Home Birth Reference Site

A Waterborne Birth Story
by Joanne W

“Itís not possible” I groaned. “Itís just not possible”. What I had known for many months, that I would have to push a babyís head out of my vagina, I only now properly understood. And I didn't really think I could do it. The irresistibility of the pushing urge had taken me by surprise. I'd imagined that perhaps it might be a little like having a tickly throat and having the urge to cough. A sort of “Oh, I think I need to push. Right, I'll get on and do that”. I wasn't prepared for my body to give me no choice about when to push.

* * *

I had been overdue for what seemed like a very long time. The days passed and I lumbered round the narrowboat where I live, bumping into things because of the limited space and because I couldn't see my feet. Everything I needed for my home birth was ready but my baby seemed happy to stay put for a while yet.

I'd wanted to give birth somewhere I could feel safe and relaxed and it was very important to me to have a midwife who I knew and trusted. So I'd decided to give birth on my floating home, attended by an independent midwife, Debs.

One night I drifted off to sleep but awoke only a couple of hours later in a small puddle. At first, half-asleep, I couldn't understand why the bed was wet – after 10 days overdue I couldn't believe that labour was ever going to start. My partner Paul and I looked at each other with a mixture of excitement and trepidation… this could be it! As it was about 12:30am we decided to be sensible and get some sleep before things really got going.

I only dozed for a short while before mild contractions started. Relaxation exercises were all I needed until about 3am – first lying in bed and then rhythmically circling my hips on my birthing ball. The dull red glow of the fire and gentle rocking of the boat felt very peaceful. Gradually the contractions strengthened and I woke Paul up and asked him to put on my TENS machine. I wanted to ring Debs, my midwife, but Paul suggested doing some relaxation exercises instead and put on the Hypnobirthing CD. Leaning over my birthing ball on my knees was now the most comfortable position, and circling my hips and concentrating on the coloured mists of the visualisation helped to keep the pain manageable.

Just as I started to find the relaxation exercises could no longer keep the pain in check, I made a wonderful discovery. If I sang a single deep note: “Laaaaahh” during a contraction, the tightening of my womb no longer felt so distressing. The lower and louder the note, the more empowering it felt! At about 6am I did ring Debs for some reassurance Ė the contractions were coming about every 3 or 4 minutes and very intense now. My “laaah”s were becoming “urrrgghhhh”s! I started to dread visiting the toilet because the change to a more upright position brought on contractions of dizzying strength. I knew the pain deep in my pelvis was a good sign that the contractions were drawing open my cervix, and this knowledge really helped me to keep going.

At 8:30am, now on my hands and knees on the floor and getting pretty tired, I looked longingly at the gas and air cylinder and decided to call Debs over so I could use it. 20 minutes or so later, I was much more comfortable. “This is great stuff”, I said, grinning from ear to ear, “brilliant”. And it took the edge off the contractions..

The next few hours passed in a blur. I didn't think about how much longer it would take. In fact, I'd specifically asked Paul and Debs not to tell me what time it was and how I was progressing. I didn't even have any internal examinations to cause me pain and distraction. Paul rubbed my shoulders, gave me sips of water and sports drinks and gently encouraged me. Debs mostly sat quietly, occasionally and unobtrusively monitoring the baby's heartbeat, but told me how well I was doing whenever I expressed any self-doubt. At one point I noticed I was curling my toes. “Aha”, I thought “perhaps I'm in transition”. I felt as though I was two people: one completely absorbed in the emotional and physical turmoil of giving birth, and the other a rational and distanced observer. I kept twitching my pelvic floor to see if I could feel the baby's head moving down, but time passed and still I couldn't feel him descending.

Then, at last, came the astounding power of those pushes. With each contraction I gave two or three or four pushes and each time my baby moved down further before slipping back a little. He descended slowly, allowing time for everything to stretch. As his head crowned I felt huge pressure, not on my perineum, but at the front. I was glad of the gas and air... and then it ran out! The whole big cylinder, gone, and it was too late for anyone to go to Debs's car to get the other cylinder. I knew I had to do it by myself now, and I knew I could. More and more of the baby's head became visible. I heard Paul say “He won't be able to get out, his ears are too big”. “oh dear”, I thought, but had no choice but to keep pushing. What he'd actually said was “you're doing really well, we'll be able to see his ears next contraction”. I have no idea how I heard something so different!

Just a few contractions later, at 1:45pm our baby boy slithered out with a rush of waters, soaking Paul in the process. I held his slippery body as close as his short cord allowed, feeling overwhelmed by the shock of meeting my baby at last. We waited until he had all his blood back from the cord and then Paul cut through the strangely rubbery substance. Paul held our newborn son against his naked chest whilst I delivered the placenta. A little while later the three of us were cuddled up in bed, with Oliver (as we'd decided to call him) licking my nipples. Our beautiful boat baby had arrived.

Joanne W


Which hypnotherapy course did you use?

I used the Mongan Hypobirthing CD - I'd been on the course led by Cheryl Mason http://www.cherylmason.co.uk/. I'd also done pregnancy yoga at the Yorkshire Yoga Centre http://www.yorkshireyoga.co.uk/.

Did you find it difficult to book a homebirth?

Because I booked with my independent midwife very early in pregnancy (Debs Rhodes, http://www.independentbirth.com/), I didn't really have any resistance to a home birth. I did have an NHS booking appointment at which eyebrows were raised at the idea of a home birth on a boat (I guess this falls into the "unsuitable home" category), although in all fairness when I explained that we did have heating, hot water and electricity the NHS midwife seemed reasonably relaxed. My family was very supportive too, though colleagues kept saying "you're very brave planning a home birth". This might have worried me if I hadn't been totally sure that this would be the best thing for me.

Related pages:

Home Birth Stories

Pain relief - what are your options at home?

First Babies and homebirth

Independent Midwives - what they do, and where to find one.

Overdue - but still want a homebirth? When is 'postdates' risky?


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