My dream was to birth my baby in water after hearing the birth stories of my friends who had amazing experiences labouring and delivering their babies in a pool. I grew up in Brazil were birth is completely medicalised: most of my friends back home had c-sections, and even for a vaginal delivery, its standard to have many interventions (at least to have an episiotomy, and a hormone drip to speed up labour), even if all is progressing well. I knew that I didn’t want to give birth that way. I didn’t want medical interventions unless they were totally necessary. I really wanted to have an active and more natural birth, be in control of my body and mind during the birth of my baby. I did prepare for it, though, like for a marathon. I tried to keep active and fit doing yoga, swimming and lots of walking. Hypnobirthing was key to keep me focused and involve my husband and prepare him to be my birth partner. Towards the end of pregnancy I did everything I could to bring on labour naturally – raspberry leaf tea, pineapple, curry, reflexology… the list goes on.
My plan was to continue working until my labour started. On a rainy Monday coming home during the rush hour and going down the escalators at Baker Street station, I felt baby dropping so low as if he could come out then and there. When I got home I phoned my boss to say I wasn’t going back to work and was officially on maternity leave.
Over that week I was practicing yoga and walking miles everyday. On Friday I went out for lunch with a friend, it was a bitter cold January day, I had to go home immediately after food as I could feel baby pushing down. The whole week I couldn’t sleep very well but on Friday night I couldn’t actually lie down in bed as it felt really uncomfortable, so I spent the night on my nursing chair; somehow sitting felt more comfortable than lying down. Around 5am I woke up and moved to bed. By 6am my waters broke, the bed was so wet, and as I stood up and moved around more water would come down. I could feel some contractions but they were really mild and not painful. I called Homerton Hospital as I was planning to give birth at the birth centre, they said to go in but not to rush. I prepared a warm bath and went to have breakfast- pineapple with yogurt and granola. After eating I felt the contractions were starting to feel a bit stronger so we decided it was time to make our way to the birth centre. We were a bit unlucky as we got there around 7am and they kept us in the waiting area until the midwife shift change at 8am. It was a really uncomfortable wait on hard chairs, I kept going in and out of the toilet thinking that I had to go but it was just baby pushing down. As the contractions got stronger I threw up all my breakfast and I felt really uneasy going through it in the waiting area. Once the midwives started their morning shift, the contractions were getting pretty strong and I was taken for a check up on a very hard, uncomfortable bed.
I did feel a bit desperate and asked to be given an epidural. But the midwives had good news, I was 8cm dilated so not long to go! It made me feel better knowing that our baby was close. I’m glad it was too late for an epidural, otherwise we would have had a totally different experience.
We handed our birth plan to the midwives and made sure that they knew we wanted a natural water birth. They took us to our room and while they filled the bath I struggled with finding a good position in bed. Once I entered the pool, pain relief from warm water was immediate and there I stayed until the end of second stage of labour. We had the hypnobirthing audios playing in the background, the light was low, I was practicing the breathing exercises and using gas and air to help me go through the strong sensations. I didn’t want to force push but breath the baby out as we had learned at the hypnobirthing course. I think that it delayed the process and it felt like baby was stuck in the birth canal. At that point contractions seemed to have totally stopped, it was a bit odd, nothing was happening… so I asked the midwives if they could help me somehow. They said that they could take us to the delivery suite for an episiotomy or instrumental delivery – all the interventions I didn’t want to experience. My husband Stephen was helping me while I was squatting in the water.
Pretty quickly I started pushing and at 11:59am Callen was born, in water, in my arms. I picked him up myself and brought him to my chest. It was the most amazing feeling, that moment was magical! He didn’t cry , he was looking at me, and started nursing straight away. Everything felt really calm.
We were in the water for a bit, waiting for the cord to stop pulsating. I then delivered the placenta naturally 15 minutes after Callen. We moved to bed for a check up, I hadn’t torn which was a big bonus at the end of such an intense and beautiful 6 hour experience. I totally recommend perineum massage during the end of pregnancy, it worked for me!
We had fish and chips in bed at the birth centre, it tasted divine. Then we had a bit of rest and lots of feeding. My baby boy was 51cm long and weighted 3.5kg and he was very hungry! We just wanted to go home, but midwives wanted Callen checked before we left. We ended up leaving the hospital around 10pm. The best part was to get back home with a healthy baby in our arms.
Such an empowering and beautiful birth experience made me feel happy, strong and confident to follow my instincts during the motherhood journey.
I’m now 33 weeks pregnant of our second child and planning for a home birth, a water birth for sure!