Water Birth, Crowning, Mom Catches, Vernix and More!

The Birth of Lewis sent in by Lola.

Photography by Marissa Froese. Do not copy or use without permission.

I suppose I should write it all down before it turns into that beautiful hazy oxytocin laced memory that may or may not be accurate at all.  To be honest, I don’t even know if I am the best person to tell the story because it’s very jumbled in my head.  Good jumbled.

We moved to Nova Scotia knowing we wanted to have another biological child.  I had already done all of my research and knew just how bleak my options looked in regards to my choice of care provider and birth place but we just trusted we would figure it out and know exactly what to do.  I have a history of fast, uncomplicated deliveries that have taken place at a hospital, home and a rented condo so we kind of knew what to expect from all different scenarios.  Anyway, my pregnancy started out normal with a healthy dose of major morning sickness.  Around four months I decided to go ahead and make my way into the system and arrange an appointment with a nurse practioner who then would get me in to see an OBGYN about an hour up the valley.

They were all nice.  I had an ultrasound because I wasn’t sure how or where I’d be giving birth and I wanted to check placenta positioning etc… Other than a low lying placenta that moved by my third trimester, everything was normal.  I continued to see my NP or OB randomly for the standard 3.5 second visits.  I had already bought a fetoscope so I could check my own baby’s heart rate whenever I wanted without a Doppler.  Given my history of fast deliveries, my Dr. suggested I be induced on my due date at the hospital so I would make it there on time.  That was not my favourite option.  I was seriously considering delivering at home with my own help but felt a little uncomfortable about it because our house is about twenty minutes from the closest ER and without many neighbours at all.

I had my supplies ordered just in case.  My cord clamps, fetoscope, scissors, chux pads etc.  From the beginning I had always been open to the idea of going to the hospital if that’s what I was supposed to do.  If that’s what I felt was safest for myself and the baby.  But they treat you like you have a disease here.  Like my baby would die if I postponed my prenatal appt. by a week if something came up.  Like my blood pressure would surely skyrocket so high that my head would explode if I didn’t rush in for their scheduled visits when they never once asked me how I ate or what my activity level was like.  They never once trusted  me to know my own body better than they did.

The hospital was looking less and less appealing.

I had a running discussion with my friend Marissa throughout my pregnancy and she was always willing to attend my birth.  I’m not really sure as what exactly.  A helping hand.  A calm person to bounce ideas off of.  Someone who trusted birth as well.  We tentatively planned for her to come here for the birth if I decided to stay or to come to the hospital with me if I decided to go.  I still felt a little unsettled about staying at home.  I decided that if I did stay I really wanted another person for more help.  One for me and one for the baby.  I instantly thought of my friend Donna who I actually met through my home schooling group.  I didn’t realize it but she’s attended births before and was very excited and willing to come as well.  I felt better.  I also invited her to bring her two kids along if she liked.

We collected more supplies.  Rubber gloves, bowls, towels.

And then something happened that just felt right.  Marissa offered to let me give birth at her house and Donna just happened to live next door to her.  Marissa only lives a few minutes from her local ER/clinic.   Donna is married to a Doctor.  She spoke to him about a few of my questions regarding who to call, what hospital was the best to go to in case of complications and where to get stitched up (my apprehension about the whole birth plan).   I felt completely ready.  So after the fireworks on Sunday, the first of July, we all headed over to Dan and Marissa’s to wait.

The next day,  after lunch, I had what I thought could be actual labour contractions.  I took a quick power nap, sent the kids to the playground with Mark and eventually got into the tub because they started to hurt.  My water hadn’t broken yet which was new for me.  I almost didn’t believe it was labour because it was so easy with the actual breaks in between contractions .  Marissa started getting things ready.  Towels, water, shepherds purse tincture as a bleeding preventative (it’s very effective).  I listened to the baby’s heart rate off and on and it was always between 120 and 130.  It really started to hurt and so I checked myself and felt a bulging bag of waters and what appeared to be a cervix that was dilated to about 4 cm’s.  I told her to call Dan and Mark to come home.  They got home and called Donna who came right away after a morning of riding with her Daughter.

And then, everything pretty much stopped.  Weird.  That never happens to me.  My labour doesn’t stop.  Donna was  knitting I think and Marissa was going back and forth between things.  Mark was up and down the stairs and the girls where in and out asking me questions about watching movies and eating.  Alberta seemed nervous and off.  Like a cat who follows you around when it senses pain.  I think it was only a few minutes that things slowed down but that’s so unlike my normal labours so it felt like forever.

