Birth Series (2) – A Water Birth Experience

An introduction and disclosure

If you’re here without having read birth story #1, that’s okay, but it will make more sense if you do.

And if you’re a Sparknotes kind of person, just check out my at-a-glance analysis of the 2 experiences.

As always, I try to write tasteful content, but I also strive for honesty, so prepare for a little TMI. I assume that you’re here, nosing into my blog, so you’re here for it, the good, the bad, and the personal. 😉

“We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.”

The Family: A Proclamation to the World

It took me a long time to get to the point where I could process this story enough to share it. I thank the Lord for giving me the strength and faith to have another child and to seek a different path. I testify that He was with me, every step of the way.

I hope my story is enlightening and even encouraging to you. I believe in the strength and blessing of motherhood. Women, babies, birth—it’s all part of God’s divine design.

Baby #2 birth – the hippie way

A prologue

I was pregnant with my first baby when I was out walking with my sweet grandma near her home. We passed by a cute building that I noticed was advertising water birth.

My grandma asked me, “Wow, a water birth. Doesn’t that sound so relaxing?”

I actually laughed at her. I adamantly explained that birth was going to be the hardest thing ever for me, and there was no way I would ever do it without an epidural.

This is the story how, 2 years later, I gave birth, in the water, at that same birth center.

Beginning a paradigm shift

When I found out I was pregnant again, I began a rigorous self- and Spirit-led course of study and prayer. Besides the scriptures and general conference addresses, these are the sources that most influenced my choices with this birth: “Birth Series (A) – Childbirth Research Reviews”.

I didn’t know exactly what I wanted with this birth, but I knew I wanted something very different from the last one. I believed that these were some of the root problems from my first birth that I wanted to prepare to overcome for this second one:

  • Lack of preparation and education on my part
  • Hospital procedures (I suspected at least the epidural, maybe more)
  • Not working with my husband to set and defend boundaries
  • An anxious atmosphere

With this birth, I looked for anything that would make things different for me.

Preparation, moving doctors, and moving

Right away, I chose a new doctor at a different hospital. He was fantastic! He started asking me questions about what I wanted, and I felt much more in control of my birth experience. (I’m happy to make a recommendation.) He also prescribed me a slightly different anti-nausea medicine that I usually kept down; it made this pregnancy significantly more bearable.

I liked him a lot, but I felt like God was nudging me further in another direction. I felt him guide me through a vast amount of new information, which I took in via books, websites, and birth classes.

I hired a wonderful doula (whom I would also recommend). She was another great resource to talk through physical and emotional things going on throughout my pregnancy. She encouraged me to make this next step:

It was just after 20 (out of 40) weeks of pregnancy when I switched providers and began seeing a midwife at a birth center.

I loved my new midwife, who helped me take even more ownership of my experience. She guided me through diet and lifestyle solutions to symptoms I was experiencing (beyond nausea; I continued with the anti-nausea medicine for most of my pregnancy).

My midwife required I take a birth class; my husband and I enrolled in a Hypnobirthing class and practiced relaxation techniques together daily.

When I was around 30 weeks, we moved an hour and a half away from my midwife.

This was a stressful development, but we made plans to move in with my very generous grandparents at about 37 weeks so we could stay near my midwife until the baby came and I was somewhat recovered.

But one night at 36 weeks, after we had just settled into our new rental 90 minutes away from the birth center, I felt labor start up. I laid on the bed and willed my labor to stop. At the same time, I instructed my husband as he started packing our bags to be able to go at a moment’s notice.

Thankfully, it proved to be yet another round of false labor. Apparently, that’s how my body does labor. Still, we bumped up our schedule by a few days to get to my grandparents’ house.

My cute grandpa helping take care of our toddler while we stayed with them.

Take two again – but different

For the next several weeks, I had a lot of contractions, but patterned labor didn’t truly return until I had just surpassed 39 weeks.

Living on an exercise ball for that last few weeks.

All through church that Sunday, I had consistent contractions, but they were still well over 5 minutes apart. I went for a walk with my husband and tried to get things moving. I called my doula that day, and she helped talk me down from the stress and told me to let my body do what it was going to do on its own schedule. Around 11:00 pm, my labor started really getting intense. My doula came over, then she, my husband, and I went to the birth center a little before 1:00 am. I called my mom to come over in the morning and help my grandparents with our toddler for while I was at the birth center.

