Waterbirth of baby Eliana

I know it’s been almost 2 weeks since I had a blog post….as is the nature of midwifery, life has happened, babies have been born, and we have been busy lately with catching up on all that has required our attention. In other words, it’s been a good couple of weeks – even if I haven’t had time to blog.

A week and a half ago I was lucky enough to witness a woman’s strength transform into a mother’s love – and it was a beautiful thing to witness. This mom’s story really began when she was 36 weeks pregnant and decided that she wanted a homebirth. Yes – 36 weeks! She had been receiving care the entire pregnancy so I had no hesitation whatsoever about her medically, although I was concerned that we didn’t have enough time to create that BOND that I treasure so much with my clients.

Who knew that she was going to be pregnant as long as she was! Her due date came and went…and then 42 weeks came and went. Looking over her records showed a discrepancy with the dates and ultrasound had shown her to be 2 weeks less than her last menstrual period. Baby sounded PERFECT, mama was superbly healthy…although can you imagine the pain in her soul when we moved her due date back 2 weeks and she went from 42 weeks pregnant to, “Happy due date! (Again!)” To say she was not thrilled to be pregnant still was an understatement. At almost 43 weeks pregnant according to her original dates just after dinnertime, she went into labor!!

She worked with her doula throughout the night, laboring, working to bring forth her daughter.  Early in the morning she was checked and found to be 4cm!  And she continued to labor…and she labored. And labored. And labored. And labored. AND SHE LABORED!! 10 hours later and she was still 4cm! POOR THING! Contractions continued, but even though this was her first baby she knew that these were not the super strong ones that she needed to birth her baby. After some discussion about options, she agreed that a breast pump and some herbs could be beneficial – she was ready to do anything to meet her baby!

Before long her vita mutari changed…grew…intensified….and climaxed. She climbed into her birth pool and was working through each wave as they crashed over her. Her husband was a little overwhelmed by the intensity of her mutari and her reactions to it – but I think he took comfort in the huge smiles that Kate (apprentice midwife) and myself had on our faces. Mama finally began really needing the help of her doula – and VERY quickly (literally half an hour into this new section of her birth), mom was losing faith in herself. A quick cervical check motivated her when she heard she was 6cm! After such a long time at being 4cm – and she’d progressed to 6cm in such a short period of time!!

20 minutes later she said that she felt she had to push….!?! Threw me for a loop but I’ve seen even first timers go incredibly quickly and I don’t feel it’s my place to question what she is feeling. Several contractions of feeling like she has to push and I checked her again – still 6cm. Her water broke as I took my hand out and we were pleasantly surprised by her clear fluid! (one of the concerns about going past the due date is that there’s a greater chance of meconium – baby’s first poop – in the amniotic fluid) I told mom that she was still 6cm so let her body do what it needs to do, but please don’t add to it by TRYING to push.

The next couple of contractions seemed more reasonable to her…then the grunty pushes were back. Her doula was fantastic, encouraging mom that she and the baby were safe, that all was well…to listen to her body but don’t add to the pushes….telling her what a good job she was doing. Daddy climbed into the pool to sit behind mom to support her (climbed in fully dressed because in that moment the only thought on his mind was his love of his wife and daughter and if there was ANYTHING he could do for either one of them he would gladly and without hesitation do it – and so into the pool he went!)

Soon, there it was… we could hear the full-body bear-down pushes. It had only been an hour since I checked her and her water was now broken so I wanted to wait as long as I possibly could to check her again!! But there’s a balance we need reach – I don’t want to check her too much, but I also don’t want her fighting her body’s urges if she did happen to dilate quickly!! When to check….wait….as long as possible…let her body work….listen…watch…wait….push….pushing…

Mom exclaims, “I’m sorry, I can’t stop pushing…and it feels like she’s coming out!”

I FLY off the bed I had been sitting on and grabbed my gloves!? It’s only been an hour since I checked her, but when a woman says that it feels like the baby is coming I have learned you LISTEN! I put my gloves on and checked her….

YEP! Fully dilated…baby very close to crowning!! WHOO HOO! The mom later told me that the second best moment of the entire day was the look on mine and everyone’s faces when I said that the baby was so close to being born! The very next push and I told mom that if she reached down she could put her finger on the top of the baby’s head and see how close she was to being born. Mom reached down, gasped, and looked at me and said, “It’s happening!”

I sniffed back a tear….yes, honey…after all your patience, all you have endured, all the anticipation…it’s really happening! Her baby was about to be born! Next couple of contractions, and I helped dad reach around his wife’s body from behind and place his hand on the top of his daughter’s head. The look on his face – and I could no longer sniff back the tears! He gasped, tears in his eyes, and looked at his wife with the most INTENSE look of complete love and joy and respect. Such an intimate moment – these two people, on the cusp of becoming parents, discovering an even deeper level of love and respect for each other, discovering their own strength as individuals and as a couple, him holding her from behind, sitting as one unit in the tub, making the transformation together in each others arms….it was truly a blessing to bear witness to.

Another couple of pushes, and here she comes….mom grunts, allowing her body to birth her baby, head slipping out…and we see her ear! Her cheek…head is out! Mom says to dad, “Feel her head!” They love on their baby, caressing her hair, her face, offering the baby her first taste of love outside of the womb, mom and dads hands together. Another big push from mom and we see why she had such a rough time all day – little stinker has a hand up on her cheek! Mom pushes with everything she has left and the rest of the baby slips out into the pool. Baby still under the water, I tell mom, “Reach down for your baby…”

Mom reaches down and helps lift the baby out of the water and into their lives. Mom cradles her baby while dad cradles her. Mom turns her head to look over her shoulder and says to dad, “Look what we made!!”

Oh the sweet joy…a triumphant mother, a strong and supportive father, and a healthy wide-eyed baby blinking up at both of them like, “Mom? Dad? It’s been a really weird day!”

It was not long at all before mom felt the placenta coming and pushed the placenta out into the water. We placed the placenta into a bowl and floated it next to the family. Eventually mom wanted to get out and into bed so we helped them with that (keeping the placenta bowl near them) and they snuggled into the bed together.

Everything else that happened was quite uneventful as far as postpartum is concerned – baby ate like a champ, we clamped the cord eventually and daddy cut it, bleeding was very normal. Mom did have a tiny tear that I ended up using dermabond (surgical glue) on….but everything was picture perfect! 7 pounds 12 ounces of a perfect little girl that did NOT look 43 weeks (we did a gestational age after she was born and she was around 41 weeks)

We left about 3 hours after the baby was born as I contemplated how very VERY different this family’s experience may have been had they made different decisions. Inducing at 41 weeks (original dates) could have been devastating as her cervix was NOT ready to change at that point. What if we hadn’t been patient for her body to do what it needed to do? Nobody can know…but I can say that the decisions they made every step of the way were very well educated, very thought out, and I do believe they contributed to the beautiful and perfect outcome they had, and I’m very proud of them.

Stephanie and Kate cuddle with baby Eliana at her 1-week postpartum visit