Amelia Katherine Joy's Water Birth
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December 18th, 2007, 10:00 PM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Southern VA
It was Friday, December 7 – ten days past my due date of November 27, and I was rapidly approaching miserable. I was supposed to go visit my midwives that morning, and had every intention of begging them to do something to help coax my stubborn little girl into the world. All week, I had been upset and weepy, on top of hormonal/evil and the mommy guilt that comes along with that. And my back hurt. And it hurt to sit, stand and lie down. In short, I was over being pregnant and ready to meet my Amelia.
My plans to beg for help were nixed by the weather, though – while it wasn’t doing anything at home, there were reports of sleet, freezing rain and snow between my home and Tomi’s, my senior midwife. Mom had called to tell me about all of the accidents being reported on the radio, so I decided it would be best not to risk it, and called Alicia (my main midwife) at home. She agreed that we should postpone the visit, and said that she and Tomi would come to me on Monday morning if Amelia hadn’t arrived already. The thought of enduring another weekend with no baby was nearly too much to bear, so I explained how I’d been feeling and asked if she had any suggestions. Although she wasn’t worried – or even eager to discuss alternatives before the 42 week mark, which would be the following Tuesday – she told me to research and decide for myself about a castor oil induction, although she would not specifically tell me to or not to try it.
I was online in a matter of minutes for a refresher course, and it didn’t take me long to call Gene at work and tell him he’d be picking up some castor oil that evening.
I mixed a concoction consisting of two ounces each castor oil and orange juice after dinner, and somehow choked it down just before 7 p.m. – all the while remembering how I had tried the same thing with Rachael, only to spend a miserable evening in the restroom with no baby to show for it in the end. I had vowed that I would never do the castor oil thing again. But I did…and then I waited. I fully expected for it to do what castor oil is intended to do, but never did find myself running for the bathroom. Instead, the contractions I had already been having off and on for weeks started to become more frequent; this was apparent by 10:30, when I started to pay attention to how far apart they were. By 11:30, they were five minutes apart – and a trip to the bathroom scared me when there was bright red blood on the toilet paper. I called Alicia and confessed to my castor oil experiment. She told me that the blood only meant cervical changes, and that the contractions would probably begin to space a little further apart before becoming any closer, and asked me to call her back around 1 a.m. with an update. In the meantime, she said, she would load up her car and get a bit of sleep.
After talking with her, I told Gene to start straightening up the living room and making sure everything was ready. After panicking for a few minutes, he did – and then laid down on the couch to sleep until I had something new to report. I decided to take a quick shower – both to be nice and clean in case this was the real deal, and to let the water help relax me during the contractions. That didn’t exactly work. The water felt nice, but once in the shower, my contractions started coming closer together – every two or three minutes until I got out. By 1:00, they were so strong that I had to stop everything to get through them, and they were still no more than five minutes apart (and usually closer.) Alicia said she would pick up Sam, my doula, and head our way. It’s about a two hour drive from her house to mine, so I figured she’d be here around 3 and decided to get some rest.
Lying down was horrific. There was not a comfortable position to be had. I finally settled on the glider rocker in our bedroom, rocking and breathing through the contractions and dozing in between. I had to get up to find a blanket (I was freezing) and then to run for the bathroom during a sudden wave of nausea. I sat and sat and sat and the contractions stayed consistent at about three minutes apart – alternating between difficult but bearable, and truly painful. I kept checking my watch to be sure they weren’t becoming any closer…and finally started wondering what had happened to my midwives. 3:00 came, then 3:30, then 3:45… The contractions were becoming so painful that I finally gave up on letting Gene sleep until they arrived – I waddled out into the hallway and told him that I needed my birthing pool, and he should start inflating it about ten minutes ago. And that I wanted some grapes, which he promptly fetched.
Not being familiar with the area - and having only been to our house a couple of times - Alicia had gotten a little lost on the way. She and Sam finally arrived around 4 a.m. and came upstairs to check on me. Seeing that I was doing okay, they headed back downstairs to start bringing their things in from the car. Gene had inflated the pool and put it in the living room, but rather quickly ran into a problem – our water heater wasn’t up to the task of filling a huge pool with warm water. He filled as much as he could, then stopped to wait for the water to heat back up. Meanwhile, Alicia and Sam set to work in the kitchen, boiling water in every pot and pan they could find to help fill up the pool. I felt vaguely sorry for them, having to come here in the middle of the night to boil water and haul it from kitchen to pool – I hate inconveniencing people – but I wasn’t able to concentrate on that for long.
Around 5:30, they came to check on me again – it was hard to talk to them since I had to stop and breathe through nearly constant contractions. Alicia attempted to listen to the baby’s heartbeat without making me move from the rocker, but couldn’t find a good spot in that position, so I moved to the bed. Her heart was pounding away just perfectly, slowing ever so slightly during a contraction. Since I was already on the bed, she asked if I wanted her to check for dilation before I got into the pool to let the water help with the pain. For months, I had been worrying about this first internal exam – Alicia had become more friend than care provider, and I was so sure it would be awkward and strange. Thankfully, labor dulled that a bit, and it wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined. She checked quickly and told me that I was dilated to six centimeters.
