As you prepared for the birth of your son, you came to understand that birth is never a straight forward line but that birth has many twists and turns along the way and the labour process is very much a journey. You knew I would be there for you wherever the journey took you, that I would inform you and educate you of the choices before you and hold your hand as you made the best possible choice for you and your baby.
As the weeks went by… 40, 41 and then getting very close to the 42 weeks you had to wrestle with a possible induction. You kept saying you felt the baby and your body were not ready yet. “What if he wants to come tomorrow and we induce today?” you asked. “What if… what if… ” You had never thought it would get to this point when you were hoping, as many Mama’s do, that your baby would come earlier rather than later.
You made the choice to induce hoping he would still come of his own accord… but the morning of the induction came, you checked into the hospital and a plan was made to induce the labour process.
First breaking the membranes… then medication.
It gave you contractions… but no dilation! Your body responded and contracted but did not open.
You remained strong and determined… but the lack of progress made the pain harder to handle… the hours passed by and you worked Oh so hard… we all worked hard, your birth team of three… and not to forget the baby!
A tough decision for pain relief was made, your decision, the right decision. And relief it was, with a small part of your belly still feeling the contraction pain. You knew that epidurals were not always the perfect pain killer but it was exactly what you needed and you were actually glad you could still feel something. (Yes you said that!)
Then… 9 hours further (4 with epidural) with intense contractions and only 1 added cm of dilation.
A tough decision for a c-section was made, your decision, the right decision. This was not working, your body was not responding… this is what they call a lack of progress, and was now officially a failed induction. You can’t force a body to open.
At one moment you looked into my eyes and said “Sophie, will you be disappointed in me if we go to cesarean?” and without hesitation I told you “Of course I won’t.”
As your doula it is my job to be there for you, to keep you as comfortable as possible, to make you laugh, help you relax and make space for you to cry, to help you process decisions and emotions and to celebrate with you when your little one is finally in your arms. I go on that journey with you whatever that looks like, wherever it may take you and support whatever decisions you make along the way.
I know without a doubt that nothing I said in our preparation for this day and up to this moment led you to believe I would be disappointed in any decision you made. But at that moment you still needed to hear from me, and your husband, that we were behind you, supporting you and loving you through this decision. You needed to not be disappointed in yourself and hearing us affirm you (because, after all, one of your love languages is ‘words of affirmation’;) helped you accept your own decision.
Nothing in me, no fibre of my being was disappointed in you Nan. This was your journey not mine. A journey you and your baby went on together. You were amazing, you were strong, you endured and you even rocked the labour that got you no-where and definitely didn’t get you the birth you were hoping for!!
We may never know the answer to the ‘what ifs…’ but I was honoured to journey with you, to ease your way a little and to help you have no regrets. I was so happy today, 4 days later, to hear you say you have no regrets.
And now here he is, your little one… and you are a little bit more prepared for the twists and turns of parenthood because of the birth journey you have already taken.
It has been such a pleasure to support and get to know you,
With deep respect and a special fondness,
(Doula) Sophie x
Especially when there is an older sibling… all was tranquil until BIG sister came in… so proud, so gorgeous, so wanting attention and Oh so sweet with her new brothers in a “I’m not yet 2” kind of way… I don’t think she will have any problems stealing the show from her twin siblings! So much joy and fun in this family
Congratulations to this lovely family. You may recognize big sister as the little one on the homepage birth photography slider. Those gorgeous dark eyes <3 Tomorrow she turns two!
So excited… this was the 2nd vaginal breech birth I have supported in 3 months. So glad that women are daring to make the choice to give birth vaginally instead of going straight for a cesarean and that Gynecologists are gaining more experience with breech birth. There is still a lot of lost time to gain as breach birth has become a lost art in Gynecology and midwifery. But could it possibly be that the tide is slowly turning and vaginal breach birth will become a normal choice and not an exceptional one.
And don’t you just love the moment when the baby, that was just minutes ago in her mothers womb, hears her Papa’s voice, turns her head and looks him straight in the face. I see this so often when babies hear their fathers voice. Always such a precious moment ❤ If you look carefully you can see her wonderfully breech baby legs up by her face and see her sweet hand holding her own little foot.
