Notes From Motherhood: My Water Birth Story

When I was pregnant with my first child I never imagined that two weeks before her 3rd birthday I would be giving birth to my third. And here we are now, a month away from her 5th birthday, her sister is 3 and a half, and in 2 weeks time her baby brother will be 2.

I have very special memories of all my children’s births but when Amy at the blog and1moremeans4 told me about her Birth Story Carnival I knew I had to share my water birth story.

Even though I was working at the time, I seemed to have all the time in the world to focus on my first pregnancy.  I spent most of that time daydreaming and reading up on what to expect during the next stage. I came across the idea of a water birth, and although I had decided not to make a detailed birth plan I did ask for this request to be put in my maternity notes. On a recent visit to my local hospital I had seen the new birthing suite, with pool (opened by Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen no less!) and I can tell you it was a lot nicer looking than the rest of the labour ward.

 I gained 4.5 stones with my first pregnancy (95% due to cake and ice-cream) and consequently, towards the end I was very uncomfortable and dreaded the baby being overdue. I do remember, though, ‘knowing’ in that not so rational pregnant lady way, that this baby was going to be early. A friend came to visit me a couple of weeks before my due date and she was planning on coming the following week. I was a bit blunt and said ‘no the baby will be here before then so I’m not making any plans’. And lo and behold my little bundle started her long journey out a few days later and arrived 4 days early.

So the process began with me staying up all Friday night being sick as a dog and spending  most of Saturday feeling rotten and having to dash to the loo with the runs (39wks pregnant, very fat, downstairs bathroom-all not helping my situation). I wasn’t worried as I knew this was the start of things -it’s normal for the body to empty the bowels and stomach before labour begins. Come 8 ish that evening I got my first contraction and was thrilled to be at this point of no return. I stayed in my bedroom timing contractions (at this point hardly anything more painful than the Braxton Hicks pangs) and after about an hour of having them every 6/7 mins I told my husband that we were on.

I settled down next to him on the sofa and he rigged me up to the tens machine. To be honest all it did was annoy me so I dismissed it and concentrated on breathing instead.

It was around midnight when we decided to go to the hospital. The contractions were pretty regular by now and lasting longer so we figured in our innocence that our baby must be pretty much ready to come out. I won’t say the midwife who examined me was scornful of my 1cm dilation but she sure wasn’t very impressed. Go home, stick it out and come back in the morning was the instruction so we got back in the car, more than a little gutted to have invested £6 in the parking meter.

I sent my husband to bed, terrified at the thought of the night ahead but knowing that he’d be no good to me later if he’d had no sleep. I was really tired as I had already missed a night’s sleep, but no one ever said birth was easy so I stuck my chin out and decided to face the night ahead with intrepid spirit.

I spread towels on the sofa, switched on the TV and stuck it out. I paced, I panted, I yelped, I took baths, I cursed and I wet myself-I thought my waters had broken at first, then I realised it was actually wee- I wasn’t ashamed though, it was all part of the game.

I don’t know at what point it all got too much but I remember losing the plot about 9 am and screaming at Paul:  “I can’t cope any more you have to help me”. He was utterly fantastic as usual and leapt out of bed, helped me to calm down, fetched my bag, packed me into the car and drove like a maniac to the hospital.

I remember the slow walk from the car punctuated every few meters by an agonising contraction, then I don’t remember anything until they gave me the gas and air. Bliss! I was aware of being in a room, 5cm now and not coping. I heard myself shout “I want an epidural” and saw the midwife scuttle off. A long wait, then a new midwife arrived, Martina, with her student Sarah. They were calm and I felt safe.

Martina: “Hi Anne, what about your water birth? The room is free, shall we go?”

Me: “Don’t care. Not coping. Need drugs”.

Martina:”We’re filling the bath, come and give it a go. If you don’t like it you can have an epidural”

Me: “Not coping. Help me”

It was all very chilled from there on in; Martina chatted to Paul and organised the bath while Sarah sat me down on a ball and showed me how to keep my shoulders down and relax through each contraction. What a difference, suddenly I was back in the game!

JJ Cale playing on the ipod, the lava lamp and disco ball in full swing, 45 minutes later the bath is ready and I’m in. “OMG” I declared: “I won’t be getting out of this bath until my baby is out!”

I can’t describe how much easier it was to cope with the contractions in the water. Don’t get me wrong, it still hurt and I still needed the gas but the lack of gravity made it much more manageable. The bath itself was huge, I had enough space to paddle around and I could have fitted a small crowd in there if I’d been in a party mood.

The rest of my labour was so calm. I felt safe knowing Paul was there and we had some beautiful moments just staring into each other’s eyes, in silence  but with deep love and understanding. Otherwise, I was in the zone, focussed on my task and barely acknowledging anyone else. I think I was in there about 5 hours and at some point I was aware of a doctor trying to persuade the midwife to get me out. I had been severely anaemic throughout my pregnancy, due to the hyperemesis, and for some reason the doc thought it best to get me onto dry land. I remember telling him he’d have to drag me out himself, but luckily a satisfactory blood test result meant it never came to that. I was vaguely aware of other comings and goings in the room too; other members of the labour ward staff coming in to observe their first water birth (I did say the suite was very new).

The birth was awesome, a real joy. At the end I pushed out my girl in around 3o minutes and she was the calmest baby I’ve ever seen.  The midwife held a mirror under me so Paul could see her arrive and then Francesca Lucy and I stayed in the bath for a while just gazing in wonder at each other. 

Then it was time to leave the bath, hand over my girl and push out the placenta. It was at this point that Martina noticed some bleeding and called the doctor in. My girl was nuzzling and taking colostrum and I wasn’t paying attention to anyone else but I understood there had been some tearing and I would have to go and be stitched.

At the time it didn’t really bother me, I assumed the pain I felt was normal, but I did have to wait another 2 hrs before anyone came to take me to surgery. They told Paul I’d be back in 45mins but the tear was 3rd degree and I was also very badly torn inside. Two surgeons tried for 2 hours to stem the bleeding, I had a transfusion, and in the end they had to call their consultant who worked on me for another 2 hours before the bleeding was stopped. I was so exhausted that I couldn’t really worry about what was happening, I just drifted in and out of sleep and tried not to look at the reflection of my wound in the light fitting above.

Meanwhile, Paul was waiting in a room with his hungry newborn baby wondering if he’ll ever see his wife again. That 45mins turned into 5 hours and no one thought to tell him what was going on.

It took a year for my wounds to heal and some say it was because of the water birth, some say I pushed a 9 pounder out way too fast and some say the midwife should have coached me better.

 But I say this was how my girl decided to come. I say I wouldn’t have it any other way. I say this is our Birth Story. I say it was beautiful. And so is my girl.


2 Responses to “Notes From Motherhood: My Water Birth Story”

  1. 1 Emma Button April 8, 2010 at 21:56

    I loved reading this. Sounds like all your decisions were very similar to mine. Its remarkable how much pain relief the water brings, isn’t it!

    Well done on completing the birth in the water – more than I managed but I guess it saved me the tear. Shame it didn’t help the recovery time aftwards though – its hard work, isn’t it?

    I bet the waiting was hard for your husband. I can imagine how panicked and stressed he got.

  2. 2 babybornfreebottles April 8, 2010 at 22:09

    Thanks for commenting!
    I think it’s awful how they left him hanging like that but at least he got to bond with his wondrous first born child. I had to have c-sections with my second and third babies as the risk of more tearing was too high (wasn’t too keen on the idea of permanent double incontinence!) and those births were almost the opposite in terms of how hands on the medical care was. Still very moving and beautiful though.

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