My midwife was there with her assistant. She had left the back door unlocked, and we let ourselves in.

An obsessive aside: the atmosphere

(Did you know the artsy millionaire inside of me really likes interior design? I try not to feed her obsession, because real me is too poor.)

The birth center was a far cry from the all-white, super sanitized feel of the labor and delivery floor of the hospital.

The beautiful Victorian home turned birth center featured two birth suites: the main floor and the third floor. The main floor still sported many antique and era-appropriate features, including a big, beautiful bathtub.

However, despite the doors sectioning out the rooms, I had fallen in love with the less popular suite on the top floor. Although it didn’t have a door to the room, it felt much more private. Up a narrow flight of stairs, the spacious loft had been remodeled with a more modern and somewhat over-the-top ocean/mermaid theme. The bathroom was a new addition, with a compact toilet and shower, and the birthing tub had to be inflated in the main living/bedroom area. The suite had a beautiful view of the temple and the sky, and I felt safe up there.

Back to the actual story – labor at the birth center

(This is the TMI you came here for.)

But let me tell you, going up the stairs in active labor was quite a bit of an achievement. The stairs were definitely the biggest downside.

I got settled on the couch. The midwife’s assistant checked my vitals and my baby’s heartbeat, then she pretty much left me alone. My midwife was out of the room most of the time; her assistant hung out at a desk that looked like it came from a high school on the far side of the spacious loft, working on some paperwork.

My doula and my husband just supported me. They helped me get comfortable, stay fed and watered, and try to relax through each contraction. I spent a lot of time on my side, and I think I dozed through a lot of it. The contractions were increasing in intensity, but for most of this time, I felt like the contractions took a lot of focus to relax through, and were even quite uncomfortable, but I felt mostly in control.

After perhaps two or three hours, the assistant offered to start filling up the tub, and I agreed. It took close to another hour for it to finish filling up. I went to the bathroom before getting in. I remember getting to the bathroom and then getting to the tub were starting to be challenging tasks.

At this point, I was only getting perhaps a minute of rest between each contraction, and they were getting very intense.

I had heard a lot of people say that getting in the tub would be the best moment. Many women describe the water as taking the edge off the pain, or even mostly washing it away. I did not experience that. If anything, getting in the water made for a more painful laboring experience. It’s hard to say if the water truly made it worse or if my labor was really just progressing. Either way, I’m certain this was about exactly the moment I hit transition.

The contractions started to get very, very powerful. It seemed to take over my body. I had a bit of a hard time keeping my head above water. Every time a contraction hit, I felt the urge to lie down again, but I no longer could.

I felt every contraction come on painfully right on the spot that had hurt most of my pregnancy, right at the bottom of my spine and center of the back of my hips, at the sacrum area. My wonderful doula decided that some counterpressure would help. I agreed and quickly begged them to keep the pressure there all the time. I couldn’t wait to tell them to do it when a contraction started because it came on so quickly so painfully. With the counterpressure, I felt much more in control and able to breathe through the contractions.

Then time started warping. It felt like it could have been five minutes or several hours. I know now that it was only around one hour. Somehow, on my knees and draped over the side of the tub, I mostly lost consciousness between each contraction.

Suddenly, I knew I needed to push. When I announced that I was going to start pushing, my midwife joined my husband and my doula around the pool.

At this point, I started getting really nauseous; I warned my team to get ready with a bag. My midwife quickly produced some mint essential oils, which definitely took the edge off of the nausea. I breathe-pushed through one or two contractions, but then at the next one, I hardly had a moment to get a barf bag under my face when I threw up right as I pushed. I was very surprised to discover that it actually felt almost great to throw up—like not that I felt better after, but that the act of throwing up felt really good. I had thrown up a lot of times (like seriously a freak ton of times) while pregnant, but this was the first time I had experienced that. My doula called that counterpressure, too.

Right as/before my baby crowned, I definitely felt what people call “the ring of fire.” This was the one part that was truly very, very painful. I leaned forward on my knees against the side of the pool and cried out in pain.

It didn’t last long; at least, it didn’t feel like long. Suddenly, my baby’s head was out, and the rest of him. In the end, it took 20 minutes of pushing to get him out. My midwife caught him and handed him to me.

