Letting Go of Water Birth
I wouldn’t learn till she arrived that my baby was facing the wrong way—sunny side up, they like to say, as if this baby were a type of breakfast.
Fiercely determined to have a natural childbirth, I had it all planned out: the midwife, the birthing clinic, the reclining tub that looked like nothing so much as a Lamborghini standing up on end. Its whole side opened vertically, the sports car door of the bathing world, so that the laboring mother could just step in and lean back in comfort and style. Then, after the nurse had shut the door, the whole thing reclined and the tap opened, filling the interior with water, working its antigravity magic on the gravid.
This was my first child, and I had expectations here. I love water, warm: hot tubs right at 101°, long baths in winter, even mugs of boiled water when there is no tea. Further, I appreciate water, and the sacrifices it makes to fuel our daily lives. We’ve installed low-flow showerheads and faucets. We water our plants and our pets with our leftover drinking water from dinner. We’ve cluttered our yard with rain barrels. At the time of my daughter’s birth, I knew, with the kind of certainty that would throw me into an instant hormonal rage if questioned, that the warm jetted water would massage away the tensions of labor, making the gallons and gallons needed to fill my birthing tub worth every drop.
It’s possible I was wrong.
The second they leaned the tub back, I struggled to escape.
“It hurts, it hurts; I have to get up,” I said, and then, overcome by instincts that remind us we are primates, I began to hoist my body over the side of my space-age tub.
My brain retains no memory of how I did this. One minute, I was in the tub, knowing that I had to GET. OUT. NOW. The next minute I was standing, naked and dripping and free—until the next contraction.
The following hours were spent on the floor with a yoga ball, or on my side, or on my hands and knees, panting. Instead of a calming water birth, I fought for this baby, my feet pushing on a horizontal bar, my arms pulling on a thick rope. This was a battle, like power weightlifting: an Olympic event if I ever saw one. (“No wonder” said the midwife. “No wonder she had back labor. This baby’s skull was pushing on her spine.”) Once my daughter was born, I felt all the elation and exhaustion of a triathlete.
Here was my natural labor, revisioned for me, yet no less wonderful.
Somewhere in our oceans, our rivers and drinking water, clouds and our very air, flow the remains of that aborted water birth, serving me yet in a hundred thousand ways, eternally loyal. I look at my daughter, and feel no regret.
Dawn Claflin writes about family, faith, and more from her home in the Seattle area. You can read her work in The Funny Times, Literary Mama, and Sammiches and Psych Meds, among others, and on her website at www.dawnclaflin.wordpress.com. She believes that any labor which results in a healthy baby and mama is a successful labor.