In January and February of 1996, I took a labor support course offered through the Seattle Midwifery School, and saw a video about waterbirth. The woman delivering in the tub looked so relaxed and in control that I was awestruck. I had given birth to 5 babies myself (the last three had been unassisted homebirths) and was anticipating a 6th pregnancy at any time. The video impressed me so much that I decided I wanted to have my next baby in the water. Wouldn't you know it, but the very next week I found out I was pregnant.
The first time I mentioned birth in water to my husband, Scott, he didnšt react favorably to the idea. I didn't pursue it much at first, but would just mention from time to time that I really wanted to try a waterbirth. He would give me a look as if to say, "You're crazy." At our public library, I checked out a few books dealing with waterbirth and left them lying around for Scott to pick up. One day I read him a small portion of one of them and he asked a couple of questions that were troubling him. After I addressed his concerns he was more open to the idea. In fact, he even began to defend it when my mother and others expressed the same concerns that he previously had.
Around 4:30, Scott began to set up the birth tub in the kitchen. It was a large inflatable-type. It took over 5 hours to completely set up, what with pumping it up, disinfecting it, and then filling it with hot tap water. (I had been a little worried that Scott would change his mind at the last minute about me birthing into the water. Now that he was spending all this time to prepare it for me, I knew he was comfortable with the idea.) By 9 PM I was 5 cm. dilated with contractions about 6-8 minutes apart, but the head was still not engaged in the cervix. We asked Alice and Linda to come over, and my Mom and our friend Marla came to get the kids.I was hoping to have this baby by 6 a.m. at the latest. Around 10:30 PM Scott checked my cervix again and found it to be the same as it had been the last time, so we decided to try some fundal pressure. We had done this during the labor of our 4th baby and it had resulted in getting the baby's head to engage. He was born about 3 hours later. During a contraction, Scott would put pressure on the top of the fundus (the top part of the uterus) and hold for the duration of the contraction. We would do this for about 30 minutes, checking the baby's heart rate every 4-5 minutes or so. Afterward, Scott checked for progress, but there wasn't any, so we decided we would try again later. I was still doing nipple stimulation periodically to keep things going. I felt if I stopped, the contractions might slow way down.
Around 11:30 PM during my labor Scott laid down to take a short nap, so I got into the tub. Oh! It felt so wonderful to have my entire body emersed in the warm water. (Remembering it just now makes me long for a nice hot bath.) I felt totally weightless, and it was so easy to move into different positions. After only 20 minutes of this bliss, Scott wanted me to get out so he could check my progress again, and try more fundal pressure if needed. He found me to still be the same as before. We again attempted to get the baby's head to engage, but it would not. This was at midnight and I was so tired that I just wanted labor to stop for the night so I could get some rest. I laid down on my bed and tried to snooze between contractions, but rest was impossible now. The contractions suddenly began to come more frequently, about 5 minutes apart now, and I needed to really concentrate in order to handle them. I got up and walked around for a little while, but I was not comfortable at all.
At 1:30 AM I decided I needed to get into the water. It looked so inviting. Linda had been timing my contractions for about half an hour, and they were consistent at 3 minutes apart. After getting into the tub, I didn't have another contraction for 8 minutes. Linda and Alice were telling me I should get out, as it had slowed my labor down. I didn't want to get out, though. The water was so warm and relaxing, and I was finally able to rest. Not for long, though, for the contractions soon returned.
After sitting with me for awhile, Scott went to rest in the living room. Linda, Alice, and I talked about babies, and what we were going to name this one. We were interrupted by contractions, though, as they were now coming faster. I was amazed at how much easier these contractions were to handle. Being in the relaxing water made all the difference. I get real vocal when I go through transition and when Scott heard the loud moans coming from the kitchen, he knew that it was time to check on my progress. It was now about 2:20 AM, and I was sure I would have this baby within 2 hours. When Scott checked my cervix, he took a while feeling it. There was a weird expression on his face, and he shook his head, indicating that there was no change. I about lost it! All that work and pain, with nothing to show for it! This baby would never come, I thought! But Scott was still in there feeling around when he said, "Wait a minute, I think youšre complete." After he confirmed it, I was in disbelief. "Are you sure?" I said. "Yes," he said. (Afterward, when I asked him why he thought at first there had been no change, he said that the cervix felt different when I was in the water.)
After the announcement that I was ready, things started happening real fast. I asked Scott to add more cold water, as I thought it was too warm for the baby to be born into. Alice was videotaping; and Linda was just gawking, having forgotten all about taking photos. Within minutes, the urge to push came, but Scott wanted me to breathe instead of pushing. That is very hard to do, when every urge in your body says, "PUSH!" Scott was afraid that I would tear as the head was born, so he wanted me to push slowly. With the first push, I felt a gush come out, and Scott and I announced at the same time, "The water just broke." I noticed that it was much harder to push under water than it had been for my 5 dry births. (The books on water birth had mentioned this, but now I was experiencing it.)
After 2 pushes, the baby's head was out, and I decided it might be easier to push if I was on my hands and knees. Because we didn't have the tub full, the baby's face was above the surface of the water. We had planned to birth the baby completely under the water, but the books advised against allowing the baby's face to go under water after it had been exposed to the air. The cold air might trigger the breathing reflex. After one more push, out she slid into Daddy's hands, at 2:34 AM, on November 4. The first thing Scott said was, "Its a girl!" I was so excited! We named her Abigail Suzanne, and she weighed 8 lb. 13 oz.
I am definitely a waterbirth proponent now. That labor was by far the easiest one I've had. We decided to purchase the tub so it will be available to me if I should ever need it again. I rent it out to others in my community who want to experience the joy of waterbirthing. I recommend a waterbirth to anyone.
UPDATE: On July 11,1998, we welcomed our 7th blessing, Kenneth Paul, into our home. He was our 5th unassisted homebirth. I had planned to birth in the tub again, but that labor was so fast, it was only half-full when he arrived.