In January and February of 1996, I took a ‘Labor Support Course’ offered through the Seattle Midwifery School. One of my goals is to become a midwife one day, but, being a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother of 5 small children, I knew it wouldn’t be feasible for a long time. Working as a doula (a woman who gives emotional support to a woman in labor) would give me some extra experience in the childbirth field. At the training course, we viewed several different videos of women laboring and giving birth. One such video was of a water birth. The woman giving birth in the birthing 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 home births), and was anticipating a 6th pregnancy at any time. The video so impressed me that I decided I wanted to birth my next baby into water.
Wouldn’t you know it but the very next week I found out I was indeed pregnant already. I am always excited to discover that we are to be blessed with a new baby in our home, but this time I think I was even more excited. The first time I mentioned birthing into water to my husband, he did not 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 water birth. 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, after reading them myself, left them lying about for dh to pick up and read. He wouldn’t do it. I didn’t want to waste my time trying to locate a birthing tub if he wasn’t game to give it a try. One day I read to him a small portion of one of the books and he asked a couple of questions that were of concern to him, like: what if the baby inhales water as it is being born?; and, how do you know how much blood the mother loses?, …etc. After answering all his questions through the borrowed books, 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 had had.
After dh was more agreeable to having a water birth, I began to seek a way to have one. I didn’t know of anywhere that I could rent a birth tub, and I had to keep in mind that we had very limited funds available. With the baby due in late October, by August I still had no definite plans. I was starting to despair of being able to do it this time around. Then one day in August I was talking to an acquaintance about how I couldn’t locate anywhere to rent a birth tub. She mentioned that a local friend of hers had rented a birth tub from somewhere in Seattle, then gave me the woman’s phone number. That woman gave me the number of a book shop in Seattle, about 60 miles away. This shop also sells baby-related items and rents birth pools! I was so excited! But after talking with the proprietor about rental fees, $150, I knew we couldn’t afford it. While it is definitely worth every penny, we just didn’t have that kind of money for a luxury item. I went looking for end-of-summer clearances on children’s pools, but everyone was out-of-stock.
Finally in September, with the birth looming ever nearer, I called back to the owner of the store in Seattle. I explained how I wanted to have a water birth so bad but just could not afford the rental fee. When I asked if there was any way that we could work out some kind of arrangement, she offered to rent me a tub that she had in storage and did not use anymore. It was a different kind than the ones she normally rents out, and I could rent this one for $50. Wow! Talk about excited, I really was then! She even agreed to sell it to me if I liked it, as she would probably never use it again.
Well, I figured my due date to be October 15 (40 weeks after LMP), but since I am always late, I knew it would be a least late October. I kept telling everyone that if I hadn’t had it by the 30th, I wanted it to wait until November 1st, because I didn’t want a Halloween baby. Well, as it turned out, even November 1st came and went. For days I had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions, starting about mid-afternoon and continuing until after I went to bed that night, only to be gone upon awakening in the morning. I was getting a little frustrated with it as I remembered it had happened the last two pregnancies, also. As before, the baby’s head was not engaged in the cervix. The last time, I tried to encourage contractions using nipple stimulation, and it had worked. (At that time I didn’t realize that if I had kept up the stimulation, I probably would have had the baby a lot sooner than I did.)
Dh had been checking my cervix for any changes every couple of days, and found it to be getting softer. We believe the main reason that the contractions were not more effective was because the baby’s head was not engaged. It was not putting any direct pressure on the cervix. There was no mucus plug that he could dislodge to try to encourage labor. On Saturday night, November 2, I tried to stimulate some contractions by twisting my nipples. After only about 5 minutes, they began coming, and kept coming on a consistent basis about every 7-8 minutes. This was after not having any contractions the whole day long. After about an hour, we quit and went to bed. I was hoping that the contractions would continue and awaken me later, but I awoke in the morning with no more contractions.
