Posted on Friday 22nd January 2021 in Birth Stories…
Anouk-Ray: Homely Water Birth
n the middle of Saturday night I’m woken by an outpour of water. Panic, the waters have broken. David and I are up till 5 am filling and heating up the birth pool in our lounge. I’m waiting for proper labour contractions to start up, but my womb has gone quiet. I call the community midwife, she’s not trained in water birth, and she advises me to go to the hospital in the morning so the hospital has a printed record of the baby’s heart trace. A formality.
If the baby hasn’t arrived by 2 am next morning (even if labour has started!) I will have to give birth in hospital due to risk of infection.
A part of me wants to freeze the moment: I know this week-end is the best time to get a home pool birth (I know the midwife on the list is trained) but I want to be present at my eldest child’s 10th birthday party.
“I’m in the house on my own, things seem a bit unreal”
I get up around 10am to eat my third pineapple breakfast of the week. David rushes out to his parents house to drop off our 2-year old boy, Callum, and buy a few things for the party.
I’m in the house on my own, things seem a bit unreal. I have to make a few phone calls to parents to warn them that we might not be able to drop their children off after the party. Of course, I can’t be matter of fact and some phone calls last forever: parents remembering how it felt being about to give/receive birth, wanting to talk…
I eventually get to hospital for 1 pm. I wait 2 hours in a grim waiting room for a 10-minute tracing; I use it to get a rest lying down. At 3.30 pm, David picks me up with 6 children in the car and we go to his mum and dad’s garden for the party.
One-hour contraction free in the sunny back garden, during which I start feeling a rush of adrenaline, it makes me want to move everywhere and get busy. I help one child get changed because she has been sick in the car and she’s quite upset about it. I put Callum to sleep for an afternoon nap. The contractions are starting, and it’s time for me to do the obstacle course that David has devised for the kids. I compete with Chloe and Molly, they win but I’m secretly winning too!
My mind is dazzling, I feel euphoric and my digestive system is very active too. David is like a butterfly, going from one thing to the other. We just about sit down to have spaghetti bolognaise with our friends Marc and Corine and pretend nothing is really happening. The contractions seem to accelerate. I’m being asked constantly by David’s mum how long they’re lasting, I don’t know and I don’t want to have to worry about that. I know it’s taken care of and things are developing the way they should; I can carry on being relatively relaxed and feeling sort of detached.
At 6 o’clock we decide it’s time to go. Ninon is being given the choice of a sleepover or be present at the birth. She has been there for her brother’s birth and says that it’s upsetting to see your mum in pain. I know I will miss her presence. Callum wakes up as we are about to leave and I say goodbye to him, he seems to take it well.
In the car I shift focus lightly onto my bodywork. The contractions are every 10 minutes to 5 minutes in the car and Ninon’s friends Chloe and Anton can’t believe this is all happening under their very own eyes. I’m happy I can discuss it with them, without being too anxious about it myself. I’m still in a euphoric mood, a little bit scared though. I hope
I won’t be too tired, it has been a long day and it’s just the beginning.
When we get home, the pool is too hot: 50º C. We need to bring it down to 39ºC. Pans of water are going in and out and David is also calling the midwife to tell her it’s started, she tells him to call again when it gets serious. Meanwhile I found a good spot, in the hall, pushing my feet into the wall leaning forward and holding on/pushing to the round head of the banister. Every single contraction now I rush to this spot and use my sound breathing over the contractions which are becoming quite painful.
I manage a bit of housework too.
Call the midwife
At 8 pm the pool is finally at the right temperature, what a relief for my back, it started to feel really sore with each contraction.
