I knew I wanted a waterbirth right from the start. Before that really, I studied birth, and birth trauma in college, and read Sondra Ray's book, "Ideal Birth," and fell in love with the idea.
After a 16 hour labor - only five of it hard - Sidra was born in the water at 5 AM. I was in a rented birthing tub, big enough for both me and my husband, for much of the labor. My midwife thought the warm water was slowing things down, since I was at five cm dilated and labor had all but stopped. (Note from Karil: It is for this reason that Dr. Odent recommends that the tub be used only after dilation has reached 5 to 6 centimeters.)
My husband and I had a restful day, waiting for contractions to pick up again, and they did at 9 PM. At that point, I was in and out of the tub until pushing began at 4 AM. My perineum remained intact, and I pushed for 55 minutes. The water was wonderful. It was so easy to relax into my husbands body after each contraction, and to change position during each. He would just push me forward and I'd lean on the inflated edge of the tub while he rubbed my back. During the pushing stage, Les would lift me into a squat for each contraction.
Sidra had a shoulder stuck, and the midwife assisted her out, but other than that, it was a blissful birth for all of us. She smiled at us when we asked her if she was ready to have her cord cut - we interpreted that to be a yes! - and she was alert, calm and slept well all through her infancy.
She is now two and and half, and is the most reasonable, clear thinking, real toddler I have known. (And I know many, having been a toddler teacher for ten years!) I don't attribute all of her positive characteristics to her waterbirth, but I do believe it started her off on the right foot.