after the doctor broke my water. The nurse suggested that I get in the hot tub. The water helped me calm down, and I went into a sleep-like mode. This relaxation made it possible for me to dilate quickly. I doubt I could have made it through labor without painkillers if I had not labored in the hot tub.
A lady from church told me of her experience laboring in a tub. Because her contractions didn’t feel very strong, she thought that being in the tub had caused her labor to slow down too much. Her midwife suggested that she stay in the water for a while longer. She did and when she finally got out of the water she was ten centimeters dilated.
There is some concern that laboring in a tub too soon could slow labor down. Some suggest that mom not get in the tub until she is around 5 centimeters dilated. I personally had no trouble with this. The doctor chose to break my water at 3 cm, and I soon after got into the water. I guess I could have dilated one or two centimeters during the time he broke my water and the time I got in the tub, but somehow it worked out fine. If being in the tub slows down a mother’s labor, she may want to get up and walk around a while until her labor picks up again. Or perhaps she needs the break in the intensity of her labor and a chance to rest. Mom needs to experiment and see what works best for her.
Another benefit of birthing in water is that water softens mom’s perinium and helps it to stretch over the baby’s head easier. This lessens the chances of tearing.
Most importantly, I wanted my baby’s transition into this world to be as smooth and gentle as possible. Waterbirth provides an excellent way to achieve a gentle birth. Some parents will be surprised to learn that babies do not have to cry lustily when they are born. Dr. Frederick Leboyer, in his thought-provoking book on gentle birth, Birth Without Violence, asks, “Does this crying simply mean that all the reflexes are normal and that the machine works? So man is nothing but a machine? Or could the cries be trying to express some pain, some terrible sorrow. If the baby is crying with such intensity doesn’t it mean that he’s suffering terribly? Could childbirth be as distressing for the child as for the mother?” He goes on to clearly show that babies do not have to cry at birth and illustrates ways to create a “gentle birth.” One of Leboyer’s concepts for “gentle birth” is that the baby be given a warm, relaxing bath soon after birth, and some look at waterbirth as a natural extension of gentle birth.
Waterbabies truly are often incredibly peaceful and alert at birth. One mom, while sharing the birth story of her daughter Bethany Camille, wrote, “She behaved just like what you hear sometimes happens in home or water births, acting like she didn’t quite realize that she’d been born. She never really did cry, just gave a couple of mews and sighs and tried to open her eyes.”
I did get to have a home waterbirth, and it was all I had dreamed it would be! My baby decided to make his appearance exactly on his due date. Early that morning, not knowing if I was really in labor, I took a bath and used all the hot water up! So on top of having a small tank, there wasn’t much hot water in the tank by the time we realized we needed the tub filled. It seemed that my fear of not having enough water could be coming true. . . but my husband heated the rest of the water we needed on the stove, and it worked out fine.
Laboring in a tub of warm water helped me to be able to relax deeply. It gave me the ability to quickly and easily change positions as my body felt the urge to do so. Being in the birthing tub helped me to be able to easily squat without getting too tired while pushing my baby out. I did not tear.
And, after six hours of labor, my baby experienced a peaceful entrance into this world when he gently swooshed into the warm, cleansing water early one December morning almost two years ago.