It was 6 a.m. when I went downstairs and got into the pool. I expected to feel a huge difference, having read over and over about water being “the midwife’s epidural” and how much easier the contractions would be once in the pool. Not so much for me – they felt about the same, but at least I had the novelty of being in a pool in my living room to distract me! Finding a comfortable position was difficult – sitting down on the inflated bottom of the pool felt nice, but didn’t seem to be conducive to having a baby. Ultimately, I ended up on my hands and knees – alternating between rocking (hoping to help open up the pelvic area) and clinging to the side of the pool, talking with Alicia (who was sitting in the floor by the pool) between contractions.
I had only been in the water a short time when the nausea returned. I told Alicia and Sam that I was going to be sick, and Sam got right up to search for a trash can. None in the living room, so she headed to the kitchen. She was still there when I couldn’t hold it back any longer – and despite that, I can still see clearly what happened next. Sam grabbed a plastic bowl off of the counter and, as if in slow motion, sprinted across the kitchen and into the living room, bowl held in front of her at arm’s length, reaching the pool just in time that I didn’t make a huge mess on the carpet. (While this was remarkable in the moment, it’s downright hilarious in retrospect. Maybe you had to be there, but the sight of Sam running with the bowl is one that I’ll always remember when thinking of Amelia’s birth.) The midwives were even encouraging about my being sick – “get it all out”, they told me, “that’s a good sign, means things are moving!” I loved having my own personal cheering section that thought everything I did was wonderful!
Once that was over, Gene came to kneel in the floor by the pool so I could hold onto him. It didn’t seem like I’d been in the pool any time at all before I started feeling like I needed to push through the contractions. I tried to ignore the feeling, thinking that if Alicia had just checked me, and I was only at six centimeters, that there was no way it was time to push yet. There couldn’t possibly be room for Amelia to come out yet, and I’d surely kill myself trying. But after a couple of contractions, I told Alicia what I was feeling and she told me that if I felt the urge, to go ahead and push through them. Her ‘permission’ (so to speak) was all that I needed – with the very next one, I started bearing down.
And, I think, with the one after that, I started yelling. I hate to admit it, as I had been envisioning a calm, quiet, peaceful birth in the water…but that’s not exactly how it happened. As Amelia’s head started descending – rapidly, it seemed – I got louder and louder. I remember thinking “oh no, I’m going to wake Rachael up and scare her half to death”, but I couldn’t stop. This was also the point where I remember wondering just why having my baby naturally seemed like a good idea, quickly reminding myself why it was a good idea, and mentally telling myself that this was not going to last much longer and was for a very good cause. All of these thoughts must have run through my mind in a hurry, because they occurred in the time between two contractions, and that wasn’t very far at all by this point.
Knowing that it wouldn’t be long before my little girl arrived, Alicia encouraged me to get into a squatting position in the water so that I could catch my baby. I moved, and was so surprised when I reached down and felt the spongy, squishy top of her little head. I was trying not to cry when I told Gene, “I can feel her head, it’s right there!” Squatting through the contractions just didn’t work for me, though – my balance isn’t great on a good day, and I quickly found myself back on my hands and knees in the water.
About this time was when Rachael’s bedroom door opened and she came out into the hallway. I think I was the first to realize that she was awake, and told Gene. He headed upstairs with the phone in hand, to shepherd her back into her room and call his dad to come and pick her up until everything was over. Sam asked if I would rather have Gene nearby, and offered to go up and help Rachael get dressed; I wasn’t sure how Rachael would react, having only met Sam once, but I knew that I wanted Gene – so up Sam went. In just a moment, she was back – with Rachael. I later learned that Rachael told her she wanted to come downstairs and see her mommy. Sam told her that the baby was coming and that I might be making some funny noises, but Rachael said that was okay, and down they came.
Meanwhile, Gene had returned to the side of the pool and I was still pushing. It seems like only five or six contractions had passed from the time that Alicia told me it was okay to push if I felt the urge – and I could certainly tell where my baby’s head was by the fiery sensation.
Rachael reached the side of the pool at 7:04 a.m., and just a few seconds later, I felt the same thing I had felt when she was born – that wonderful relief of the baby’s head coming free, and the rest of her body following it out. I looked down into the water to see my baby float quickly forward into my reach; I sat back and picked her up out of the water and onto my chest. My sweet little Amelia was finally here, and her big sister got to witness her birth.
She started breathing immediately, and her skin turned quickly from a gray-ish color into a healthy pink. I sat in the water with her for a while, holding her close, still wet but wrapped in a receiving blanket, rubbing her back. Sam remarked later that babies born in the water usually take a little while to start breathing regularly, and that she had never seen one start breathing as quickly and effortlessly as mine. Amelia fussed a little, but didn’t really cry. She was alert and content from the beginning.
They helped me out of the water after a few minutes, and into my favorite chair (lined with waterproof pads, of course.) Amelia latched on and nursed like a pro at just thirteen minutes old. A bit later, Alicia clamped her cord and Gene cut it. He took his new daughter while the midwives helped me upstairs and into the bathroom, where the placenta was delivered. I took a quick shower, got dressed, and headed for bed.
The senior midwife, Tomasina, had arrived while I was in the shower. Alicia had been waiting to call her when it was close to time for me to give birth; no one had anticipated that it would happen so quickly once I got into the pool! Tomi held Amelia while I got situated, and then they weighed and measured her – my sweet baby girl was 9 pounds and 6 ounces, and 19” long. Her APGAR scores were 8, 10 and 10. In short, she was simply perfect.
mom to Rachael, 10
~ Milly, 6
~ foster mom (waiting on the next call)
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