Meeting baby #2

He’s here + a smooth recovery

I immediately felt great relief. I flipped onto my bottom and rested against the wall of the pool as I held my baby. He was calm, trying to blink around at me and the bright world around him. I was exhausted. My husband and I spoke to him and stroked his head. I smoothed his head and his back, running some of the water from the pool over him to clean him a little and keep him warm. Within a few moments, I got to help him latch and practice nursing briefly. (It was that fast!)

It was truly a sweet moment. I remember being shocked that I wasn’t in more pain. Time was still a little difficult to gauge, but after several minutes, my midwife helped me deliver the placenta, and she cut the cord.

At the birth center

I remember being surprised by a few things. I was surprised the water wasn’t yuckier, as I had imagined. I was also surprised by my ability to sit on my bottom without feeling tremendous pain. I was sore, for sure, but I didn’t feel anything like the pain I had had postpartum with my first baby.

Time was still pretty blurry. I think it was about a half hour to an hour after the birth when everyone helped me out, I dried off, used the bathroom, and put on a loose nursing dress. I think it was at this time that my midwife began performing some postnatal tests on my baby.  

They helped me into the pretty queen bed. My doula bid me a flowery, loving farewell. My midwife finished up weighing and collecting drops of blood for my baby’s blood test, then I received my one and only vaginal check from my midwife.

My midwife completed a few more checks on me. She inked my baby’s feet and decorated the birth center certificate with the feet, then a square of fabric for the birth center’s wall. She gave me some informational handouts, a belly wrap to borrow, and a menu to order breakfast to deliver from a local restaurant.

My midwife helped her assistant finish packing and cleaning up, then left my husband, me, and my new sweet baby alone in the loft of the birth center. “You can leave whenever you’re ready, in an hour, or later tonight.”

(It was a sweet thought, but the breakfast delivery payment actually had a glitch, so the food never came! I was ravenous, so my sweet mom brought food from my grandma’s house over. She stayed for about 15 minutes, then headed back.)

My husband and I got to snuggle our new sweet baby for a few hours. I treasure that time.

Then, we brought him home to my grandparents’ house. We stayed there for about another week before returning to our home a couple hours away. During that week, I received a few postpartum visits from my midwife and her assistant. They gave me 3 herbal sitz baths and hot rock massages on my belly.

It was so sweet to get so much snuggle time while my grandparents helped with the toddler.

My doula visited me a couple days after the birth as well. She brought me a perfect care package, complete with a cute houseplant, padsicles, and coconut oil for nipple cream.

My sweet baby slept in the storage room inside the basement bedroom my husband and I were staying in at my grandparents’ house.

He is truly a very healthy and happy baby.

Yes, there were some hard parts

I certainly had some vaginal soreness, but it was not nearly so intense nor as long-lasting as my first birth’s. It was practically gone after about 10 days.

I also had a lot of cramp-like abdominal pains—something I had barely experienced with my first birth—that were intense and frequent for about 10 days, then infrequent and less intense for the next couple weeks after that.

I had a lot of soreness from breastfeeding and, after coming home from the birth center, my baby started struggling to find a latch for the first couple of days. My midwife connected us with a very sweet, independent lactation specialist. She trained me in lactation as if I didn’t know anything at all (which was perfect). It just took a little bit of work for a couple days, then he was feeding just fine. He never needed to supplement with formula, and I never needed any nipple shields or other crazy equipment.

The only way he has been harder than my first baby is the frequency at which he’s needed to eat. My first loved to sleep very long stretches at night, but my second needed more frequent feedings as a newborn and now, as an older baby, still wakes much more frequently at night to eat.

Baby #2 at 4 months old

A happier end

There are a lot of voices who talk about natural birth. Some say it can be pain-free. I wouldn’t call my natural birth experience pain-free, but I would call it happy and empowering. I would absolutely choose it again.

Having this experience has helped me face and heal from my first birth experience. (Read here.)

It’s taken months of work, reflecting on and praying through both birth experiences, to bring these stories to you.

Lessons learned + at-a-glance comparison

For my very short notes analysis of the two experiences side-by-side, check out the final article in this (embarrassingly lengthy) series:

“Birth Series (3) – Comparing a Medical vs. a Natural Birth”

Chat about it

Now that I’ve borne some of my most personal moments to you, I’ll invite you to comment about it. (Yikes, that’s bad internet procedure.) How do these experiences compare with yours, or those of those you know? What surprised you?

2 thoughts on “Birth Series (2) – A Water Birth Experience

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