Karen’s Home Water Birth Story

I was convinced of the rightness of a home birth for our family. I knew it would be a wonderful event.

Throughout my pregnancy the books I read were validating, full of stories of women’s power and strength.

I had a fantastic pregnancy – I felt beautiful almost all the time. Expecting that this would be our last child, I reveled in the feelings of carrying a life inside me. I paid attention to all the sensations, from the first movement I felt at about 15 weeks, to the persistent heartburn near the end, attempting to capture and cherish every moment. I wasn’t anxious to give birth, to meet this child, until the full 40 weeks had passed. Then I started to get impatient. Once I was ready, I really wanted things to move and progress according to my plan, which had a lot to do with the “average” calendar calculations about when a baby “should” be born.

I had good, strong contractions each night for several weeks from about 9pm to 11pm. But they always stopped after a couple of hours. I started to worry that I would not be able to have the home birth I wanted, because of the limitations of state laws. (In Florida midwives are allowed to attend a homebirth until 40 weeks.) I did not want to have an unassisted birth. I really wanted a midwife present. I spent the last few days of this pregnancy wishing and hoping I’d go into labor, but fearing that labor would never begin; worried that I would end up in a hospital with strangers assisting my baby’s arrival.

Early in the day Kendall was born, I was feeling discouraged. All my well-meaning friends consoled me that a hospital birth would be “fine,” that a healthy baby was most important. What I wanted and needed, and was unable to put into words until the end, was validation of my desire for a homebirth. I wanted someone to say, “I know this is important to you. It is a valid desire- to want to have your baby at home, to want to have a peaceful birth. It is valid to be disappointed if you are not able to have this. It is ok to cry. It is ok to want more than an average hospital birth- to want a better experience than last time.” Once I found that person, that validation, I had the support I needed to move forward. I made a decision that the baby would be born today. I would do everything I needed to do to help this baby be born at home.

At 2:30pm I woke from a restless nap.

Jim had taken Jordan (now 2) for a walk so I could sleep a little. I put 2 tsp of castor oil in some orange juice (a method of last resort for me) and got my boots on. I had decided while lying down, that mowing the lawn was a good idea despite the heat. I drank a bottle of water, called my midwife and doula to schedule breaking my water at 6pm. I was ready. I felt powerful again.

I mowed the side and back yards and felt very invigorated when it was done. I changed into my swim suit and joined Jordan and Jim in the pool to cool off & relax.

At 4:15 I got out of the pool to get dinner ready, and got Jordan in the tub so she wouldn’t need a bath later on. My sister was picking her up around 5:00 to take her out for a few hours so that the atmosphere for good relaxed labor could be established.

I showered, changed, ate a little dinner. My body decided to go gung-ho with bm’s after the castor oil- the reason it’s my last resort! Once that passed for the second time, contractions started!

I went to the computer to check email, and play solitaire, relax my mind. After a half hour, I couldn’t focus on the card game because the contractions were intensifying. I went for a walk with my doula, Ruth, who had just arrived for the 6pm water breaking. We made it to the end of the block and I decided I didn’t want to go further. On the way back, I had to stop every 20 feet or so to breathe through contractions.

The walk had really kicked things into high gear and I was looking for some relief.

I sat on the birth ball for a while until I couldn’t find the right position anymore. Then I was ready for the tub. I stayed in the tub, resting on knees & hands or elbows (then on a floating kickball) for a long time. It felt soooooo good to have my belly in the water.

Our midwife, Tammy, had arrived with her assistant, Mary, by the time I was getting into the tub. We joked a little bit about how worried I had been and then I asked for some quiet time.

I began to visualize my body being stretchy, opening wide for my baby. Even then I had a hard time believing I was really in labor. Everything was so different than last time- so relaxed, so trusting, so wonderful.

I asked Jim to light some candles to put around the tub as it got dark. We joked that he was in charge of “boiling water” because I kept asking him to re-warm the tub water as it cooled. I also asked him to kiss me often. Kissing helped a lot to change the focus of the sensations of the contractions. (It was really nice to have the privacy we needed to try out some the ideas about which we had read.)

Things moved along quickly and I used visualization and sounds to work with my labor.

I made low moaning sounds during pains, which seemed to vibrate inside me and helped my body move in rhythm. With every rush, I tried to bring my tones lower and lower through each breath. Ruth poured water on my back- it was wonderful relief & contrast to what my body was doing. I couldn’t visualize anything during contractions now- just focused on low moans, so between them I said things like “I’m going to get huge, so big the baby will just fall right out.” “My body is so stretchy, it’s just going to open right up.”

I know this helped me stay open. I also kept smiling- I remembered that Ina May wrote something like – a smiling face has no tense muscles and how my yoni would mirror the tension of my jaw muscles.

My water broke at 9:15- I felt a pop like when the baby would kick but different & lighter. My midwife checked that the fluid was clear, so nothing to worry me, but intuitively I already knew that. Soon my low moans were not enough to vibrate me through and I only had one more thing I hadn’t tried & that was horse lips/raspberries.

I really didn’t intend to use them. It seemed so silly when I read it – and kind of embarrassing too. (Tammy later told me that when she heard me begin to make that sound she began preparing for Kendall’s imminent arrival, moving items closer to the tub where I labored.) Making this sound vibrated my whole body through each exhaled breath. It was the only thing I could do to stay focused on allowing my body to open.

If I wasn’t convinced by the need to make raspberries with my lips, I knew I was in transition when I began to throw up (Childbirth can be so glamorous!).

There was a bucket tub-side in preparation for this (I had thrown up in transition during my previous birth) but I wasn’t able to shift my position enough to reach the basin. I was distracted by the thought that I was throwing up in the water, but by the time it was done, I was focused on pushing and nothing else. Lucky for me, my support team read my mind, and opened the drain to change out the old water for new between pushes.

In my recollection I pushed for a few minutes, not more than 5, before I needed to use all of my might to birth her head. As she arrived, her head was accompanied by her hand, like she had been sucking her thumb. Tammy asked me to turn from hands and knees onto my bottom before the next contraction. She and Ruth helped me maneuver. Once there, Tammy asked me to push her completely out with the next contraction. I gave a good push with the next wave and with Tammy’s help Kendall emerged from the water onto my chest.

(She told me later that she had seen Kendall starting to open her mouth, as if to breathe, as her head emerged. She apologized for the rush in birthing Kendall’s body- she was concerned to get Kendall above water before she tried to take water, instead of air, into her newly cleared lungs. What was so amazingly different about this aspect is that our midwife cared so much about me- my concerns and my feelings- that she wanted to explain to me afterward why she coached my position or pushing at all. She knew it was important to me to follow my body’s urges and timing.)

There was my beautiful baby girl rooting for my breast, nursing in less than a minute.

With both of us covered by a warm blanket, allowed to take our time. When I eventually shared her with my husband, in order to get out of the tub and birth the placenta, I was excited to know her weight and length. Mary did the honors and announced 8 lbs, 8 oz and 21 inches long, all in just 3 hours, 45 minutes!

We were blessed that day with a peaceful birth, peace of mind, falling asleep in our own bed, waking to two daughters in the morning- and being together as a family right from the start.

Karen Aye Angstadt is the founder of Intentional Birth.com, host of A Labor of Love radio show on the VoiceAmerica network, author of the Living Intention e-zine and serves women through individual mentoring, tele-seminars, and home study material.

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