Welcome sweet girl <3
Another brave mama whom, after a traumatic 1st birth, could not believe that birth COULD be a good experience… had a good experience birthing her son today.
Good preparation and support can change how you experience birth. Welcome little man.
I have been doing newborn lifestyle shoots for doula clients for a while now and am excited to start offering it to other families.
Invite me into the comfort of your own home to document a moment in time during the first weeks with your newborn baby. A time that passes so quickly, a time you don’t want to forget! I look forward to hearing from you. The costs are €200 (€150 for doula clients)
After struggling to get back into the work flow after my vacation, I had two births this last week. One I only photographed, a baby girl who decided coming out a bit sideways was a good idea making it extremely tough for her very brave mother who still managed to give everything and birth her at home.
And a rather sweet little boy who had a long journey and a rather rough start but is doing well now and hopefully can go home today. I have so much respect for his brave and courageous mother who could have given birth on her positivity alone. What a gift!
Welcome Nathan. You sure surprised us when you actually decided to come on your own. But here you are and you are a perfect bundle of sweetness.
When you have experienced a sickness that robs you of the basic trust in your body, going through labour has the potential to help you regain that trust and give you the power to transform what you have come to believe about your body. What a gift
This mother wrote the day after giving birth:
“I can’t put into words how much it has meant to me to regain the trust in my body after my sickness”
Has your child ever toned interest in seeing your baby be born? Is it tough for you to find childcare for your other child(ren) while you give birth? Would you like to give your child(ren) the gift of seeing a sibling being born?
Whatever your reasons for considering having your child(ren) at the birth of their sibling I hope there are some tips and food for thought here that will help you decide if it is for you and your family and help you to make it happen in a memorable and peaceful way for you and your child(ren).
I wanted to share some of my experience with clients who had their older children at the birth of a sibling. All of these births happened to be home water births. Somehow a water birth is gentle and easier to watch. If you have ever seen a water birth then you will understand what I mean when I say it is the easiest kind of birth for a sibling to witness.
Here are some links to my favourite family centered birth films.
After bedtime stories one almost 3 year old girl said to her Mum “Just poop my little sister out tonight will you Mummy?” Later that night her Dad woke her up a few minutes after the baby was born to see her baby sister and the first thing she said with a big sleepy smile was “Mum, you did it, you pooped the baby out!”
After peeking over the edge of the pool and seeing the baby’s head crowning this 3 year old boy quickly said “I am going back to my cars now!”
A while after the baby had been born big sister said “Mama, when is the baby’s house coming out?”
My observation of the young children I have seen present at a birth is that they treat is as a very natural thing. They play and then have a look and maybe give a hug or a sweet caring gesture and then they go on to the next thing for a while. Maybe they see the moment the baby comes out maybe they don’t. It needs to be their choice at that moment. Maybe you just want to have them around you while you are in labour, maybe you only want to invite them in after the baby is born. The choice is yours.
Wishing you and your family a wonderful birthing experience however you choose to receive the new little baby into your family.
9-06-2017~ Handsome little boy born today to an amazingly brave Mum who fought and endured the terrible Hellp syndrome for 4 days before being well enough to birth him. Welcome little man.
8-06-2017~ Welcome Maria. Quite the birth journey. Much patience, 1 full hospital and the second one almost full, an epidural that never arrived and in the end born in water as your mama had originally hoped for.
27-05-2017~ Many years have you been longed for little man. Welcome to this world, I know you are going to have many fun adventures with your Mama <3
26-05-2017 Love and strength, lots of patience and a good sprinkling of tears of joy. 42 weeks in the making and Oh so welcome. Meet sweet Austra
19-05-2017 ~ Sweet Aubrey how long you have been in your mothers dreams and now here you are and already the apple of your Daddy’s eye!
