The Waterbirth of Rowan Gabriel

It was week 38 on Wednesday, May 12th. We were planning a water birth and had filled the tub on Monday. By Wednesday it finally warmed up to 100 degrees. Since the beginning of the week I had a sense that my body was preparing for birth. I became preoccupied with thoughts of going into labor. I felt ready physically and emotionally, but not practically, as I had not washed all my receiving blankets, etc. I was also getting a little impatient since I had been in the house, more or less on bed rest, for the past few weeks due to a late development of high blood pressure. I had worried recently that I might not be able to have a home birth if my blood pressure didn't go down.

During the night I had mild cramps. I told my partner, Michael, about the cramps and he was very excited. Later that next evening I felt some mild contractions. It was about 8 o'clock. By nine I told Michael I had been having mild contractions for the past hour and they had been consistently two minutes apart! There was an excited, party-like atmosphere in our house and we celebrated by having a beer. By 11 PM I was getting tired and went to bed. The contractions died off and I slept until 5 AM. I woke up with a contraction and an urge to pee. As I sat up I felt a pop in my tummy and when I stood up there was a huge gush of water onto the floor. We called Ellen, my midwife, right away. The contractions were very mild and were two minutes apart.

Time took on a very different quality. It seemed like it was speeding up and slowing down at the same time. I became very calm and focused on my body and inner self. We prepared the futon in our living room and warmed the air. I needed to have the curtains closed, with low light. It was almost like turning the room into my own cozy, warm womb. It felt like a very comfortable and safe place to have the birth. In the early stage of labor, we put on some nice music and burned the essential oils of ylang ylang and sweet orange that I had chosen for the birth. Around 8 AM, Ellen called to check in. The contractions were stronger, lasting 30 seconds and remained two minutes apart. I could still talk through one, so Ellen said I should call her when they became a minute long.

My position for almost the entire labor was standing up. This was the most comfortable and allowed me freedom to move by rocking from foot to foot during contractions. It also helped to visualize gravity, gently pulling the baby down through the birth canal and through my open cervix. During a contraction I would hold Michael's hand or lean on him. I felt completely integrated with the experience and I would moan in a low tone to release the intense energy of the contractions. I trusted my body to do its best. The few times I tried to lie down, to get off my feet for awhile, the contractions became actually painful. It was like I was working against myself to push the baby out, instead of the natural release I felt in the standing position.

By the time Ellen arrived, I was 5 centimeters dilated. I moved to kneeling on the floor, against the futon. It seemed like the change really got things going because very soon after that I felt the urge to push. At first I didn't recognize what it was, even with all the hilarious talk in the birth class about how the urge to push feels like "shitting a ham." Ellen checked me again and could feel the head right there - already coming through the cervix. Ellen said I should get into the tub now as I had a cervical lip and the warm water would help to release it. So finally, I made it in, just in time for the birth!

I started off kneeling against the side of the tub. In between contractions I would flip over, stretch my legs out and relax. What a joy it was to be in the water. I felt like I could really move around. I remember thinking as I knelt in the water, "this isn't so bad, I'm quite enjoying it!" It was nowhere near as painful as I had imagined, in fact, it was hardly painful at all. I was amazed at how little effort I had to put into pushing. My body knew exactly what to do; I just had to let go and flow with it. Ellen told me that the baby would come out behind me if I stayed in that position, so I moved to leaning back against Michael, who was also in the tub.

Now the head was crowning and I was given a mirror to look at it. What surprised me, more than seeing it, was feeling it with my hands. I didn't expect it to feel so soft and squishy. The contractions slowed down to about four minutes apart and I could really rest in between them, which I loved. Chloe was in with us, doing most of the hands-on work and Ellen was sitting on the side. Surprisingly to me, there was no burning in my perineum. What ended up giving me a little trouble were leg cramps, which came on towards the end. For the last few pushes, I had burning in my upper labia; I never expected that! With my final push, I let out my first scream and out popped the head. I was thrilled and sat back waiting for the next contraction to push out his body, but was very surprised to hear Ellen telling me to lift my baby out of the water, as I didn't feel the rest of him slip out.

We looked down and saw the most beautiful angel looking up at us, with outstretched arms waiving through the water. It was incredible to finally hold what we soon discovered to be our son. I immediately brought him up to my breast. It took him a few minutes to breathe but I never worried, intuitively I knew he would started in his own time. I was so happy and relieved that it all went so well.

We got out of the tub and I insisted on birthing my own placenta. It felt right to be in control of the entire birth - not just the baby, but the placenta too. I wanted to wait for awhile, feeling there was no rush, and needing a little time to relax and take everything in. I pushed out the placenta 50 minutes after his birth. Everything was fine and I only had a small tear in my upper left labia. We got cozy, cuddled up, and started breastfeeding. Chloe was great and made us some yummy miso, beet and tofu soup and everyone else cleaned up.

Then there was just us, our new family. I couldn't have imagined a more wonderful, enjoyable and painless birth. It was perfect!

. . . Brooke