Surrender to the Ocean’s Tide: a Water Birth Story

I had begun having Braxton Hicks contractions at regular intervals starting at 36 weeks. Every day I would contract at 5 minutes apart and end the day at 3 minutes apart. So on May 4th, 2017, which happened to be my due date, I didn’t think too much of my contractions, which now felt stronger. After picking up my daughter from school at 1:30 I came home and got in the bath tub, at which point the contractions slowed to 10 minutes apart. At 3 pm l decided to call my midwives to talk about my symptoms.

Once I got out of the tub the contractions picked back up at 5 minute intervals. This time they seemed crampier, more intense. They accelerated very quickly and within minutes I was making what my husband calls “tribal” sounds that signified it was real this time. However, I was still in denial that this was really “it”, and didn’t call my husband until 3:45pm. My 4-year-old daughter was watching a movie in the living room and periodically came to check on me back in my bedroom. Despite the noises that I was making, somehow, I was still in denial that this was really it. Thank goodness, I DID decide to inform everyone on my birth team, including my photographer. Little did I know how soon the baby would come.

The midwives arrived around 4:15pm and announced that I was fully dilated. I was so relieved! Soon after my husband walked in from work. If he would have left his office just 10 minutes later I’m quite sure he would have hit traffic and not made it to the birth.

I then texted my photographer who lives close by. She arrived at my house at 4:45, just in time to photograph me working through a few contractions. The pool was quickly set up and I stepped into the warm water. It was so comforting. In between contractions I felt fine. I carried on conversation and even told the photographer to open the blinds so we could get better lighting. We smiled for a nice family picture, and then I resumed my work.

With the next contraction, I felt what I can only describe as a “pop” of a rubber band. It took me a moment to mentally register this feeling, and a few seconds later I announced that my water had broken. With the water breaking came an undeniable urge to push. I focused inwardly, pushed gently, and out came little Levi! I did not feel a “ring of fire” this time, instead I felt what can only be described as getting kicked in the crotch with cleats.

After that moment I felt his head, then his neck, then shoulders, then body, all squirm out of me. That part was not painful at all! It was such a neat feeling that I do not recall feeling with my first birth. It was such an “out of body” experience, pun intended! I birthed him on all fours, and he slid out behind me. My daughter whispered, “Look Mama, there’s the baby!” My midwife picked him up as I rolled over into a sitting position, resting my back against the side of the tub. He immediately let out a strong, loud cry. I rested him on my chest and took in all the wonder of what had just occurred. A few minutes later, I got out of the tub and crawled into bed with my family. I laid him on my chest and he found and latched onto my breast. Soon after I pushed the placenta out. I did not bleed very much, neither in the tub nor post-partum.

I was so much more “present” for this birth than my first water birth, which was also swift and peaceful, however, I must have mentally escaped to “labor land” with my first. For this birth, I felt so clear minded in between and even during contractions. This must be why I was in such denial that I was in labor until right at the end, because I partly expected that mental fog feeling of labor land to come over me if it was real labor. My first birth was nearly 4 hours long, and I hadn’t had even a twinge or a cramp until I went into obvious labor with her. With my second birth, I had so many contractions for many weeks leading up to the birth. I had become like the boy who cried wolf, thinking every single day that the baby was coming, and eventually doubting myself, feeling more confused than ever about what real labor even felt like.

This birth confirmed what I already knew to be true from my first: birth can be so very simple, if we just allow ourselves to surrender to the ocean’s tide, instead of swimming against it.

Story submitted by Mackenzie A. 

Photographs taken by Kat Reiser

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