Sometimes the best things come later in life <3
12-05-2017 Welcome Jara. Your Mama was amazing birthing you and you Papa was a great support and so totally overcome with love and emotion from the very first moment you were born! And it has to be said that your umbilical chord was awesome!!
This little one decided she was going to surprise us all by staying breech and being born vaginally at 36 weeks and 4 days and in barely 2 hours. Dad got there just in time, 15 minutes before the baby was born. My last whats app message to him which he read in the hospital lift was “9cm, we are going vaginal!” A first vaginal breech birth for me and what an exciting one too. So proud of this Mama <3
2017-04-11 ~ Welcome Helena!
2017-05-10 Welcome little Zoe Marie.
Little did I know that this would be the first of three births this week… and the longest. I am so proud of the patience and humour this mama had during her long labour. Its always so fun when a women keeps her sense of humour and can laugh and enjoy despite the discomfort and pain. Good for the oxytocin! I am also so grateful for her partner who lovingly cooked meals throughout the long process to keep us all nourished for the journey.
13-04-2017 is the day this little man came into the world with a bit of a whirlwind. This little one is the fourth child. Giving birth for the fourth time you would think it be an easier delivery. At least you are experienced and you know what to expect… but this was her hardest birth, she said afterwards. “It never hurt this much before and was totally different!”
It doesn’t happen very often in The Netherlands that there is a doula and a birth photographer at the same birth. This is also a reason why there are not many photos of doula’s at work. A frustration of many doula’s when looking for image material.
A few weeks ago I got a call from a man that his wife was in labour and their birth photographer was sick. She had offered a back up photographer but their midwife had recommended me. So he asked if I was available to photograph a birth somewhere in the coming hours.
The advantage of always being on call is that you are always ready to put everything down for a birth. I had no clients about to give birth so I was really excited to be invited to an unplanned birth. So I made an agreement with the father-to-be and said I would wait for their call to join them so I could document the birth.
I knew the doula and the midwife and as it turned out I had met the mother once at a pregnant ladies tea party I organize. I quietly slipped into the delivery room and quickly became part of the furniture (as we say in English.) There is something so special about entering a space and energy that is focused and so intent to bring forth life.
I loved watching another doula at work and seeing just how hard she worked. I knew she was utterly exhausted but she never complained and tirelessly continued supporting and giving counter pressure through almost every single contraction!! Watching the sweet relationship she had with the woman and how she gently supported the man with a knowing look or the touch of a hand… who would not want that? I thought. Unconditional loving support from your partner AND your doula while going through the most intense experience of your life. Doula’s really do rock your birth with you!
Photographing this birth for me was extra special because I got to take a side seat and document another doula at work and on occasion I quietly got to doula the doula and give her a back rub too. It was a pleasure Justine <3
A special thanks to this family for allowing me to share these images. Such love and sweetness <3
That first selfie with your daughter♥ After you supported your love for hours as she laboured with courage and tireless patience, after you witnessed her entrance into the world and saw her take her first breath, after the laughter and tears of those first moments of relief that she was safe and finally here, after you saw her nourish herself at her mothers breast, after you cuddled her and felt her little warm body press against yours… and after you dressed her for the first time. Finally… that first proud papa selfie!
Oh your toes are so scrumptious little one… all shriveled and wrinkly from being in the amniotic fluid inside of my belly. As they unfold and pink up with your first breath, I hold them tight and will cherish them now and for as long as they will fit in the palm of my hand.
Just missed April the 12th by a few hours but hey April the 13th is a great day to be born… just in time for Easter!
Welcome little man ? The 12th didn’t have much space on my birthday calendar anyway!! ?
You 3 siblings, and especially your big brother, are going to be so happy to meet you.
12 of April has been a popular day for my clients to give birth! In 2014 sweet Violeta, 2015 darling Mahruyeh and in 2016 Dennis! Happy Birthday to these little and not so little ones… will there be a new name to add to the list today?
