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July 18, 2024

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The Home Waterbirth of Isabella Charlotte Rose


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As I began to write the words just stared coming to me, and I started to write things I didn’t even realize that I remembered. The memories came in waves and the words just kept flowing onto the page. Perhaps it is because her birth was so wonderful and peaceful; perhaps it is because I did not have any pain-relief medication. Whatever the reason, I remembered the most minute details of the day of her birth, and so I kept writing. I wrote for me, so that I would always remember the most profound event of my life. I wrote for Isabella, so that she would have a record of the day she was born, of how eagerly we anticipated her arrival, of how much we loved her. I wrote for all the women out there who are anticipating an upcoming birth, so that they could know how incredibly beautiful and magical an experience this can be and in hopes that they would seek out such an experience for themselves.

Part One: In The Wee Hours of The Morning

My first contraction woke me around 2:20am on Wednesday, September 19th, 2001 - 9 days past my estimated due date (a very long, drawn out nine days). I could tell right away that this was different than the Braxton Hicks I had been experiencing with increasing frequency over the past several months. For the next two hours I continued to have mild contractions, but they ranged anywhere from 20 minutes to a mere 5 minutes apart, and they were jumping all over the place. I recalled the oft-repeated advice from all corners (especially from my midwife P.) that if labour began in the middle of the night the wisest thing to do was return to peaceful slumber, and keep resting up for the hard work ahead. Despite this, I found it impossible to sleep. Instead I was watching the clock with an expectant hand resting on my abdomen, wondering when the next contraction would hit. 15 minutes, 8 minutes, 11 minutes, 20 minutes; two hours passed quickly as I watched, waited and wondered. Could this possibly be the real thing?

Around 4am I realized that further sleep was impossibility, and my constant tossing and turning had been keeping Sam awake. Still not totally sure that this was real labour, I figured that I had better leave my cozy bed and let Sam sleep just in case. If this was it, I knew I would need him to be well rested later. I got up and grabbed my journal and my watch and headed downstairs. I began to write about all my feelings and emotions and started timing contractions; recording them in my journal so I would have the memory forever. One of my dogs curled by my side on the sofa as I began to write about how I was feeling.

From my journal:4:22am
I am partly excited, party fighting excitement (in case this is not the real thing) and partly afraid of what is to come. After all this time, and all the waiting, could today really be the day I meet my baby? It seems somehow unreal; I keep expecting it to all stop and to go back to bed and wait some more.
Dear Baby,
Well it looks like the day has finally arrived; you should be here with us very soon. We have many hours of hard work ahead, but in the end we will be holding you in our arms, and all the hard work and long months of waiting will be so worth it. I cannot wait to meet you little one. To finally hold you and kiss you. My love for you is eternal. Love, Your Mother

By 5am the contractions were consistently five minutes apart and lasting a little over a minute each; this was the real thing!! I decided to call P. (our midwife) and wake her up. She sleepily answered the phone and I told her things were finally happening. She said she was sending K. (her apprentice) over to check and see how I was doing and told me to call if I needed to. I spent the next hour on my own just dealing with the contractions. I walked (or rather paced) in endless circles, around the kitchen table and island, around the perimeter of the living room and back again. I found a pattern in my breath, breathing deeply in and then out with an open-mouthed 'Ahhhh' sound that was very comforting and peaceful. Each time I made the sound I felt as if I was releasing the pain and tension, each inhalation brought me renewed focus and strength. In my memory this was a very quiet and serene time, and very important in allowing me to focus and mentally prepare for what was yet to come. The contractions were uncomfortable and very tight, but all I had to do to get through one was close my eyes and focus on my breath.

K. arrived around 6am and we talked a little about what I was experiencing. She checked my pulse and tried to check my blood pressure; but her blood pressure cuff was not working. She listened to the baby and joked that despite all her earlier predictions of a girl, she was thinking maybe this baby was a boy; it was moving so strongly. I told her there were lots of strong girls out there, and she had to admit I was right. She left shortly afterwards, having given me instructions to eat something high in protein and carbohydrates to keep my energy up and to get some rest if I could. I fixed myself an English muffin with peanut butter (which K. said was good because it would take a long time to digest). I ate my breakfast and went to rouse Sam. I could still hardly believe that today was the day, but as this seemed to be the case I thought it was time to wake the Daddy-to-be.

