Wonderful water birth
by Jesse Loren
I wanted to be in charge of my own pregnancy and birth. It was 1990, and I already had experienced a hospital birth in 1983. It went from parking in the 15 minute zone to pick up some meds, to having a strap around my tummy that supposedly told my doctor that I was in labor.
It was the dinner hour, my doctor told me I needed an emergency C-section, and within half an hour, my daughter was cut out and taken from me. I was young and didn’t know any better. The experience of my daughter’s birth, and the eventual denial of me seeing or holding my baby until the next day woke up a strength in me I never knew I had. I demanded to see my baby. I demanded never to have an experience like that again.
In 1990, I was never going to be a victim of the hospital machine.
(Oh NO you didn’t!)
Orange County had several sources for midwives. I found South Coast Midwifery through word of mouth. The midwives took a thorough medical history and decided that they would support my birth. My VBAC, Vaginal Birth After Caesarian, was low risk because presentation was the reason for the C-section. Presentation isn’t due to the uterus or the mom, so I was accepted as a low risk.
Although I was the only one of my circle of friends to choose a home birth, I was determined to stay out of the hospital. I was determined not to be another C-section statistic. I didn’t want to be forced to have a synthetic hormone to force contractions and stress my baby. I didn’t want an emergency C-section because I labored too many natural hours to end up cut open and exposed to iatrogenic bacteria. Nope, I wasn’t going to do it.
What it boiled down to was this: If fear of an emergency overtook me, then I would have to go to a hospital and act like I was powerless, hooked to an IV with a fetal monitor either strapped around me or screwed into my baby’s head, right through my vagina. Or, I could believe that birth is a natural part of life and it was something of which I was completely capable.
Think about how a pregnant woman is treated in the hospital. She has to get into a wheelchair, she has to be hooked up to IVs, thereby limiting her mobility and ability to react to her contractions. Her main comfort is drugs or surgery. She is treated as a victim, a patient, not empowered and perhaps not even told the truth.
I didn’t want pain meds. Of course I would like them retroactively at times, but I didn’t want my baby to come into the world drugged. I didn’t want him to have damage from a forceps. I wanted to be comfortable, in my own home, with my mom and family and even my cat. I wanted the freedom to birth naturally.
South Coast Midwifery saw me monthly throughout my pregnancy and more frequently in the later weeks. My due date came and went, and seven days afterward, on Friday night, my water broke. I called the midwives, called mom, and felt prepared for the birth. I was excited about every contraction.
My water was just a trickle. My contractions were ineffective and slow on Saturday. The midwives (there were two) had my house set up with all the emergency items that could be needed. I took black cohosh, an herb, and walked from my house to the corner and back with my mom and my cat right behind us. Saturday moved into Sunday, and finally my labor got busy.
At noon, I was completely dilated. My midwife told me I was ready to push. I got up and sauntered over to put lipstick on so that my lips wouldn’t get too dry. I faced myself in the mirror, gave myself a pep-talk and got into the tub.
It was a soft sided, air framed, portable hot tub with a heater. I got in and labored in the tub. My son inched down slowly. My midwife protected my delicate tissues so that I was not injured in the birth. His head began to crown, then sink back in after the contraction. It was a marathon. I was silent, focused on pushing and on each breath. Push, Push, Push, breathe, rest. Sometimes I slept for the two to three minutes between contractions. The Boston Marathon, New York, Bay to Breakers, had nothing on this one human, natural marathonic act.
At 2:00 my baby’s head came out. Our eyes met. His shoulders broke free, one then the other, and he threw his arms out and toward me. He was pale, fat, with wrinkled hands. He sprang into the warm water and swam a bit. I brought him up to my breast and he knew to latch on and eat. Then and only then did the midwife ask me to check his sex. It didn’t matter — getting a healthy baby mattered. My daughter cut the cord. The nurse-midwife did the APGAR rating, then took him for a minute to weigh before returning him to breast. I gave my mom a food order, because I wanted nothing more than to eat the left side of any menu. I had no damage to my body. He had no damage to his.
If I went to the hospital, I would have had a C-section after 20 hours of labor. I wouldn’t have been able to walk and move with the pain, I would have been tethered to a bed. I would have been exposed to super bacteria grown only in a hospital. I did not give birth on my back, I gave birth in a water-filled, love-filled room in my home.