Water Birth – hasn’t it always been an option?

Posted by on Apr 9, 2014 in Birth | 0 comments

Water Birth – hasn’t it always been an option?

That was the question asked of me when I was a guest in a friend’s birth class. My response, “I’ve been waiting 33 years to hear someone say that.  It’s music to my ears!”

Two pregnant Moms had been chatting as we were waiting for the workshop to begin.  One said she was planning her second water birth because the first was so wonderful.  The second said she was planning for her first birth to be a water birth. I asked, “Do you know how water birth came to be available in the U. S.?  There followed their wondrous reply! Next followed a host of questions, how DID it get started?  Tell us more.

I told them, many ideas set the scene for the occurrence of water birth.  These are some that were important to me:  One, the growing awareness that babies (and all of us) are conscious at birth and impacted in ways that affect their/our health and well-being from conception on. Many parents (like myself) and others  were becoming aware of the importance of the perinatal period and making changes to support the health of the mom, baby and family.

A second factor:  the publication of Birth without Violence, by Frederick Leboyer, MD., who was impacted by his own experience of birth memories. This led him to take the perspective of the baby and imagine how the various processes, procedures and attitudes customarily surrounding birth might affect a newborn coming into this world.

A third factor:  the growing practice of Rebirthing breathing, done in pools of water, as a way to release stresses going  back to the birth experience. Many of the couples who were drawn to using water in their birth also had meaningful experiences through the water Rebirthing experience.

My husband and I and friends of ours, also pregnant and due the same date, began sharing ideas for our impending births when we met at Rebirthing conferences.  Both of us Moms knew how comfortable we felt relaxing and breathing in a tub of warm water.  We knew we wanted to labor in water.  We also knew our babies were in the warm water of our bellies and would like coming out into warm water. It seemed obvious to us to ask, why not stay in the tub and birth the baby there?

We two quietly kept talking and doing our investigation:  What causes the baby to take its first breath? How long does the umbilical cord and placenta function? How to monitor the heart tones? How to do an apgar score of the baby? And, the BIG question:  Would any birth professionals attend our births if we wanted the option to birth our babies into the water?

I had an even bigger challenge.  I lost my first child eight years earlier from drowning in a pool.  I was not about to do anything that would endanger the birth of my second child. My feeling that laboring and even birthing in warm water was a sacred comforting space for me and my baby would, like a wave, roll up against, “but you’ve lost a child through the water.”  It was quite a journey through those months of pregnancy.  I, in fact, did not make a definite decision to birth in the water until days before the actual birthing itself. I also left myself and the baby the option to choose out of it at the last moments.

When I returned to Texas from our conference, I began to talk with MD’s and Midwives about my idea.  All said some version of NO.  I began working with pregnant women to  help them prepare for their  births by looking at their own births.  Soon, midwives were asking me to come to births and help with breathing and affirmations. Eventually a few midwives said, “Well, alright. We’ll attend your birth.”   All of them, I am quite sure,  hoping and keeping their fingers crossed that it would not get out in the public, or mean being reprimanded professionally or worse still, going to jail. (Midwives have always been brave people, have you noticed?)

At last I could breathe a sigh of relief, knowing we would have attendants at our birthing. I was especially grateful since I had been born by planned C-Section and laboring etc. felt like a foreign concept to me at that time. Our friends had their baby six days before we birthed Mela, November 5, 1980, both lovingly born into warm water and our loving arms.

Did our children thrive? Yes. Did more and more women/families desire water births? Yes. Were there challenges to overcome from public and professionals? Yes. Will the stories of the early days of water birth in the U.S. be saved and made easily accessible to those who wish to know? Yes with help from me, you and our friends.

Next Blog: Water Birth – People Began Calling from all over the World

Project One: From Handbook for Water Birth to The Healing Power of Birth