10-03-2017 There is something beautifully symbolic when a man starts making bread while his wife is in labour. The rhythm of the kneading, the rising, the wonderful aroma while baking. The loaves were baked and cooled by the time the baby was born. A beautiful healing home water birth with some exciting moments like when the baby decided she was suddenly in a hurry to be born and the midwife wasn’t there yet. But hey this doula trusted the process and had seen enough water birth to support these parents as they birthed their little one together. And just as she appeared the doorbell rang and the midwife arrived.
Welcome gorgeous little one. 42 weeks grown and still a lot of vernix on your little body when you born. You are perfect and your Mama was awesome A special thing to see when a second birth brings the healing so needed from the traumatic first experience. It makes being a doula all the sweeter.
4-03-2017 Little Peter was born. His big brother was born by c-section after trying for a vaginal breech birth. Peter decided to stay head down and his mama worked extremely hard to birth him naturally. She rocked it and promptly told me after that her respect for woman was now so much more than before this experience!! If you could measure Oxytocin after the birth this mama would have been off the chart. Welcome little man, may your first weeks on earth be peaceful.
“With my first birth, I knew I wanted a natural birth and I never really thought I would be one of the unlucky ones to need a C-section! I was quite naive and thought if I just go with the flow, everything will be fine. Birth can’t be that bad, everyone does it and is fine!!
The troubles started when my son was breech. I was told I had to be in the care of a Gynecologist from week 36 on. I did not explore my options very thoroughly and the doctors told me that I could not have a natural birth if he remained breech. Even though my instincts said I shouldn’t I went ahead and tried a version (manually trying to turn the baby head down) at week 36. It went fine and he turned. However, had I known that a breech birth would have been an option with the right Gynecologist I would have chosen this option for sure. At the time, I didn’t do my own research but trusted my midwife when she told me there was no one in the area who would support a vaginal breech birth.
At 42 weeks there was no sign of my son wanting to come out, so I was told I had to be induced. Again, I felt I had no options and I went ahead and let them induce me! It was a terrible, painful labour and I did not dilate more than 4cm. Eventually it ended in a c-section due to my son not reacting well after the administration of synthetic oxytocin.”
“I was very upset that I had to have a c-section since all I wanted was a natural birth! Although happy that my son was healthy, I still felt a sense of emptiness for years after. I realized a while later that it sort of traumatized me. It took a long time until I could actually look at pictures of the c-section without bursting into tears! I felt a sense of failure. Why couldn’t I do what most women can? Why was I not allowed to experience a natural birth? Why did I make the choices I made? Why did I blindly trust what
I was told without asking for alternatives and options? I did not enjoy looking back at the birth and I hated that I had to have so many medical interventions. I also hated that I couldn’t be with my son after the birth while in the recovery room. The whole thing was so unnatural! It took me a couple of miscarriages before I finally stayed pregnant 6 years later and looking back I believe this was perhaps partly due to the trauma of my first birth. I felt i needed to talk about it and went to see a birth trauma therapist to process the birth, which was really good for me.”
“An elective caesarean was out of the question for me! I did nothing but research the options and watch tons of videos about natural beautiful births! It was my mission, I was going to have such a birth!! A natural birth where I felt in control, was free to make informed choices along the way, and a birth that was beautiful!
“My biggest fear was that I would again have that sense of being out of control and the same thing would repeat itself.”
“I found a midwife that supported me in my VBAC. I had many discussions with the Gynecologist until we came to an agreement that I could give birth in the hospital with a midwife as long as there were no complications. We agreed that the midwife would discuss everything outside of the room with the Gynecologist. I did not just take no for an answer, I did my own research and ignored any scare tactics that in the past would have caused me to make my decision based on fear! I was set upon doing this differently and as natural as possible! I meditated (hypnobirthing) and did yoga and optimal fetal positioning exercises daily. I felt calm and fearless. My husband and I had felt completely alone the first time and felt that we needed more support this time! I got myself a doula and a like-minded midwife!”
“My labour started off perfectly! My waters broke, contractions started and I laboured at home for as long as possible. When the contractions became too painful we went to the hospital an
d I continued to labour in a room with just my husband, midwife and doula as planned.
