On June 25th, 2007, I gave birth to my third child. The baby enjoyed an unassisted childbirth, a home water birth, free from medical personnel. He was delivered into the water by his father, in the safety and comfort of our bedroom, which we'd converted into a peaceful birthing suite with an inflatable birth pool.
The baby was weighed on a fruit scale at our local produce market the following day: 7lbs, 2 oz.s. A visit to our pediatrician 4 days later confirmed the baby is healthy and thriving.
I was blessed with a smooth recovery and a perfect nursing relationship with my baby.
This experience of choosing and staying with the choice to bring forth a child without medical assistance has been an exhilarating journey and it is certainly worthy of a blog.
When we found ourselves expecting a third child, Keith and I were united in our feeling that we did not want to greet another baby under the bright lights and sterile setting of a hospital room. I was already in my second trimester, living in a new city, and trying to locate a midwife who would attend a home water birth, when I stumbled across the website unassistedchildbirth.com. I don't even remember what exactly I typed to bring up this site, but I was captivated. This was the first time I had ever heard of Western women CHOOSING to give birth alone, but as I read, I could feel in my spirit that all the information of how birth COULD be free sprang from myself as I read the accounts, as if I'd always known and just needed to be reminded.
It occurred to me that everything, everything that I harbour negativity about from my previous births (both fully natural, un-drugged hospital deliveries) was a direct result of medical interference and suggestion: the constant vaginal exams, the prison of that room, the the loss of control, right down to the order to "push" which was demanded of me both times by a room full of people, many of them staff I'd never met, as if I was not capable of determining when to preform this last, significant step in releasing my children from my body.
Keith and I researched, read, discussed. I continued seeing and being seen by my midwife until the Wednesday before the baby was born. The exception to my previous prenatal health care situations was that, after reading Unassisted Childbirth, I was convinced that any invasive exams, no matter how routine, could be harmful and I declined anything beyond her gentle hands on my belly to determine the baby's size and position, and the application of the Doppler on my belly to listen to the baby's heartbeat (the most beautiful sound I know).
I had composed a daily
affirmation, as the author of Unassisted Childbirth recommended,
to clear my mind of fearful thoughts and to train myself to trust my
mind and body. I believed the most essential thing was to prepare
and emotionally for the birth. I reconnected with the natural
strengths that my tribal sisters take for granted. I knew I could do it "without fear". I also knew my husband was capable of regaining his rightful place, not just as co-creator of our child, but in bringing him forth, as well.
actual birth unfolded much as planned, but, to my surprise, it was the
hardest and most painful labour of the three. I laboured for 23 hours,
crippling contractions for the last 5 hours, before my bag of waters
and the baby quickly followed. I intend to explore what role my own
expectations played in the pain, but I suspect, in the end, it was due to sheer mental and physical exhaustion.
I went into labour the morning of June 24th. After a few hours, we decided to call our friends who had offered to take our boys away until the baby was born, and let them know it was looking like the big day. They came soon after we called and collected Odyssey and Meridian. These were the only other people who knew that I was in labour. We did not make any other calls.
For the first 12 hours, I experienced the sensation of contractions, but my husband and I relaxed, sipped sweet red wine, made soy ice-cream shakes and fruit smoothies, did a plaster body cast of the pregnancy, took a beautiful walk around our neighbourhood, enjoyed intimacy, and took dips in the birth pool when ever we wanted, NONE of which would have been permitted in a hospital.
When labour had progressed to the height of it's intensity, we got in the pool and I stood or knelt with the contractions, swaying and allowing whatever sounds I needed to make, be it groans or screams. I was convinced around 9:00 pm that night that the baby would crown at any minute. I was in more pain than I'd ever been in, and the contractions were so close together that there was scarcely time for me to catch my breath between them. But the hours went by, and still no baby. I started to loose sight of the mission, forgetting that a baby was trying to be born, I started seeing myself as a tortured animal, screaming and enduring wave after wave of blinding agony. I remember looking around the room for a point of focus, only I couldn't focus, things looked blurry and far away. I started saying things like, "I can't take another one! I can't do it!"
Keith, by my side through it all, calmly stated, "You can do it. You are doing it. This is natural, this is what needs to happen for the baby to be born".
In that simple phrase, he brought me back to the reality that a baby was coming down and I was a partner with that baby in achieving his birth. I started speaking (yelling) at the baby, "YOU have to be born NOW! Right now, with THIS contraction!"
The pain was so bad I was throwing up everything I'd eaten. I started to get afraid. My mind began to race with scenarios: the baby was breech, the placenta was blocking the cervical opening, back labour (where the baby faces the wrong way and his spine runs against his mother's) etc. I finally said to Keith, "I think there's a complication."
