Ruhiyyih's Waterbirth Story

My "official" due date was July 15th, but I had a strange attachment to the 18th, and even wrote it in my baby book as my due date. My pregnancy went very smoothly, with only minor discomforts, but I had been having trouble sleeping the last week or two. On July 17th, I awoke feeling very well rested, and commented to Richard, that I had slept well that night. Good thing! That morning, I had early signs of labor. I was scheduled to work that day, so we both made arrangements to leave work at 2 PM.

All day, I had light cramps. At 2 o'clock, we went home and took care of a few last minute things, like laundry. This was in the middle of a typical Sacramento heat wave, and I think the day's high temperature was 105. I really wanted to walk, but it was too hot, and our house doesn't have effective air conditioning. So Richard and I decided to go to the mall to walk around where it was cool and maybe see a movie. We got there at about 6 PM and right away I started to have clearer contractions that I could time. They were pretty mild but after a while I started having to lean over the railing during each contraction while Richard rubbed my back. Still, I don't think anyone at the mall knew what was happening, and I felt like we had a wonderful secret! We ate dinner at the mall, but by this point the contractions were more intense.

We headed home and arrived around 9 PM. I called one of my midwives, Tosi, to let her know I was in labor, but I was still expecting to labor all night (at least) and wasn't surprised when she advised me to go to bed and try to get some sleep. Richard took the birthing tub (a Rubbermaid agricultural tub) outside to wash it but he couldn't get it back through the bedroom door alone. I got in the shower to cool off before going to bed and right away my contractions got more intense. I found myself turning the water to hot and aiming it right at my lower back while I leaned against the wall. After fifteen minutes, Richard came in to check on me and I asked him to call Tosi back. I still thought I was being a wimp about the pain and was starting to worry that I wouldn't be able to do this all night. I got out of the shower and spent some time in the rocking chair and then on my hands and knees leaning over a pile of pillows.

When Tosi arrived at 10:15 PM I was back in the shower and making lots of noise with each contraction. She asked me what I wanted her to do first, and I said, "Fill the tub!!!!" She and Richard maneuvered it into the bedroom and started filling it. I got out of the shower so I wouldn't compete with the tub for hot water. I was on the bed on my hands and knees having contractions every two to three minutes lasting sixty to ninety seconds. There was so much energy moving through me - I felt like I was riding a bucking bull. During my whole labor I tried to focus my mind on opening up for the baby. Whenever I felt my body saying "No!" I would make myself say "Yes!" out loud. When I would moan loudly, "Oooooohhhh," I would turn it into "Oooooopening up for the baby." I really think it helped me progress. Richard was wonderful - he kept telling me what a great job I was doing and reminding me to take one contraction at a time. He made sure I drank lots and kept cool compresses on my forehead. Finally, around 10:45 Tosi came over to check my dilation. I was at 7 centimeters! That was really encouraging, even though I knew I had a lot of work ahead. It turned out to be my only internal examination.

Soon the tub was full and I got in gratefully. I did one contraction on my knees leaning forward over the side, then switched to leaning back and floating. The water didn't take away the pain, but it definitely helped me relax, especially between contractions, when I felt almost blissful. It wasn't long before I started feeling my body pushing during contractions. I was pretty scared of pushing at first and it took me a while to get the hang of it. Our other midwives, Amy and Stacey, arrived and Amy really got me to work with the contractions. After maybe half an hour of pushing, I put my fingers in the birth canal and felt the baby's head about two inches inside! It was so soft and I could feel the downy hair. That made me feel much more connected to what I was working for, but I still didn't know how I could get the baby out. It felt like climbing Mount Everest without the option of turning back. When the baby's head was crowning, the midwives held a mirror underwater so I could see it coming. Richard came around to help catch the baby. Finally, the baby's head was born. I could see it underwater and I had my hands under it with Richard's hands. With the next push, the body slid out into our hands under the water and we lifted our baby up onto my chest. It was a girl! We gave her the name we had chosen for her: Ruhiyyih Elizabeth.

At the midwives' request, I got out of the water to deliver the placenta and sat on the edge of the tub. Afterward, Richard and Ruhiyyih and I all got into bed and I nursed Ruhiyyih while the midwives drained the tub. Then they performed the newborn exam. As we expected, she was perfectly healthy, and she weighed ten pounds, two ounces! They cleaned me up and checked me for tears - unfortunately, I had a second degree tear, which needed three stitches, but Tosi was very gentle and it wasn't as difficult as I expected. Finally, everything was done and the midwives left us for the night with lots of hugs and smiles all around. I thought I was too excited to sleep but we all fell asleep almost before they closed the front door!

Ruhiyyih is almost eight weeks old now, and we are a very happy family. I still love to feel the top of her head when she's nursing and remember the first time I touched it as she was being born. It really brings back the wonder of her arrival and makes me so glad that we were blessed with a natural birth!

-- Rachel