What I found the most difficult was not knowing when things were going to shift beyond that 4cm dilation I had reached last time and progress to the end. I was having the same intensity of contractions for so many hours.”
“It was 34 hours after my waters broke and I was stuck at 6 cm for 6 hours. I was exhausted! We had tried different techniques and positions but things were not changing! In fact, at one point my contractions slowed way down! Then I knew that things were not looking good!
We discussed the options with the Gynecologist and decided to try oxytocin to augment my labour as a last resort. Again, like the first time, the oxytocin did not agree with me and the baby and the baby’s heart rate started to react. The Gynecologist highly recommend that I have a c-section and at this point I decided (and everyone agreed) that taking into consideration that my waters had been broken for so long and how exhausted I was this was the best option. It was a hard and very emotional decision for both my husband and I.”
“The second c-section was very different. The Gynecologist agreed to do a gentle caesarean. (I had written this in my birth plan and had also written that I wanted a partial lotus birth to leave the umbilical chord intact until a while later!). The Gynecologist agreed and did a great job. He handed me my son with the placenta attached, right after the placenta came loose, and my son never left my side!!”
“I did not feel traumatized by the birth. I was disappointed but I was able to accept the situation. I always felt like I was in control. I could actually remember everything that happened (which was not the case with my first, since the pain was too intense due to induction) and my son was not taken away to another room. I experienced the natural start of labour and natural contractions. So, even though it was not the vaginal birth I had hoped for, it was still a lot better than the first one and I know I tried everything that I could. Of course there are still some “what ifs” but I know now that there is no point in that. I prepared as best as I could, and I chose to do the c-section in the end.”
“I feel that I was a very different person this time around. During the past 6 years I worked on myself and my outlook on life. I was not the perfectionist that I once was. I learned from my first experience that I am in charge of my body and not anyone else. I learned that I was not going to let fear control me. In life, sometimes things happen for a reason beyond my understanding, and that is okay. What matters is to be well-informed, trust your own instincts and believe in yourself.”
“I do not have any regrets looking back. I got to experience quite a bit of a natural birth (even labouring in water) and I look back focusing on the positives rather than the negatives of the birth.”
“I recommend that you go for what you believe in! It is your body, your birth and you can choose what to do with it! Do your research! Hear different opinions before deciding what interventions you want and where you want to give birth and then go with what you feel the most comfortable with! I highly recommend a doula! I was so blessed to have Doula Sophie support me!! It made a world of difference!!”
11-02-2017 Welcome sweet boy.
Finally he was in her arms, that little surprise gift that had come into her life, and all she knew at that moment… she would hold him tight and never let him go!
And then soon after she got to give her parents the best gift ever <3
I met Vanessa and her husband when they took a private birth course with me for their first baby. She had complete faith that she could birth her baby naturally and really wanted to birth at home.
What were the circumstances that led to your c-section?
At around week 35 I found out that my baby was breech. I was heart broken, as I really wanted to try and have a home birth. I knew that I would never forgive myself if I didn’t try to give birth naturally, so I weighed out the options with the gynaecologist and my husband. I decided that I would let my baby decide his own birthdate and on September 7, 2013 at around 2am my waters broke. I wasn’t feeling any contractions and knew that for the best possible outcome I needed to stay calm and move around, so I went into work! I worked though the early hours of the morning and called my husband to pick me up after I had finished baking cupcakes (I had a cup cake business at the time). We were told to come to the hospital, where I was induced (something I did not want, but was told it was necessary to make sure that I would give birth in the next 24 hours). My contractions grew stronger throughout the day and around 9.30pm I was ready to push. I pushed for nearly 1 hour, but after suffering severe leg cramps, being completely depleted of energy and baby not moving we were taken in for a c-section.
Did the c-section have any effect on your well-being?
While I thought that the c-section would traumatize me, it did not. The delivery team explained everything very well and to be honest I was so ready to meet my baby. I was able to nurse him with the help of the nurses within an hour after he was born and we both then got some much needed rest.
I did however have thoughts of ‘what if’ after. There was something inside me that had a feeling I could have been successful giving natural birth if I was only given the chance and different treatment. This was something that stuck with me all through my second pregnancy.
