Positive birth story series: My home water birth
Mhairi Cowden shares her positive birth stories of home water birth.
Deciding on my care
After falling pregnant I started doing a little research online into my choices on where to birth.
I didn’t have private health insurance so knew I would be going through the public system, but I also knew I wanted some sort of continuity of care – someone to help me through it.
I had heard of midwife-led care so I googled that and came across the Community Midwifery Program here in WA. It sounded great so I applied without thinking too much about it and was accepted.
I was adamant, however, that I still wanted to birth at a hospital.
I met my midwife and we put a plan together to do a ‘domino birth’ at Fiona Stanley Hospital, so when I went into labour my midwife would come to my house to assess me, I would labour at home as long as possible and then when it was time I would go into the hospital, where she would come too and be my primary midwife.
My midwife asked me if I would like a home birth and to be honest I laughed, I didn’t think that was for me – “too messy, too hippy, too risky” was what I thought.
Looking back I realise I didn’t know much about birth and found it pretty intimidating. I remember secretly hoping the baby was breech so that the decision would be out of my hands and I would have a caesarean.
My mindset shift
Over the next few months slowly but surely something started to shift. My appointments with my midwife built confidence and trust and I took the amazing 6-week ‘Preparation for Birth’ course with The Bump (now run through The Community).
Soon my husband and I started to understand our options and decided we wanted a water birth. We even began to entertain the idea of a home water birth. My midwife was super supportive and suggested we hire a birth pool to keep our options open, we didn’t need to make a decision right up until I went into labour.
About two weeks before my due date I was getting our car seated fitted and I felt something wet in my underpants. When I got home I realised that I had probably lost my mucus plug.
I checked in with my midwife and waited to see if anything else would happen. That night I went to bed wondering if I would meet my baby soon.
Early in the morning I woke up and felt something that was definitely like contractions. I downloaded a contraction timer and started timing them. They were about ten minutes apart.
When my husband woke up I told him what was going on and he decided to stay home from work, I thought that was premature as I was sure it wasn’t anything serious and it would probably be ages, but he wanted to stay home just in case.
That day we chilled out, went for a walk to the shops and bunkered down watching Homeland on Netflix.
After lunch, my husband encouraged me to call our midwife. I think I was still in denial about being in labour but agreed to call her and see what she thought. When I spoke to her on the phone she suggested she pop by to check things out on her way to another appointment.
She arrived at our house around 3 pm and by this time I was having contractions about 3-5 minutes apart. She did an internal examination and much to my surprise told me I was 5 cm dilated and that she wasn’t going anywhere as I was going to have a baby soon!
She asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital and I said I thought I wanted to stay at home, so without really thinking about it too much we decided to have a homebirth.
From there, things progressed pretty quickly and smoothly. The contractions started to build in intensity and frequency. I found the best way to deal with them was to lean over the kitchen workbench doing a combination of deep breathing and rhythmically lifting my heels up and down.
I had read Juju Sundin’s Birth Skills book and employed a lot of her techniques.
Check out Juju’s book here
The contractions were hard but I found that I could concentrate on them building to a peak and then coming back down. My midwife also showed my husband how to press on the small of my back during a contraction. This really helped.
Around 5:30 pm, the pool had been inflated and filled and my midwife said I could jump in.
It was the best feeling ever, the warm water, the weight off my feet and the feeling of floating filled me with new energy. I stayed in the pool for a while but soon it looked like things had stalled.
My midwife did another internal and said I was 8 cm. I got out of the pool, went to the bathroom and moved around. I also started concentrating on loosening my face and releasing any tension I was holding to encourage myself to open up.
Not long after, I started to feel intense pressure and the desire to push. I started to push while in the pool, holding my husband’s hand and leaning against the edge. I didn’t really know what I was doing and was probably not doing it properly as nothing happened for a while.
Soon my midwife started guiding me proactively and then suddenly my body took over, with each contraction my whole body contracted and I would vomit each time. It was intense and unlike anything else. Each time I pushed I could feel my baby moving down.
Soon I could hear the midwife saying that they could see the head and without really knowing what was happening the head was out. There was a pause and then I pushed out her body too. The midwife guided her through my legs and I picked her up from the water. My daughter was born at 10:38 pm. It was the best feeling ever.
My second home water birth
My second labour was quicker and more intense. This time I thought I was more prepared but you never know where labour will take you. I planned and wanted another home water birth but was worried that my positive experience the first time would set my expectations too high.
For the week prior I felt contractions start in the afternoon but they would stop by the time I went to bed in the evening. I was starting to get frustrated. Then one morning I woke up at about 4 am with regular contractions.
Again I downloaded a contraction timer and timed them, they were already coming 5-7 minutes apart.
About 4:30 am I woke up my husband and told him things were happening. I kept leaning against pillows in my bed and soon realised that the contractions were getting closer together. I rang my midwife around 4:45 am and as she only lived around the corner she was at our house ten minutes later.
Once she arrived she checked my blood pressure and baby’s heartbeat but then we moved into this lovely quiet rhythm of labour. It was early in the morning and the light was just begging to rise.
It was quiet in the house and outside and everything was calm and still.
I worked through the contractions in a similar way to my first birth, using my breath and rocking back and forward while leaning against the kitchen bench.
Soon I felt a big rush of emotions and started to tear up which I knew from my first experience was probably transition. The feeling passed and I felt shaky with adrenaline and endorphins. This time my body took over and I could feel baby starting to move down without me doing anything, I just kept breathing.
Meanwhile, my husband had been trying to set up the birth pool and finally, it was filled and up to temperature. I hopped in and again felt like I was brand new. The warmth, the feeling of weightlessness and the soothing water. Almost as soon as I got into the water I felt the baby coming.
My body completely took over at this point, and this is the only point where I felt a bit out of control. My body began to push and he came down much quicker than my previous birth. Within ten minutes of getting into the pool, his head was out and I remember feeling that I just wanted it over with. After a pause, I pushed his body out too.
My midwife guided him between my legs and I picked him up and held him against my chest as I sat in the pool and the morning light streamed through the window.
My son was born at 7:08 am, only two hours after my midwife arrived.
When I first discovered I was pregnant, I would never have thought I would have two beautiful home water births. I didn’t think I was ‘that’ person. But my birth experiences made me feel strong and empowered.
Thank you to Mhairi for sharing her story.
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Disclaimer: This personal account has been published as it was told to Wholehearted Family Health and does not reflect the opinions or constitute recommendations from Wholehearted Family Health or the businesses that work with Wholehearted Family Health. Always consult your midwife or doctor in regards to any medical advice pertaining to your unique situation.