That was the hardest thing for me to say, until the next thing I said, "If only an ambulance could come and..." and what? "And they could give me something. Gas me. I just need sleep".
Tears came to Keith's eyes. "What do you want me to do? Who do you want me to call? I'll do whatever you want."
He started to get up, ready to make a call.
"No, wait", I gasped. "Wait, I can't move. I can't get out of this tub. I won't be able to get in the ambulance".
Keith said, "They will help you. They will give you something. Put you on a stretcher. Take you to the hospital."
(Oh my gosh, I'm getting emotional just recalling this conversation).
I closed my eyes and listened to Keith's strait forward prediction. I pictured everything he described in perfect clarity: The paramedics running up the stairs, bursting into the room, the mask that would stop the pain. I imagined being lifted out of the water, where I wanted my child to be born, and put on a stretcher, carried to the ambulance, taken to the hospital.
Suddenly, I found incredible strength. I said, "I don't care if I tear from front to back and have the hugest bowl movement of my life. I am going to push this baby our right now."
And then I pushed as if my life depended on it, because, quite frankly, it did. And that's when my water FINALLY broke. Since I was kneeling in a pool of water, it was a very strange sensation, like a canon ball rushing down me and exploding out. "Something huge just happened!" I told Keith. "Now I'm going to push out the baby".
I gave another enormous push, and the baby's head appeared. Keith reached under and announced that he could feel it's ears and face. "Deliver the shoulder! Deliver the shoulder!" I screamed. He reached under again and freed the baby's arm. The baby slipped out. Keith guided him to the surface and helped me step over the umbilical cord so he could place the baby on my chest.
"A boy!" he breathed, "2:28 AM."
the small purple person for the first time was so jarring. He really
seem little at all. He was huge and real and flapping his arms out. All
the pain had stopped. I took him and held him against me. I suctioned
his nose with my mouth and used my finger to remove the
mucus from his mouth. Keith got a clean washcloth and I
wiped away most of that cheesy substance that coats
us when we're first born. Then, I place my nipple in the baby's mouth and he eagerly nursed. Keith brought a clean baby blanket (left over from Meridian's hospital birth) for me to wrap our baby in. After the baby's color had come to his face, and his lips had gone from bright red to a pale blush, Keith helped us out of the pool and we took a shower, the 3 of us, while the baby was still tethered to his placenta, which was still inside of me.
Then we laid down on the bed, and I delivered the placenta onto a waterproof mat. At this point, the baby and placenta were still attached by the cord. Keith brought over the sterilized string and scissors. He tied the string a few inches from the baby's navel and prepared to cut the cord, until I said, "Could I do it?"
"Sure" he said, passing me the scissors. I cut through the cord and Keith took the placenta away.
We slept a little, then I woke up very hungry, so we went downstairs and had some soup. After dinner, we went back to bed with New Baby, tightly swaddled and snuggled between us. We slept soundly.
The next day, I called my midwife to report a successful birth. She had diagnosed me early on with beta strep, something that occurs naturally in 1/3 of all women, but it can create a complication in childbirth because the baby can be infected. This was a risk I refused to believe would infect my child or scare me out of the birth we wanted. When I described the detail about my water breaking at the end, my midwife exclaimed, "Oh, excellent! That's exactly what we would have hoped for. It is impossible to pass the infection to the baby if he is born as the water breaks!"
Wow. This is how, by trusting in God and nature, rather than in doctors and technology, my baby was protected by the natural unfolding of this labour. In the hospital, it's very likely that amniotomy (artificial breaking of the bag of waters) would have been used to speed up my labour, so an I.V. would have been required to combat the risk of beta strep infection, and this would have removed the possibility of a water birth. As it was, without permission, instruction or supervision of trained persons, my husband and I welcomed a perfectly healthy baby in exactly the way he needed to be safely born.
has been a life changing event for me. I was disillusioned by the
medical world prior to this birth, and now I see them with
even greater disregard. I now believe it is totally absurd
for any healthy woman carrying a healthy child to check into
a hospital. I might even go so far as to proclaim it reckless. I regret
having done that to my first 2 children, and if I had it all to do over
again, it would be nothing but unassisted childbirth for me every time. The irony is that my hardest, most painful labour was also my most beautiful. It was more than natural, it was fully unadulterated.
The next day, when, as I mentioned, I took the baby to the produce market to have him weighed, people who saw me out with him were astonished to hear he was less than 24 hours old, "And they already let you out of the hospital?!?", they'd exclaim.
"Hospital? I had him in my bedroom." Once he was born, I did what ever I wanted." I happily replied. And just in that sentence, the freedom and empowerment of an unassisted childbirth shines through.
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Page Last Modified by Catherine Beier, MS, CBE
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