An Unexpected Waterbirth

October 14th, 2015 (37 weeks and 3 days)

As I mentioned earlier, I just had a feeling that the baby was coming soon. At my appointment that day, I asked my midwife to check me… normally I wouldn’t have asked, but I felt like I needed to know in order to make a plan for the rest of the day.  80% effaced, 2-3 cm, and -1 station.  She felt his head RIGHT THERE.  No wonder I felt like he was going to fall out every time I stood up.  I went home and took a short nap, and then a shower.  I picked up my daughter from school, we played for a while in the playroom, and then decided to go out to dinner instead of making anything.  On the way home from dinner, she said “When baby brother is born tomorrow, we can play with him.”  Somehow, she must have sensed it too.

Throughout the evening, I was having very sporadic contractions… one every 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Nothing very regular, and certainly very far apart.  I thought that I probably had at least another day before things actually got going.  Normally when putting my daughter to bed, I cuddle with her for a bit… and this late in pregnancy, I had gotten into the habit of falling asleep with her as a way to sneak in a little cat nap each day.  Well today, I turned the light out in her room, and started feeling some pelvic pressure.  I said goodnight in a hurry, left her room, and closed the door behind me.  And right there in the hallway outside her door, I had a strong, intense, contraction. It’s as if my body had just been waiting to put my daughter to bed before allowing itself to move forward with labor.

To be absoContractions1lutely certain that labor was starting (and that it wasn’t just wishful thinking), I went into my room and laid down in the dark.  I opened my eyes with every contraction, long enough to hit the timer, and then tried to snooze in between.  After about an hour of regular contractions, I decided it was time to call the in-laws and ask them to go ahead and start the 2.5 hour drive to our house.

ContraContractions2ctions started to get closer together and more intense over the next hour.  I spent this time sitting on my yoga ball right next to my bed, with my iPad open to my Kindle app, reading birth stories from Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. 

After seeing those 7-minute apart contractions, I panicked a little bit.  There was no way my in-laws would be here in time.  At 10:38, I texted our babysitter and asked her to come over.  At 10:46, I called my midwife.  She told me to come in once my contractions were 4 minutes apart.  But I knew I needed to go in sooner, based on how intense these contractions were.  My husband loaded all of our bags into the car, our babysitter was here at 10:55, and we were out the door.

Contractions3Normally, you hear about labor slowing down while in the car.  Well, the peaceful night drive with no traffic made mine speed up.  All I remember about the drive was hearing Mike and the Mechanics All I Need is a Miracle on the radio.

The last contraction I recorded on my app at 11:20 was experienced leaning on the car door in the parking lot of the hospital.  Once in labor & delivery, they had me change into a gown & pee in a cup.  In the admitting room, 2 nurses worked on strapping me to a fetal monitor – they require a continuous 30 minute strip upon admittance.  But at this point, my contractions were really close together, so they quickly took me off the monitor and decided to check me.  6 cm dilated – I was glad we had left the house when we did.  They decided to go ahead and put me in a labor & delivery room and put me on the monitor in there while they filled the birth pool.

Because BaView More: B was already so low, it was difficult to keep the monitor in the right place to get a continuous strip.  It kept slipping down, and we’d lose the signal.  I eventually had to hold the monitor in place to get a continuous 30 minutes.  I sat with my legs off the side of the bed, so that my husband had access to my back to provide counter-pressure during each contraction.  I was counting down the minutes until I could get into the tub; I had intended for it to be a tool to use during labor, but fully planned on getting out of the water for the pushing stage. Finally, at 12:30 am, I was allowed off the monitor.  I changed, and slipped into the water.


The overhead lights were low, and a strand of Christmas lights twinkled across the windows.  Across one of the windows, we had hung a bunting of birth affirmations I had made.  I had used my daughter’s finger paintings from when she was an infant; I had cut them into pendants, strung them together, and written phrases like “I trust my body” and “I am strong” on them.  These were my focal points during each contraction.  In between contractions, I breathed in lavender oil from a washcloth.  The water felt like a warm hug, and allowed me to truly relax in between contractions.

