My daughter was born on October 13, 1992 at 12:08 am, 8 minutes after her predicted birth date. It was the most electrifying and peaceful moment of my life. The midwives and I had established a relationship during the previous 7 months with a clear understanding. My child and I would be the co-stars in the episode for which we were preparing. The midwives agreed to be cast in a supporting role. It could not have worked better.
I don't remember when I first learned about waterbirth -- a PBS show or an article in a holistic health magazine, but I knew I wanted an out-of-hospital birth and water seem the right option for me. I was in a far from ideal situation. Unmarried, uninsured, unemployed and new to Seattle, but the practitioners I found, with some reservation, agreed to provide prenatal and delivery services.
Although I was lucky enough to bypass morning sickness, I did not enjoy being pregnant. During August and September I swam frequently, sometimes twice a day. I found that begin in the pool reduced water retention especially in the hotter months.
On my due date, I woke at 9:00 AM. The midwives told me to stay home and relax. The contractions became more than noticeable around 8:00 PM and we made the 3 mile drive to the birth center. I was in heavy labor within the hour. I was dilated to about 5 centimeters and was given a homeopathic remedy to aid the opening process. All I wanted was to get into the water.
I think I was in the tub by 10:00 PM. The labor became manageable. Getting into the water brought a complete transition; I was able to relax between contractions. I no longer felt overpowered by the birth process. I then became aware of the baby, encouraging it to take the path of least resistance so I could do the rest. By 11:50, I needed to push and was given the go-ahead signal. I became very aware of the tissues in the birth canal and let my uterus push only to the comfort point of the spreading tissue. At 12:08 AM, Ravella was born. The midwife picked her up out of the water and put her in my arms. The feelings of euphoria brought by the sudden disappearance of pain and the first sight of my child was beyond this world. When sharing my birth experience with women, who have blocked the pain of childbirth with drugs, I quietly think that they missed a part of the euphoria I felt by experiencing through the birthing pain. I also know that if I hadn't been in the water and if an epidural was available, I could have easily opted to miss the feelings I now cherish.
At age 4, Ravella is a companionable child who loves to travel and swim. I am awed by her ability to explore new situations with grace and confidence. In retrospect, I did not choose a water birth for the experience of a gentle birth for Ravella, but for practical functionality for me. Yet, I will always wonder what hidden benefits for my daughter were included in this choice.