We call the midwife, who delivered Callum in the same lounge, possibly in the same pool. When she arrives, she checks her equipment, takes a few notes. It’s her job, nothing out of the ordinary for her. She doesn’t show that she takes any notice of the screaming, it annoys me but reassures me in a way. I know I have to answer a few questions, turn over to let her have a listen to the baby’s heart beat (she says it could be a girl because girl’s heartbeat are usually faster than boys). It’s not easy for me, I have to time it with the contractions but she trusts that I’m able to do these things and that’s reassuring too. It’s 8.35 pm, for the first time she checks how dilated is my cervix and I’m nearly 9 cm. I want to push as if going to the toilet but the midwife says to wait because the cervix is not fully open and the pushing could cause a swelling and slow down the labour. She calls the second midwife.
I’m still using the sound breathing technique and find that on one breath I can hum for the whole length of the contraction. It is so loud that David and the midwife have to interrupt their sentences in midair. As soon as I feel it coming I get in the position which feels best: facing the floor of the pool, 2 hands on the edge of the pool and crouching with my feet pushing against the pool floor with each contraction. David is really cool about things, in between contractions I can go and cuddle him, find comfort, roll around in the water and then get back into my position. Sometimes he hums with me. From 9pm, the urge to push is stronger and I have to resist it and use the dog panting, shallow breathing technique. I’m wanting to know when I can start pushing.
This is going to be a quick one
The midwife puts her apron on and she says: ‘this is going to be a quick one’. I know it’s getting close to the end now. The second midwife arrives (10 minutes before delivery). I don’t know her, she seems young, definitely less experienced than the first one. She stands there. I ask them for some coaching at the end and the first midwife said that I could push now. She says regularly that I’m doing brilliant, that I’m a good girl.
I remember one strong push, feeling the baby’s body coming down nearly out but the contraction expires too quickly. The 2 midwives stand behind me. The second push, I put all my heart and energy into it, the midwife sees a hand and then the rest of the body follows. It’s 9.37 pm. It felt very special to be so conscious, so aware of the baby’s wiggling movements coming out. I also felt as if I had been cracked open, like a nut in a nutcracker, maybe at that point I could have performed a split. Once out the baby is picked out of the water, she comes out of the water with her body stretched and her eyes open.
She is passed onto me. I have my newborn baby on my chest. I tell her sweet words in French. David checks and it’s a girl. The midwives wait until the umbilical cord stops beating to cut it. Then we wait for half an hour for a strong contraction to come and get the placenta out. Eventually it happens, and I apologise to the midwife for not having much puff left for it: the pushing effort feels pathetic.
I ask whether I can stay in the water, it is still warm and I feel so comfortable in it. David makes the midwives and me a cup of tea and they chat and look at some photos of the first midwife’s grandchildren.
It all seems so ‘normal’.
Eventually I come out of the water. The first midwife helps me by putting our girl onto my breast and she breastfeeds really well.
David and I hold the baby on the sofa for a while before realising that she’s full of meconium and so am I. We rinse it off and go to bed. That night she woke up regularly and I breastfed her maybe 3/4 times. I was happy she breastfed so well. We woke up on the Sunday 3rd of April, it was my delivery due date, we were already a family of 5.
Quite a few circumstances made this birth such an easy to cope with experience as well as a special one:
I knew the first midwife, knew I could count on her. David was able to give me his full attention. He was relaxed, he’d seen it before. It hadn’t been an ordeal to leave my children in others’ hands. The baby wasn’t too big (she was 8 pounds, 3kg6). I had given birth twice before and once in the exact same setting.
Also I attend training in bodywork where I learn to pay particular attention to what/how I feel in my body. It increased my awareness and helped me recognise and acknowledge what I wanted/needed intuitively and ask for it
I practiced pregnancy yoga for 6 months prior to birth. The sound breathing technique came naturally as if I’d done it all my life. It took my mind off the pain to focus on giving the right sound to each contraction. I blew bubbles in the water for the last pushes.
I was on my feet very quickly after birth, the yoga practice kept my body toned, stretched and relaxed able to cope with the strain of pregnancy and birth.
The practice of perineal massage at the end of pregnancy meant that although I had to make room for a head and an arm together, I only had a superficial tear.
6 months of practicing ‘funny’ moves and ‘funny’ sounds with others helped me feel less inhibited on the day.