I headed upstairs to wake Sam and let him know that my labour had officially begun. He seemed a little confused at first. Still in a sleep induced haze and not seeming to understand that this was really it, my dear husband even asked if he should still head into work that morning. I quickly let him know, in no uncertain terms, that this was not going to happen. We spent the next few hours quietly together in our bedroom, keeping an eye on the length of time separating the contractions and relaxing together. Sam quickly learned that I could not tolerate any talking during my contractions, and that rubbing my belly (which I thought I would love) was something I could not stand.

Part II: Clearing Out The House and Losing Control

Soon we heard the household start to stir, my father was awake (my parents and sister had traveled from Canada to be with us) and I went downstairs to let him know that he would be a Grampie sometime today. He woke my mother and I went in to rouse my sister. Soon everyone was up and excited; the air of anticipation in the house was palpable. Today the first member of a new generation of our family would enter the world. And what a lucky baby, to be born into such a loving, fun and tightly knit clan. Despite my joy at having my family nearby during such a monumental occasion, I was quite relieved that we had made arrangements for a hotel just the day before. As much as I loved my family I was really craving privacy and an empty house to experience labour and the birth of our baby. As I had anticipated, their presence made me feel somewhat self-conscious and inhibited and I sensed I was somehow holding back.

Sam and I again retreated to our bedroom as my family began preparations to head out. Throughout this time my contractions remained at about 5 minutes apart and while they ranged from mildly to moderately painful, they were nothing I couldn't handle. Each time I felt the tightening sensations that signified the beginning of another contraction I would just stop what I was doing, close my eyes, and breathe. I told Sam that I would be fine on my own (and I really believed it) and sent him off to help my family get settled in at the nearby hotel where they would anxiously await word of the birth.

For some time after everyone had departed things remained steady, with no real increase in the strength or duration of the contractions. During the reprieve between contractions I checked my email, read a novel and walked around the house. At this point just stopping and breathing was all I needed to do to get through the discomfort. I thought of emailing or calling people to let them know that labour had begun, but decided that I felt like keeping these moments quiet and private. I remember at this point feeling very centered and connected to my breath and to my body and focused on trying to enjoy my last few hours of pregnancy; little did I know just how quickly things would change.

From my journal: 10:47am
Contractions are still for the most part about 5 minutes apart. They seem to be getting a little more painful but I think I am dealing with them a bit better than in the beginning, because I know more what to expect and can stay of top of them a little more. I am still afraid of how bad it will get, if I can make it through. It's so unknown and there is no way to really prepare. I can't believe that by the end of the day I should be holding my baby!

At some point during the two hours Sam was away, my labour very rapidly increased in intensity. I had started to get anxious because Sam had been away so long, and shortly thereafter my contractions suddenly jumped much closer together. For hours I had been experiencing moderately strong contractions every five minutes, now they were much stronger and separated by a span of only 30 seconds. I was no longer able find my focus or to maintain a good breathing pattern and would start to mildly panic during each contraction. With less than a minute until the next contraction hit, I found myself unable to regroup and prepare - and quickly lost the serenity and focus that had carried me thus far. I tried to distract myself from the pain by reading my novel or email - but these diversions were no longer effective, the pain and intensity of the contraction required all the concentration I could muster.

I remember making high-pitched noises, breathing very quickly and moaning loudly as each wave of pain overtook my body. My body was tense and tight and my thoughts felt very scattered. My dogs were even aware of the change, and became quite upset. They of course did not understand what was occurring, and both stayed close by my side as if to offer their support as the pain continued to worsen. Finally, two hours after he left, Sam arrived back home. By this point I was near hysterics and almost in tears during each contraction. At some point I had lost any semblance of control, and without someone there to help me regain my balance I had been unable to stay on top of the contractions that were rolling through me in waves. Now, instead of being in control of my labour experience, it was controlling me. I quickly asked my dear husband to call P. right away and have her come over; I knew I needed help to get back on track. It was only 12:30pm and I didn't think I was going to need her quite that soon, but felt relieved as soon as I knew she was on her way.

