Born into Water

by jooniper

Thanksgiving Day Surprise

feeling pregnant tummy4:10 p.m. or so on Thanksgiving (I was 37 weeks to the day), I was goofing around on the computer and postponing a trip to the bathroom. When I just couldn't stall any more, I stood up, felt a small pop and a small gush. I figured it was cervical mucus until I got to the bathroom and realized my undies were soaked and even some of my pants were too.

I called to Kenny to let him know I thought my water had broken but wasn't sure (two of my friend had suspected their waters had broken only to discover they had peed themselves instead). Kenny got a little panicky and asked what to do. I decided to go lay down a while and see if a broken water became more apparent, and it did! When I stood up there was another gush. So I put on the depends diapers (ugh) and called the midwife. She told me to rest now and call her when contractions started. I figured we had a couple hours, since with Daniel's labor, they broke my water and two hours later I had real contractions.

Gathering the Team

We called the family members, I contacted Cristin and Marissa (my "birthteam"). We had our thanksgiving "feast" of ham steak and Hawaiian sweet roll and then Kenny went to work about setting up the birth tub in the kitchen. He didn't realize there was a liner, so he started filling it with water then we had to drain it out and redo it with the liner. It's a bit frustrating for both of us, but also kind of comical.

We figured contractions would begin at any moment. I was so surprised that they took so long to come. Cristin, my "semi-doula" came over around 8. We watched Business of Being Born while she rubbed my feet with coconut oil. It was heavenly but still no contractions.

Contractions Start

She gave me some homeopathy stuff to get contractions going, then I sent her home so I could nap a bit. I went to sleep around 11 p.m. and woke up at 12:30 just enough to note a rougher contraction. Then I dozed until 1 a.m. when I couldn't sleep through them anymore. I came out to the living room to count contractions and found kenny asleep on the couch. I remember sitting on the floor next to my sleeping husband as contractions started to get more intense and petting the dog. It was very peaceful.

I spent as many contractions as possible on my hands and knees in the hope that the baby would find a good position. My first labor, the baby had been posterior and I wanted to avoid that this time. It seems to have worked.

Around 2 a.m. I was having enough contractions to call the midwife and birthteam over, so I did. They got there, listened to the baby's heart, checked my blood pressure, and I started needing to lean on the couch while kneeling to get through contractions.

Into the Birth Tub

kneeling in the birth tubThings picked up quicky so I got into the birth tub, resume my kneeling position and leaned on the edge of the tub. It felt wonderful. The water had miraculously stayed warm in the 8 or so hours since it had been filled. I quickly

Cristin rubbed my shoulders during contractions, that seemed the most helpful thing she could do for me. Kenny helped out too, though his was a less active role (as I expected it would be).

I experimented with making noises through the contractions, mostly settling on "lalalalala oooooooooooo lalalalala" (my French language background coming through, I guess). I never felt out of control and was chatting in between contractions right up until the end.

Around 4 a.m. I started feeling nauseous. This was unexpected. I never throw up and never felt that way with my first labor. I didn't end up throwing up, but this was a sign to me that I was in transition and the baby would come soon. Within a few minutes I thought I felt the need to push, and told the midwife so. She responded simply "then push, you don't need MY permission!"

lifting baby out of waterI never once had a cervical check, but I trusted my body. I pushed. Within a few contractions I could feel the head in the canal, it was happening so fast (I pushed for 2 hours with my first labor). I had planned on "laboring down" to let myself stretch a bit (hoping to avoid another tear) but in the moment I completely forgot.

in birth tub holding newly born babyI remember thinking "I can't do this!" then hearing my own mind respond "of course you can, you ARE doing it, right now!" It felt like her head must already be out, she was so RIGHT THERE, but they assured me she was not. A few more pushes and she was! The midwife "caught" her then put in her my hands under water and I pulled her up between my legs. She was covered in vernix but bright-eyed and so sweet.

The time of birth was declared to be 4:17 a.m. I realized I had not looked at a clock once since 2 a.m. I was so happy. I felt that with my first birth, so much emphasis had been put on how long things took, so I had made a goal of covering all the clocks but in the end there was no need.

The midwife gave me a warm towel and checked her heart immediately as she laid on my chest, where she stayed as I delivered the placenta.

first look at babyI then got to really look at her for the first time. She had a powdering of brown hair, and dark blue eyes, dainty little hands and feet. So different from my son. Her lips were a bit swollen from the birth process and I remember thinking she looked much like my paternal Grandma (who was in her late 90's when she passed):

They handed her to Kenny while I got out of the tub and dried off a bit. He was so excited! I sat up on the couch and Kenny handed me her to nurse for the first time. She took to it like a champ.

During that time, Danniele set up an herbal bath in our master bath room for baby and I to take together. She was so pretty and pink and was looking a bit less like grandma Smile and I fell in love. She's a beautiful baby.

Stitches and Stuff

Afterwards they stitched me up on my bed (4 deep stitches along the lines of my scar from the first birth)- oh did that hurt! I was far more vocal through that then I had been in labor. I had had many many more stitches after having my son, but had been anesthetized (which is likely why I tore in the first place) and don't remember them.

While I was being stitched, baby Camille was taken out to meet her big brother, who had just woken up from a normal night's sleep to find his house full of strange people. He seemed to immediately understand that this was the baby from mommy's tummy and his baby sister.

Finally we weighed her -- she was 7 pounds, 2 ounces!

A Trip to Emergency

midwife holding oxygen mask for babyAfter a few hours, we noticed the area around her lips kept going gray. You can see it a bit in this picture.

She'd get pinker while on the midwife's oxygen, then go gray again. This can be a sign of heart problems (cyanosis) so we called around to find a pediatrician to look at her. None were open and the oxygen was running out, so we opted to go to the ER instead.

We were the spectacle of the ER. They never see brand new babies; that all happens upstairs at Labor and Delivery. Everyone was shocked I was in such good shape and walking around so soon after birth. All the ER staff gathered in the hall to see the "homebirth baby," but everyone was respectful and congratulatory. None of their equipment was meant for little bitty babies, but eventually we could see that even when she was gray, her heartrate and oxygen level were great.

They took an x-ray then took us up to the NICU to await the results. They told me because we were a homebirth we were going to be kept in isolation so as to not infect the hospital babies (I remember thinking, "No, we should be kept in isolation so the hospital babies don't infect MY baby!" But whatever).

The x-ray showed a potential abnormality (NOT what I wanted to hear) so next they did an echocardiogram. Normally ultrasound techs aren't supposed to "diagnose" anything, but ours was a very friendly guy who, after hearing our story, said "You had a successful homebirth and are walking around 4 hours deserve to hear that everything looks 100% normal." Whew!

Then they moved us to our own large room in the pediatrics unit so we could be observed. By this time, she was staying pink on her own pretty well, but they want to keep us overnight for observation. (I tried to talk them out of it, but she kept spitting up amniotic fluid and each time her heart did funky things so we stayed around.) I stayed the night alone while Kenny went home to be with Daniel.

Home Again

The next morning they sent us home with the completely clean bill of health. Although I'm disappointed we ended up at the hospital (partially because of the financial implications), I'm thrilled with how the birth went, and I'm glad to be proof that homebirthers don't take unnecessary risks and go to the hospital when things look questionable.

It was relaxed, I felt in control, I feel I kept my dignity, I didn't have to fight to get the birth I wanted. It was an amazing experience. I wish all women could have a birth like that!

Jooniper is a long time member and a natural birth advocate. She plays harp, loves to sing, and reads about 3 new books each week. She and her husband play video games, frisbee golf, play with their beagle Lucy, and indulge their inner nerds.