How did you know you wanted to birth vaginally this time?
For me it wasn’t even a question, I just KNEW I needed to try. I have this deep, almost primal feeling that this is the way birth should be. It was something that I needed to prove to myself, that I was strong enough mentally and physically to give birth as so many millions of woman had done before me.
What was your greatest hope for this birth?
My greatest hope was that I would have a successful vaginal birth and heal some of the wounds I received mentally from my first birthing process.
What was your biggest fear going into this birth?
My biggest fear was that I wasn’t strong enough and that my body was somehow defective. To be honest I was never afraid of the risks, as from reading the numbers I felt confident they were not very important.
How did you prepare for your for this birth?
I prepared by practicing yoga, watching videos, visiting a chiropractor reading and talking out my plan with my husband and Sophie.
About 1 month before giving birth I would sit on the balance ball every evening, willing my hips to open.
What was your biggest battle during the labour?
Overcoming my fear of failure. My body felt strong, but about halfway through pushing, doubt was starting to creep into my mind. Thankfully with the help of Sophie talking me through it I was able to push those fears away and focus my mind.
What was the moment you realized your VBAC was successful?
The true moment I knew I was successful was when I felt my babies head push free. Yes, of course there was pain, but nothing mattered in that moment other than having my baby brought up onto my chest. It was such an emotional moment for me, I felt amazing and was so proud of my body and my baby. I was also a bit in shock that everything had gone so smoothly, I couldn’t even seem to opens my eyes for fear that it might have all been a dream. One of the best moments of my life!
What have you learned about yourself through this process?
I’ve learned that I am strong, mentally and physically. That no matter what has happened in the past, we should focus on the here and now, because that’s what truly matters. But most importantly I learned to trust myself.
Name 5 things that contributed to you successfully birthing vaginally.
When you discovered you were pregnant and you started thinking about the birth of your baby did you think about water as an option for pain management? You would not be alone if your answer was no!
Placing a pool of water in a birth room changes the atmosphere immediately. Voices get softer, the mother stays calmer and everyone becomes less stressed.
The effect of buoyancy, that immersion in water creates, allows easy movement of the mother. No one has to help the mother get into a new position. She moves as her body feels the need. Movement helps open the pelvis, allowing the baby to descend.
When a woman in labour relaxes in a warm deep bath she is free from gravity’s pull on her body and her body feels amazingly weightless. The sensitivity and irritation women can experience in their bodies when they are in labour is also reduced when in water as the sensory stimulation is dulled resulting in her body being less agitated by external ‘things.’
When a woman is relaxed in labour she is less likely to produce stress-related hormones and makes room for her body to produce the endorphins that are the bodies natural pain relief. A labouring woman who is able to relax physically, is able to relax mentally as well. Immersion in water also gives a sense of privacy and a personal space to feel safe in. A sense of safety is also very important for progress in the birth process.
Many women, midwives, and doctors acknowledge the analgesic effect of water. The effect is very clear when you see a labouring woman immerse herself in water or stand under the shower. Many women who have laboured in water say they would never be able to consider labouring without water again.
Research has verified many positive aspects of labouring and giving birth in water.
Although water birth is becoming more widely accepted, for a long time many medical professionals thought it was dangerous to give birth in water. There were many unfounded myths surrounding giving birth in water. As a result of this it was not an option that was widely available. Still today, in The Netherlands, many midwives are afraid of supporting a water birth. Fears of not being able to measure blood loss or having to be more hands off during the birth of the baby are a few of the reasons given for not supporting water birth.
For an evidence based article on water birth and the research that has been done on it follow the link here: evidencebasedbirth.com
Maybe you really do not see yourself birthing your baby in the water …but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water!! You don’t necessarily have to give birth to your baby in the water, although that can be amazing, what about just using it for pain relief?