And from there on out it’s pretty blurry.  I could be wrong with the order of things.  I just know that I stood up for a little bit and then sat back down in the tub.  I felt something sort of gush and assumed it was my water breaking and there were small clots of blood in it.  I was curious as that had never happened to me before.  I remember asking for the fetoscope a lot and always getting a very happy baby on the other end.

I started having one constant contraction.  Marissa was giving me water and talking to me and giving me more bathwater.  I had this ridiculous wash cloth on my head and it’s in all the pictures.   I don’ know how long it was, but I don’t think it was long at all.  Maybe 10 minutes.

I felt the baby’s head pop through my cervix in the birth canal.  My body started pushing and the water Marissa was putting in all of the sudden felt scorching hot.  I think it was actually luke warm 🙂  I had two pushing contractions that had me completely on my side in the tub trying not to bear down and then there was a head on my perineum.  I think this was all over the course of a few minutes.  It hurt very badly this time.  It didn’t feel calm or slow.  Just fast and raging.  Donna and Marissa told me to breath and not push (I told them to tell me this).  I tried and I think I was the loudest with this birth than any of my others.  Not screaming or yelling.  Just loudly explaining that it hurt 🙂  I think.  You’d have to ask everyone else there.

And then, just like that, the head popped right out.  And I waited.  It seemed like a long time but it wasn’t a minute.  The shoulders rotated and the body slide out.  Instant relief.  I think Mark came in right as the baby was coming out.  I pulled the baby to my chest I think and felt the cord.  It was HUGE and pulsing.

verix on newborn

The baby was pretty blue and not crying so I draped him across my hand and felt his legs pull up in reflex and under my hand a beautiful thumping heartbeat.  But he was quite stunned by the rapid entrance and I cared about nothing but getting some squeaks, breaths and a few cries.  I rubbed his spine.  I pulled him to my chest again, I think, and blew in his face.  He took a few shallow breathes.  I put him back over my hand and patted his bum and legs a bit and blew in his face again.  I checked his cord, still pumping.  And then he cried.  Not a lot but enough that I felt the whole room sort of breath in relief.  I don’t remember being worried but I do remember being very focused on the task at hand.  It felt like forever but it was a very short amount of time in actuality.  I think that his one minute and five minutes apgar scores would have been 7 and 9.  And to be honest, that first minute always seems like eternity.

newborn born in water pinking up

Anyway, he pinked up!  I was given shepherds purse tincture under my tongue and after about ten or fifteen minutes I delivered the placenta easily without even standing up.  It was intact from what we could tell.  Poor Marissa grabbed it with her bare hands to put it into the bowl.  We held it above the baby and by this time I had checked, under Mark’s suggestion, to see that it was a boy!  I was shocked.  He had a lot of Hair and was covered in vernix.  A lot of vernix.

newborn, cord pulsating, vernix, home water birth

I felt like I had torn a little bit but wasn’t sure how badly.  There wasn’t a frightening amount of blood at all and nothing abnormal  happening.  Mark took the baby and the placenta bowl because it still wasn’t cut.  I stood up, Donna helped me clean off and I went to the bed in the next room.  I felt great.

I put on a shirt and underwear with a pad and Donna offered to call her husband to have him see if I should go in for stitches or not.  I immediately tried breastfeeding him and he latched on like a pro and didn’t let go for a long time.

I have no idea when we cut the cord but it happened at some point while I was on the bed.  Donna and her Daughter did it and we clamped it long because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it yet.  I ended up just leaving it like that.

Donna’s husband did come and said I had a tear on the inside posterior wall that wasn’t a big deal but it was on a vessel that was bleeding.  Not dangerously so but enough that they would probably put a stitch in it if it didn’t stop with pressure.  Marissa held the flashlight while he applied some pressure, which surprisingly didn’t hurt at all, and it did stop but started up again so he said to go ahead and wait an hour, finish feeding, and to go in to our small hospital just a few minutes away.  And so that’s what we did.

In the meantime, I had started to have some bad after pains but took Aleve which really took the edge off and left me able to cope.  We (Marissa, Donna and I only, b/c Mark went to go do the chores at our house) were pretty worried about the type of reception we would get at the hospital after having a homebirth but they were great.  The nurses were a little shocked but everyone was nice and the doctor so incredibly superb. They checked me, the baby and the placenta out.   Everything looked great and so they sent us right back home with NO STITCHES!  Apparently the bleeding stopped by the time we got there.  And so Marissa’s husband Dan ordered awesome gluten free pizza, we picked it up and went home.

We all went to bed pretty thrilled with our day.  And that was that.  It was such a natural, normal event in some ways but looking back, I realize that to most it would seem crazy.  I am so blessed to be able to deliver my babies with such ease and I will never take it for granted.  This was my most  painful birth, but it was also my favourite birth.