Now I was really frustrated. At church that morning, I asked a friend of ours, a labor and delivery nurse at a local hospital and also a childbirth educator, for some advice. I told her that it was nearly 43 weeks since my LMP, and that I was 2-3 cm. with no engagement of the head. I also told her I could start contractions using nipple stimulation, but they would peter-out after I quit doing it. She said that I needed to keep up the stimulation for much longer, until the contractions were well established and I was at least 5 centimeters dilated. We decided that we would attempt to induce the labor that very afternoon.
Since dh is our church’s choir director, we would have to leave our house by 4:15 p.m. to have choir practice at 4:45. At 2 p.m., I began the stimulation by twisting and pulling on the nipples. The contractions started within 10 minutes, and were consistent as long as I kept up the stimulation. I noticed if I quit for a while, they slowed down, and when I began again, the contractions would pick up again. By 3:30, my contractions were consistent at 8-10 minutes apart and I had shown some definite effacement and dilation to 4 centimeters. I also began to have some pink mucus, so we decided to cancel choir practice and stay home from church. I wanted to work on having this baby already. We told my sister, A., and our friend, L., that we would call them when we thought they would be out of church, to let them know of our progress. They would be coming to video and photograph, and just be here if we needed to transport to the hospital or anything.
Around 4:30, dh 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 dh would change his mind at the last minute about me birthing into the water. But now that he was spending all this time to prepare it for me, I knew he loved me and was going to let me do it.
All this time, I kept doing the nipple twisting and pulling, with an occasional 5 minute break now and then. By 9 p.m. I was 5 cm. dilated with contractions about 6-8 minutes apart, but the head was still not engaged in the cervix. We asked A. and L. to come over, and my mom and our friend M. came to get the kids. As my mom was leaving, I asked her if she wanted me to call her in the middle of the night to tell her when I had the baby. She said, “How about calling me at noon when you have it.” I was a little shocked and hurt by her comment, then she added, “Hey, this is Charity’s labor were talking about.” (She was remembering that my last 2 labors had been over 24 hours long.) I was hoping to have this baby by 6 a.m. at the latest.
Around 10:30 p.m, dh 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, dh 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, dh 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, dh laid down to take a short nap, so I got into the tub. Oh! It felt so wonderful to have my entire body immersed 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 about to different positions. After only 20 minutes of this bliss, dh 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.
I was beginning to despair of having the baby before 6 a.m. 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 4-5 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 was not comfortable at all. I did not need to do anymore stimulation. At 1:30 a.m., I decided I needed to get into the water. It looked so inviting. L. had been timing my contractions for about ½ an hour, and they were consistent at 3 minutes apart now.
After getting into the tub, I didn’t have another contraction for 8 minutes. L. and A. 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, dh went to rest in the living room.
L., A., and I talked about babies, and what we were going to name this one, and just visiting. 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 dh 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 a.m., and I was sure I would have this baby within 2 hours.
When dh 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! But he still was in there feeling around when he said, “Wait a minute, I think your complete.” After confirming that I was, I was in disbelief. “Are you sure?” “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 dh to add more cold water, as I thought it was too warm for the baby to be born into. A. was videotaping; and L. was just gawking, having forgotten all about taking photos. We didn’t realize that we had not even set out the supplies we usually have on hand, they were still in the box in my bedroom.
Within minutes, the urge to push came, but dh wanted me to breathe instead of pushing. That is very hard to do, when every urge in your body says, “PUSH!” He 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 dh 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, the baby slid into daddy’s hands, at 2:34 a.m. on November 4. The first thing dh said was, “Its a girl!”
I was so excited! L. and A. were screaming and cheering, as they knew I had wanted to have another girl so bad. We named her Abigail, and she weighed 8 lb. 13 oz. We did not take her to the ‘Well-Child Clinic’ as we had the other children. We did register her birth and get her S.S #, though.
I am definitely a water birth 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. She is working out a special payment plan for us. Also, I will rent it out to others in my community who want to experience the joy of water birthing. I recommend a water birth to anyone.