Over the last year or two the options for using water for labour and birth have grown, definitely in my working area, The Hague, Delft and Rotterdam. Midwives are being trained to support water birth and hospitals are seeing there is a demand for it. Even though it is becoming more popular, the options are still very limited. (My next blog will provide a list of hospitals in these cities above and the options they have for water birth)
The shower is often not considered and is also underestimated as a good form of pain relief. Women who use the shower though during labour can stay in there for hours sometimes. It really can help manage the pain. Almost all hospitals have showers in the en-suite bathrooms. A fantastic option for pain management.
I cannot tell you how many labouring women I have heard groaning with relief at the effect the warm water has on the pain when they first enter the water. That feeling of heaviness in her pregnant body is lightened and there is an ease to which she can move and find comfortable positions in the water. The warmth helps the body relax and the contractions are often experienced as less painful.
Rianne, a recent client of mine, said about her experience:
“I still remember the moment I got into the water. The warmth of the water made such a huge difference, I felt more relaxed, calm and focused. I was better able to get into my own “bubble.” Outside the water I needed help to cope with the contractions and as soon as I got inside the water I needed less help and didn’t feel ‘unsettled’ anymore. The water helped a lot to ease the pain. My score for the pain outside the water was 8/10 and inside the water it quickly became a 4/10.”
Rianne ended up not giving birth to her daughter in the water but had no regrets about having taken the trouble to rent a pool, take it to the birth centre and (have her partner) set it up. It was worth it all for the amazing relief it provided her.
So why not consider using water for pain management. Talk to your midwife about the options. One thing is for sure no woman who used this option ever said it was a waste of time and effort!
*Remember that if you have a medical indication, and are giving birth under the Gynecologist, your hospital of choice may have a pool but it is (in most cases) only available for women giving birth with an external (1st line) midwife practice. More about this in the next blog.
The answer to that question is not as simple as it maybe should be.
You can rent a birthing pool and plan on a home birth, you can take a rented pool to a birthing centre or use an existing pool in a hospital facility.
Because of the lack of existing facilities for water birth, if you are counting on the last option, you run the risk of there being no pools available when you go into labour. If that happens, you have no choice but to forego your wishes for a water birth.
All hospitals and birthing centres do however have the availability of showers. The shower is often forgotten but is more widely used for women who don’t need constant monitoring with CTG. The shower is also a fantastic, very effective, form of pain relief. Women who use the shower during labour can stay in there for hours sometimes. It really can help manage the pain.
Unfortunately labouring in water and giving birth in water is typically only for women giving birth with a (1st line) midwife practice, with the exception of a few hospitals in the country. This is changing fast as the demand for the use of water during labour is quickly increasing and hospitals are having to listen as clients are starting to choose for hospitals with more options. Not all midwives are trained or comfortable with supporting water birth so always ask your midwives about the options if you are interested in this option. If you have a negative response, you might want to consider seeing if there are other midwife practices in your area who have experience with water birth.
When a woman is being followed by the Gynecologist during her pregnancy there is usually a medical reason. This usually means she needs to have continual monitoring of the baby with a CTG during her labour making it unusual for her to be allowed to use the shower for pain relief and even more unusual to give birth in water. There are a few hospitals in The Netherlands where this is possible but they are the exception and each case is judged on an individual basis.
There is also a possibility that a medical indication arises during your birth. In this case it is more than likely you will have to let go of your desire to use water for the birth.
Very few hospitals have wireless CTG’s and even fewer have wireless waterproof CTG’s. These do exist and would make the options for using warm water, even the shower, for pain management and birth a lot more accessible. These machines are expensive and unfortunately not seen as a priority when hospital budgets are made. If your hospital of choice has a pool ask about the options for wireless monitoring. The more people who ask, the more attention it will get that there is a demand for this option.
If you have a medical indication and are one of the lucky ones who lives close to a hospital that has the option to use a birthing pool with the 2nd line care, inquire about the options and protocols about your particular case. Angela was one of the lucky ones. Read her VBAC water birth story here.
Remember that if you have a medical indication, and are giving birth under the Gynecologist, your hospital of choice may have a pool but it is (in most cases) only available for women giving birth with an external (1st line) midwife practice.