And my son, he’s perfect…  nestled under my chin right now and almost two weeks old exactly.  It’s been my fastest postpartum recovery for sure.   I’m so thankful to the people here who helped me accomplish something out of the ordinary but so important to me.  It was a gift for sure. Dan, Marissa, Donna, her daughter, Mark and all six little girls gave me such a beautiful day that I will surely never forget.

Four weeks old…


  • Michelle R

    I love this story! I felt similar feelings with my fourth baby, Lillian, born at home, and now 8 months old. I love that you explored all your options and were prepared for whatever path your birth took you on.
    Here’s to you and your body, doing what is natural, beautiful, and divine!

  • Lola

    thanks for posting my story. It was such a wonderful day. I forgot to mention that we didn’t wipe off his vernix. It absorbed on it’s own within an hour.

  • Laura C

    Wow! Great story, I’m so glad you went with your gut feel and that everything went well. 🙂 He looks big… how much did he weigh?

  • jennifer stone

    Beautiful story! I had a vbac this past Easter and with such a success I hope to have a home birth. Congrats, lots of hair and I’ve never seen that much vernix but its pretty awesome. Birth is beautiful!

  • Karen Joy

    I, too, was wondering how much your beautiful, big boy weighed!

    I think the most wonderful part is how you — in story & picture — calmly resuscitated your baby boy. I don’t know if it was quite resuscitation, but clearly, he wasn’t breathing strongly yet, and I love that you just “worked” on him until he was, so naturally and calmly.


  • Jill

    Wonderful story!!! Amazed by the lovely amount of vernix!
    I am also pregnant (with our first) and in Nova Scotia…very close to you in the valley Lola. We felt limited by our options and were thankfully able to receive care from the south shore midwives. Fingers crossed for a ‘home birth’.

  • olga

    Great story! thank you.
    I had my first daughter w/out epidural, at the hospital. It was a struggle, mainly because I thought my hips were going to break — she was 9lbs1oz, and I am size 4.
    I am pregnant again, and will be delivering at a local birthing center… Again, the projected weight of this baby is about 9 pounds. Any advise on what to do to naturally ease the pain of the bones moving during child birth when delivering a very large baby?
    Thank you!

    • Elizabeth

      Hope you don’t mind if I jump in here, but…Deliver on your hands and knees! You’ll get 2 more cms of space! Also, I don’t know if this applies to you, but in the last month if you eat carbs/sugar, it really goes to the baby and fattens them up. I was 8 days overdue with my last (#5) and avoided the carbs which kept baby at 8 lbs. Good luck!!

  • Elizabeth

    Awesome job, mama! That is a beautiful baby boy! Loved your story. Love all that vernix – the best kind of lotion! So interesting to hear how your instincts kicked in to get him breathing. Birth is so wonderful and amazing! I want to do it again and again.

  • Pamela

    Beautiful story, lady and family. Thank you for sharing. I’m about to experience my first natural birth and have no support so am kind of freaking out but I know that I can do it!

  • Mrs H

    How lovely!!!! We just experienced our first birth, and it was at home, and it was just wonderful and your story brought me so many beautiful memories!! Yes, I agree – it all seems so perfectly normal to me, and then you realize that to the world at large, it might seem quite strange!

  • Wanda Cox

    Thank you for sharing this inspiring birth story. I am a doula in NS and can appreciate how “bleak” you felt your options were here. We have a long way to go… Congratulations on making choices that worked for you. I am putting together a slide-show of pics of newborn babies to teach expectant parents in my Childbirth Preparation classes & workshops. I was wondering if I could use a couple pictures of this birth to demonstrate both the cord (size differences as it pulses out) and vernix (of course!). Please let me know if you would be ok with me using these images in this way and if so, how you would like me to credit those in the pictures and/or who took them. I understand if you’d rather me not use them… I appreciate that you shared them just the same.

  • Laura

    Just beautiful! My husband and I are planning a home birth for our first due early February. It is always nice to hear such great experiences. Congratulations!

  • Tamara

    He is so adorable! I love hearing stories of natural, normal, go-with-the-flow births. ♥ Also, I have to say that I love that the water in your tub wasn’t perfectly clean after you gave birth. Mine was a mess after and it makes total sense, but every water birth picture I’ve ever seen always has clean looking water for some reason. (Or I just wasn’t paying attention? lol)

  • Cigdem

    Hello!! Congratulations 🙂 I’m almost 40 weeks pregnant and planning a water birth as well. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of information about the benefits of vernix and how it’s important not to wash the baby right away and wait a couple of days. For a water birth, the vernix doesn’t immediately come off does it? If I were to pat the baby dry with a towel, does the vernix come off? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Cigdem 🙂

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