In exploring birth from my perspective as a midwife I have focused frequently on that mysterious, miraculous, climactic event - the birth itself. Birth - the moment of release, the long awaited meeting, the realisation of dreams, and the hope of the next generation. The woman must engage in the process of birthing, and sense the empowerment of her own body's processes, rather than the outside promptings of her midwife.
The woman's friend arrived and bundled the three youngsters into her car. Once they had left the woman was able to focus on her birthing. Labour was strong, and the woman reclined on the couch, reducing the intensity a little. After a while she wanted to be in the tub. The buoyancy and freedom of movement when emersed in a large volume of warm water is a wonderful relief to many labouring women. Resting back in the water brought a smile and relief to the woman's face. A long break before the next contraction had her wondering if she had moved to the tub too soon. Then her husband said "I expect you are closer than you think." A contraction surged, and the reassuring and empowering sense of the baby's head descending deep into the pelvic cavity removed any doubt. The baby's head was born, and my hands were with the woman as she completed that stage of the birth. The umbilical cord was not long enough for the woman to bring her little one up to her chest, so she supported him, quietly floating him in the water in front of her.
In the soft light that came into the room that sunny morning we watched this newly born infant adjust to life outside his mother's womb. He breathed quietly, without crying. His skin took on a healthy pink glow. But he did not seem to realise that he had left the womb as he floated, fully submerged except for his face. We stood by and watched. The parents stroked him and talked to him. There was no placental separation or bleeding, and the placental circulation continued for 20 or 30 minutes, in this out-of-the-body, womb-like place of transition. Eventually the woman wanted to get out of the water, and she cuddled her child and sat out on a nearby couch. With warm towels to dry both of them, the quiet protected atmosphere continued, and the baby began to seek his mother's breast. Now exposed to the air the cord had constricted and ceased pulsation.
With baby nursing quietly the woman expelled her placenta, and we clamped and cut the cord. The actual birth was quick, over in a brief moment. My hands merely received the child. It was the time immediately after the birth that made this one an exceptional experience, both for the assistant midwife and for me. I have attended other waterbirths in the past few years, but this one was special. The quietness of the baby, as though he was not yet fully born, made me feel that I was actually having a glimpse of that secret world inside the womb. The intuitive responsiveness of the mother to her baby gave us the opportunity to see what few have ever seen.
-- Joy J.
Midwife & Lactation Consultant