Many doula’s and midwife practices have birth pools to rent or you can hire one online. These companies have excellent services.
Firstly, you need to prepare your mind. Examine your own motivations, incentives and expectations for wanting a water birth. Ask yourself what made you decide to have a water birth and why – is it something you are doing for yourself or are you doing it because someone else expects you to? Remain flexible and let go of the expectation that you must birth your baby in any certain way. Examine how you might feel if your baby is not born in water. We cannot plan birth and there is always a good chance it will go differently than planned. So hold on to your wishes lightly, inform yourself well of the options and alternative scenarios. The more you know and open yourself up for other possibilities, the less surprises you will have along the way and that will result in less stress and a better birthing experience, water birth or not!
The water temperature ought to be within 35C – 38C, depending on your preference. Adjust the temperature to your comfort. This can be done with a hose or by removing and then replacing some water with a bucket. If the water is too cold, you will use your energy trying to keep warm and become tense. If the water is too hot you’ll feel drowsy, overheated and may become dehydrated. Your blood pressure will drop which can make you feel faint and you’ll have a greater tendency to bleed after the birth. If you just want localized heat, for example on your back, wet hot wash cloths can be used. Cold wash cloths are great for cooling your face. It is normal for women during labour to one minute be too hot and the other too cold, your body is working very hard to birth your baby, so expect a little of that.
A woman should be encouraged to use the labor pool whenever she wants. However, if she chooses to get into the water in early labor, before her contractions are strong and close together, the water may relax her enough to slow or stop labour altogether. It’s best to wait until you have a strong desire to be in the water or your contractions are strongly established and you are in active labour. Some recommend waiting until you’re at least 5 cms dilated, that way you save the pain relieving effect for the time you need it most. If labour slows down when you are outside the water, try getting into the tub as this might stimulate labour. If your progress slows down whilst you are in the tub, get out, empty your bladder and move around to stimulate labour. Often it is the CHANGE of environment that gets labour moving again. Women’s bodies are all different. The first hour of relaxation in the pool is usually the best and can often help a woman dilate quicker.
Drink to thirst. Ask your partner to remind you to drink to avoid dehydration, which can result in fatigue and a poorly functioning uterus. Eating and drinking during labour has been shown to reduce the total length of labour by as much as 90 minutes. Eat light, easily digested food.
Experiment with a variety of different positions while in the tub. Try kneeling, squatting, leaning, sitting or lying outstretched (body facing up or down.) Your body will typically move til it finds a position that feels more comfortable. Some women prefer their partner to be in the pool with them to hold onto and act as an anchor, others prefer to be in the bath alone.
The baby doesn’t breathe until after its face leaves the water and its skin comes into contact with the air or it is stimulated when out of the water.
Until then, the baby receives oxygen through its umbilical cord, as it has done during the 9 months of pregnancy. Discuss the actual birth moment with your midwife ahead of time. Many midwives feel comfortable with the time that it takes the mother to reach down and pick the baby up herself, others (often less experienced in water birth) feel the need to have the baby come straight out of the water.
Often a mother will have an automatic response and bring the baby straight out of the water to her chest. If she has thought about it before hand she may take the time to just pause for a moment while the baby is immersed under water and look at her little one before bringing it up out of the water. As long as no part of the baby has come out of the water this is fine and safe to do. Remember that the great benefits of water have already been achieved as soon as the infant is born into the warm water. Sometimes babies born in water are so calm at birth it can appear that they aren’t breathing. Gently rub their back or blow on their face and they will gasp. Being born from water into water is a gentle start for a baby and these water babies sometimes need a little more time to literally land on earth.
Some women like to stay in the pool after the birth to enjoy the moment and bond with the baby. Many women want to get out quite soon after and get into a nice warm bed. Birthing the placenta in the water is usually fine. Some midwives prefer the placenta to be born out of the water due to the difficulty to judge accurate blood loss. When it is time for the placenta to come, your midwife may ask you to get out of the pool. Discuss what you both feel comfortable with beforehand and what the scenarios may be that would change this stage of the process.