Gretchen D.'s Waterbirth Story

Hello Karil,

I recently birthed in water and want to share my story with others.

The idea of birthing in water always fascinated and appealed to me, but because of my Rh sensitization (untreatable), I had high-risk pregnancies and was ineligible for midwife assisted delivery and homebirth, and therefore waterbirthing appeared to be out of the question.

When I became pregnant with my fourth child, my husband David and I enrolled in a childbirth class taught by my doula and friend of nine years, Patti R. Imagine my pleasant surprise when she informed the class that the hospital where I was planning to deliver now permits waterbirths!

In addition to the joyful anticipation and excitement, I felt quite a bit of fear as well leading up to the delivery. My first two children were delivered on a hospital bed and I had had epidurals (I miscarried my third baby). The second birth in particular was very hard and upsetting. Panic set in and I was fairly uncooperative in pushing my son out. The idea of "natural" labor and delivery, though attractive for a variety of reasons, was very scary. After reading all the waterbirth stories on this site and praying about it, I was encouraged that I could do it, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't still a bit afraid of the unknown.

I ended up 10 days past my due date. Several times on previous days I had experienced mild contractions that never yielded anything, so when I went to bed March 12th with some contractions, I was hopeful but not convinced that I was in labor. When I awoke the next morning and they were still there, I started thinking that maybe "this is it." By the time I dropped the kids off at school, I was certain I would be delivering within 24 hours. I called my doula and then David. "I'm having the baby today," I told him.

To pass the time, I went grocery shopping. When I got home, my husband and I scarfed down a quick lunch and drove to the hospital. My contractions were getting uncomfortable by then. The first check revealed I was dilated to a six.

My doctor was not on-call that day, so Kathleen (a midwife) assisted me, along with Patti (my doula), David, and a close friend and her daughter. It was nice and intimate. My pass-out-at-the-sight-of-needles-and-blood husband not only attended and assisted the whole birth, but he helped deliver Tyler, put him on my chest, AND cut the cord. Go figure! I guess both David and I learned what we were really made of during this delivery.

I had arrived at the hospital at 1:00 and delivered less than 4 hours later, so I was very pleased with that. In fact, Patti had ordered me to lie on the bed with my legs closed in the beginning because the birthing tub wasnąt ready for me yet.

Still, labor and delivery were very, very hard. This was my first natural birth. It was both totally cool and totally horrifying to experience all the sensations that I had previously missed due to epidurals. I am truly grateful for and awed by the experience . . . but I don't ever want to do it again! (hee hee!) I felt a bit like a caged animal before Tyler came out, and ran the whole gamut of emotions - anxiety, fear, doubt, anger, rage, despair, desperation, peace, expectancy, hopefulness, exhilaration, excitement, joy, etc. Everyone was very respectful and responsive to my needs.

Just when it seemed to me that the baby would never come out, Kathleen broke my water for me. This really kicked things into high gear. The contractions were so strong they nearly took my breath away. I finally got to experience that "urge to push" that people talk about. I never felt that during previous deliveries because of the epidurals. But instead of it being an "urge", it was more like my body was going to push whether I wanted to or not‹and thank G-d!

The lights were dimmed and the room became very still and quiet. It turned out my preference was to work through the contractions quietly, and so the absence of audio and visual distractions helped tremendously with my concentration. During contractions, I needed to be with just me, God, and my baby ‹ I hated being touched or talked to. Between contractions I rested and waited in my own internal world. My contact with the "outside" was awareness and silent gratitude for the cool rags Patti and David put to my burning face and an occasional sip of water.

As Tyler crowned, I felt the urge to yell through the pushes and thought I would surely die. But once his little head came out and I saw it (and some of the pressure was relieved) I was instantly SO SO SO VERY glad that I had made the choice I made. When my baby's body came out there was a rush of peace and joy and love that completely filled me, and it was instantly all more than worth it.

As I lay there in the warm water with my new little person lying on my chest, I just couldn't believe it. He didn't cry or anything. Just made a lot of faces and a few soft noises as he started slowly using his lungs for the first time. We let him stay in the water with me, with only his head above the water, for about 10 minutes while we waited for the cord to quit pulsing. That part was just awesome. He did finally cry when he was wrapped in wet blankets and lifted out of the tub into the cold air. Still, overall I can't imagine a more peaceful birth from the baby's perspective.

In the days that followed he continued to be a very quiet, peaceful baby, rarely crying. He even lay quietly or slept during procedures like having his foot poked for blood.

When discussing childbirth, most people only consider what the mother endures and very few talk about or try to imagine what the baby feels. Waterbirth is an extraordinary way to bring a new person into the world, and I recommend it to anyone who strongly desires a natural (medication-free, non-invasive) labor and delivery and who is concerned about the baby's experience. While laboring and birthing in water did not eliminate for me what I can only term "pain," I do believe it made the pain more manageable during contractions and pushing, and definitely facilitated calming and relaxation between contractions. In particular, the water was very beneficial right after Tyler came out, easing after-birth pains, keeping baby and me warm and cozy, and providing a soothing and tranquil environment for mother, father, and baby to bond in those first important minutes following delivery.

-- Gretchen D.