"Birth is a major thing in your life and if it doesn’t go well, it stays with you for a long time"
Marysia chose to have her second baby in water. Her first birth experience had been difficult and involved medical intervention that left her feeling emotionally scarred and disempowered. When she became pregnant again, she vowed from the beginning to remain in control of her subsequent birth.
“Birth is a major thing in your life and if it doesn’t go well, it stays with you for a long time”.
My first birth had gone badly for reasons I believe were related to having an epidural. So many things went wrong in the way my labour was managed. I was 16 days overdue, and they were desperate to induce me. They had called me in the night before but I chose to stay at home so I could at least have a decent sleep. When I arrived at the hospital at 9am the following day, the hospital was too busy to induce me because there were so many women in labour. I stayed in hospital until 7pm when my waters burst and I went into labour. There was still no labour room available so I was given a side room with three other women with only a curtain between us. I felt as though I had no nesting place. I had just gone wam-bam into contractions and they took me to a room with a small table not much bigger than a portable massage couch. They gave me gas, and I kept sucking, saying, it’s broken, it doesn’t work. It was broken.
I never got to relax. It was like this for two or three hours. I had to walk from one ward to another, in a short t-shirt. I was dressed so inappropriately. I remember having a contraction in the hallway, bending over a trolley, bum in the air. People were walking by, they could see everything.
From the beginning, I was not comfortable, I was not in control.
The pain was so intense I thought I couldn’t cope and I asked for an epidural. I noticed it weakened my contractions so much so that they disappeared. I asked the midwives if this was an adverse side effect of an epidural but they were reluctant to say. Eventually they told me it was possible. I couldn’t push because I couldn’t feel anything. The labour was getting longer, and I was aware that this brings with it the risk of not enough oxygen being supplied to the baby.
In the end they used the biggest forceps and tore me to bits. By this stage I’d been going all day, all night, three different wards, three different beds, the staff had changed shifts, no one was watching. I knew there was something wrong as I was losing too much blood, but everyone was looking at the baby. I remember saying something is wrong, there’s something wrong, I’m going, I’m going…
My blood pressure hit rock bottom, I vomited, I was almost passing out.
Then they took me to theatre. I was haemorrhaging. I had a blood transfusion that night.
Most women would have said that they would never have gone through childbirth again. And looking back I didn’t know any differently at the time. My experience scarred me emotionally and for weeks I felt it was my fault. I felt like a failure. It also took me weeks to heal physically from the episiotomy and the bruising incurred where they had applied pressure to stop the haemorrhaging.
Many women go to have birth, women who are competent, strong-minded people who make important decisions everyday in both their personal and professional life, yet they go to give birth and do not make their own decisions. They don’t know their options and they allow their birth to be taken away from them. I was one of those women the first time around. I didn’t want to be that person for a second time.
I originally chose water as a method of pain control. I hadn’t intended to give birth in water. I began to investigate what was involved in having a birthing pool at home but as it turned out, the only practical place for it was downstairs in the dining room due to the weight of the water. Because we have a tenant downstairs who would have heard the entire labour, I decided to find another option. I was determined to get the birth I wanted.
I found a hospital with a birthing pool and begged and begged them take me. They did. When my waters broke, I was at home and didn’t tell anyone. I had a bath, went for a walk, it was my own little secret. I stayed at home for as much of the labour as possible. The hospital only has one birthing pool and there was no guarantee that it would be free. Luckily someone had just finished with it when I arrived.
I made the birthing room mine. I had heard talk of this first time around and had dismissed it, underestimating the positive effect it has on your birth experience. This time I took my own music, burnt lavender essential oil, moved the furniture, placing the bed against the wall so it was cosy. I took my own pillows and packed lots of carbohydrates to keep my energy up. I had already decided that there was no way was I going to be on my back this time. Instead I was on all fours with pillows underneath for support. What I didn’t know was that you had to be 4cm dilated before you could get in the pool and it was a good few hours before I could move into the water.
My midwife saw that I knew what I was doing and left me alone to focus on my breathing.
I practised the form of yoga breathing I had learned in class. My yoga teacher had taught me to welcome each contraction, say hello to it, receive it, then say good bye to it and send it away. With each contraction I drew a deep breath in followed by an extended out-breath continuing until the end of each contraction. As I breathed, I pictured a mountain, breathing up to its peak then down the other side. I stayed focussed by making a noise, a chant, like a arrrrhhhhhmmmmmmmmm. It helped to keep my concentration. I became obsessed about the whole thing but I believe it was the breathing that enabled me to cope with the pain.
At one point my husband came in unwrapping his sandwiches. It completely broke my concentration. I remember asking him calmly, but very firmly, to be quiet.
I was able to control the pain almost right up until the birth. The most difficult part was getting into the pool between contractions. Once I was in there, it was fantastic.The water is very warm. It has to be for the baby. After a while, my midwife examined me and asked if I wanted to give birth under water. Out of 2000 births, only eight had been born underwater at this hospital. I felt so comfortable in the water and already I was fully dilated. I was about to have the baby.
I had a sudden urge to push, but knew I had to resist as I’d risk tearing. I remember holding on for dear life and then the head popped out… and then the body… and my baby floated to the surface! I couldn’t believe it. It was just plop, plop, and Konrad was born.
There were little white blobs in the water from the vernix. I had been expecting to see a lot of blood but there wasn’t a drop. The water was completely clear. I was so ecstatic. My second birth was a dream. I felt so proud. I kept saying, I did it! I did it!
In water there is no weight on you, it has a wonderful calming effect. You can be in whatever position you want, squatting, or leaning forward supporting yourself on the edge of the pool. It feels natural to move around. The whole process is so much more relaxed. No fists clenched, no white knuckles. I had one tiny tear.
Konrad is a nice boy. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with the birth, but he’s very calm.
After my first birth, I remained in hospital for eight days. Following my waterbirth, I went home that same day.