However, the contractions were still intense – the water and breathing wasn’t enough, I still needed the counter-pressure on my back.  For a few contractions, I attempted to swing my back to an edge of the tub, and my husband leaned over to help me.  But positioning myself that way and moving all around the tub was not working for me… so I finally asked my husband to get into the tub with me.  Once he did that, I was able to get into a rhythm.  In between contractions, I leaned over the edge of the tub.  During contractions, I was on my knees while my husband pushed on my lower back.  Soon it all blurred together; the contractions were on top of each other.  I remember thinking to myself – I must be going through transition.  Already?  At this rate, I’m not going to have time to get out of the tub. The nurse flitted in for a moment, and told me to call her if I started feeling the urge to push.


Almost immediately after she left, I felt that urge.  Nope, not getting out of the tub.  Guess I’m having a waterbirth! After 2 more contractions, we called the nurse, and asked her to get my midwife (she was already at the hospital, she just wasn’t in my room yet).  She walked in, accompanied by 3 labor & delivery nurses.

Now, this is the part that is the most vivid in my mind.  The room was filled with people: my midwife, my doula, and 3 nurses.  But at the same time, they weren’t there.  I was in the little bubble of my birth tub.  I was in control.  No one was directing me, no one was interfering.  They were just observers.

This is when I allowed myself to get primal.  To access that most instinctive part of my brain, and do whatever my body told me to.  And my body told me to get vocal.  Very vocal.  I emitted a long, low, guttural moan during each contraction.  I could feel it make my pushing more effective, opening me up.  After each contraction, there was silence, unless I initiated conversation with my midwife & doula, which I did.  I’ll say that again, because I found it remarkable: there was silence whenever I wanted there to be silence.


In case you didn’t know, that’s the sound of me pushing. {Laughter}.

It’s a testament to the women in that room, who made me feel comfortable enough to vocalize the way I was.  I was letting go completely.  Of all fears, of all inhibitions.


I feel something, can you see anything?  {No, we can’t see anything}.

This is when I realized – no one else is going to be able to get me through this.  No one can tell me if I’m pushing the right way, or if I’m making progress.  I have to do this myself.  And that’s okay.  In fact, it’s more than okay.  I trusted myself.


Why can’t I be one of those women who gets a baby out in 1 push?  {Well, that might be difficult since your water hasn’t broken yet}.

This revelation motivated me not to hold back anymore.  I was going to give the next push my all.  My water needed to break before my baby could descend.

-Contraction- (Pop)

I felt it! My water just broke! That was so weird! 


Oh it’s burning. 


Ahhhhhhh it burns.  {That means it’s almost over!}  You’re right!  Keep telling me that!  Please, keep telling me that. 

At this point, I felt like I had been pushing forever.  They told me later that it was I was probably only pushing for 15 minutes total.  But in the moment, it felt. Like. Forever.  The subtle reminder that it would be over soon was just what I needed to hear.  I knew exactly how I needed to push during the next contraction.


OH MY GOD, I’m holding his head.  His head is in my hands… and it’s perfect. {Laughter}.  Hi Baby!  Hi!  You’re almost here! 

In that moment, when I was holding my son’s head in my hands, I have never felt more alive.  Maybe it was the huge oxytocin & endorphin rush, but I felt every sensation and emotion right into my fingertips and toes.  I was elated that I was moments away from meeting him; relieved that labor was almost over; amazed that my body had grown this perfect little head; empowered by the trust of my care providers to do this on my own; humbled by the privilege of catching him myself; and a dozen other emotions I can’t even begin to describe.  I’ll let my face at that moment tell the story:

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And with that last one, at 1:37 am on October 15th, just one short hour after I had entered the tub, he slipped right out and I pulled him up out of the water and met my little boy.



He was alert and calm.  The entire room swears that he cried “hey” to me right after I said “hey” to him.  After that, he didn’t really cry; we just settled into a calm state of being while we studied each other.  He’d squint and open his eyes a tiny bit, and then shut them again.  And then he’d open them for a tiny bit longer before shutting them again.  I just stared at this perfect little being for as long as I could.  I was on a hormonal high.  I was in disbelief about how fast he had arrived, and so grateful for how smoothly it had all gone.

After the cord stopped pulsing, my husband cut it, and held him skin-to-skin for a few minutes while I got out of the tub and got dried off.


I recounted the 3rd stage of labor and the initiation of breastfeeding in a previous post.  But here are some pictures from this amazing time we had together:




I hadn’t planned on giving birth in the water; but sometimes when you stray from your plan, life’s most amazing moments can happen.

This is the best season of my life.

*Photos by Bella Birth

View my birth video here




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