Sam helped me calm down a little, just his presence was a reassuring and soothing influence and I slowly began to relax. He stayed with me until I felt as If I had somewhat recovered. Although I was still having a hard time I wanted him to start getting things ready, especially ensuring that the pool (a three ring, inflatable kiddies pool which we filled from a hose connected to our tap) was blown up and ready to go when we needed it. As a result I was still sort of on my own. I was doing better with the contractions but had still not regained the serenity that had stayed with me for most of the morning. I knew that in order to enjoy my labour I needed to work to find some relaxation and breathing techniques that were effective for me.

A short while later P. arrived, and I don't believe I had ever been so overjoyed to see anyone in my life! She took some time to show me how to breathe. Taking a deep breath in through my nose, blowing the breath out through my mouth, taking twice as long to exhale as to inhale, I slowly began to find my center again. Each time I exhaled I concentrated on blowing the pain away and felt my mind growing clearer. As I slowed my breathing it also seemed to slow me down internally so that the contractions were back to between two and three minutes apart. P. also instructed me to try and keep my body relaxed as much as possible during the contractions. Until then I had been unconsciously lifting my lower body off the couch with my arms and keeping my muscles very tense, with my shoulders drawn up and my whole body tightened. It was difficult, but the more relaxed I managed to keep myself, the easier the contractions were to deal with. In my chart for this time period P. has noted that my contractions were moderate in intensity. I beg to differ; they certainly felt strong to me!

As things continued to slow down I began to feel rather silly and embarrassed that I had called for help so soon. P. explained that it is not unusual for stress to cause labour to speed up and now that Sam had returned and she had arrived, I was feeling calmer and my body was relaxing as well. In retrospect, I don't think that the pain was actually as bad or the contractions really as strong as they seemed at the time. Based on how quickly I responded to help from Sam and P. I believe that my difficulty stemmed more from emotional and mental stress than from the physical effects of labour. I had read so often during my pregnancy about the fear/pain connection, and having experienced it first-hand I can attest to the power of this cycle.

At this point P. also asked if I wanted her to check my dilation. It was left up to me to decide if I wanted any internal exams or not; but at this point I was quite curious to see how far along I was. It was close to 1:30 and I had already been in labour for 11 hours, although only the last few had been truly difficult. I really wanted to know if I had progressed very far. Between contractions P. had me lie back on the sofa and did the exam. It was not too uncomfortable and was over quickly. We were all very excited to learn that I was already three centimeters dilated, 98% effaced and -1 station. P. really wanted me to go to the bathroom; I had some mild diarrhea in the early morning hours, but had not emptied my bladder since then. I tried, but for some reason was unable to go. After nine months of peeing every 15 minutes, this seemed highly amusing and almost unbelievable!

Sam was still rushing around working on getting the pool ready and set up - so I just sat on the couch and with P.'s help breathed through the contractions. I was so glad now that I was dealing with things so much better than I had been a short time ago. Even though each contraction was still quite painful, I felt re-energized and ready to continue and savor each moment of the experience as best as I could.

Part III »

Submitted by: Jeannette
February 2002


Heart and Hands : A Midwifes Guide to Pregnancy and Birth
by Elizabeth Davis

Elizabeth Davis's Heart and Hands, though subtitled A Midwife's Guide to Pregnancy and Birth, is not just for midwives. It's an excellent and thorough resource for parents-to-be who are thinking about delivering their child with a midwife, or who are concerned about the medical establishment's over-control of birth. (Two previous editions sold more than 100,000 copies and there are nowhere near 100,000 midwives or midwifery students to buy this book, proving that parents-to-be have looked to... read more»

Revised edition (December 1997)

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