When I was sixteen I saw a TV show about a unique Russian doctor who attended women laboring and birthing in water. I was immediately drawn to it, imagining how wonderful it would be to totally relax and float through labor. I gathered the little information I came across and kept it for many years until my first pregnancy. When I then called doctors in my area and asked about it, they all laughed at me. They recommended that I go to Russia or France, where there was also a doctor attending waterbirths. But that pregnancy ended in miscarriage.
My next pregnancy was healthy and happy, but it ended in what I believe to be a premature and unnecessary c-section due to a frank breach presentation . . . and dinnertime. Unfortunately, my ability to birth naturally was undermined by a doctor with little regard for the long-term effects of unnecessary surgery.
Three years later I was ready to try again. A close friend had recently had a home birth using water for pain management. I had thought the age of midwifery was gone, but with her support and a new direction, (away from the standard medical model), I researched what I would need to achieve my desire of a home waterbirth. It was all set. My husband was completely supportive, and I was totally informed, or so I thought.
I called the midwife of my choice. On hearing of the C-section with my first birth she told me that no midwife in Arizona would be able to attend me at home. It was illegal for anyone other than a doctor to attend a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). There just were no medical doctors supporting home birth, let alone waterbirths, in Arizona. I was devastated and angry, because medical politics were blocking my ability to birth my way, not once, but twice! Only unnecessary fear (their's, not mine), blocked my ability to birth naturally.
I eventually found the Cesarean Prevention Movement. I learned how every medical intervention can effect the delivery. I was more determined than ever to avoid the hospitals and to birth at home, in safety. Water became a tool of labor management. The CPM referred me to Farra Swan, a naturopathic doctor who attends home births. She was my only choice, so I was determined that she would accept me as a candidate for home delivery and that I would accept her.
Although that pregnancy also ended in miscarriage, this time, my birthing dream had not. Farra and I had discussed our beliefs and although we didn't agree100%, we were both flexible and we accepted one another.
I became pregnant immediately after the miscarriage and with a little progesterone management I stayed pregnant and healthy. My due date came . . . and went. Farra and I discussed possible induction, which I was against except in extreme circumstances. At fourteen days past the estimated delivery date she would have to send me to the hospital for a stress test. Regardless of the results, the medical establishment would almost certainly recommend hospitalization and induction. Farra would have to follow their recommendations and so would I, if I were to stay her client.
Again, I felt the politics of birth affecting a very private and personal decision. Farra and I decided that if I went to 42 weeks we would try induction by castor oil; if that didn't work I would have to go in for the stress test. But I was lucky. Labor started at 41 weeks, on Labor Day, 1993.
I woke at 4:15 AM to mild, yet consistent contractions. At first I didn't know if it was the real thing, but within 30 minutes, I was sure. I woke Ken at 5:00am and he started filling the birthing tub. I called Farra and my support team to let them know things were starting. It was moving fast. I was already beginning to work pretty hard by the time most of them arrived. I had prepared for "endless" hours of light labor, but not for such intensity so early.
Soon I wanted water. Period. Farra and I had agreed to wait to get into the birthing tub until I was in transition, so I settled for the shower which provided some relief. The pounding of the hot water on my back was wonderful. I'm not sure how long I was in there for, but I was afraid that I'd soon run out of hot water. Then my focus changed. Things hurt more, I had to get out. I wanted to get into the birthing tub. It didn't matter to me that Farra wasn't there yet. I knew my body was right, and I followed it.
Farra arrived almost as soon as I switched into the tub. She checked my vitals and dilation, and the baby's vitals too. All was well. I was dilated to five centimeters. I went back into dreamland. It seemed like only minutes later (it was actually 40) that I wanted to push. Push? Already? Farra checked me again. I was at 10, with a small lip to go. But I wanted to push . . . now. Farra held the lip so I wouldn't tear.
Pushing was more work than I'd prepared for. The incredible amount of energy it took overwhelmed me. Although it was only fifty-six minutes, I felt like I had pushed for many hours. Mentally, it was the longest part of my labor. Using my hands to feel the baby's head move really helped me to realize that I was progressing and that the baby was moving in the right direction. I called softly to him, singing, "Baby . . . Baaay-beee . . ." It was peaceful between pushes and Sydney encouraged me, "You can do it, Mommy" she said as she touched me softly. She was completely aware of this wonderful event.
Then it hit! The ring of fire - appropriately named. It felt good to scream, it was cleansing. Farra coached me through those contractions. I could hardly wait to hold my baby. I think Farra was about to remind me to go slow, but I forgot about the shoulders and gave a strong push.
For me, the draw to the water was so incredible, I can't even explain it. Once in the water, I labored more relaxed and was able to go deep inside myself. The water allowed me to do this. The times I got out of the water, when Farra checked my progress, I was out of sorts. I lost all my focus and the pain was unbearable! Back in the water, I was able to focus inside. I can't even begin to imagine birth without water. It did more than take the edge off. It relaxed my entire body, allowing it to work more efficiently.
Taylor Anthony was welcomed into this world at 9:05 AM. Farra checked him while he lay in my arms - warm water caressing us both. We were surrounded by so much love. We all sat around in a daze. Ken cut the cord when it stopped pulsating.