Water birth of a third generation mermaid

Guest post by Jennifer

By: Andrea GarciaCC BY 2.0
Everyone said I would just know when it was real labor. And I believed them. After all, eight months earlier, I just knew that I was pregnant before ever taking a test. When that second line appeared it only confirmed what I knew in my bones; I was pregnant. But when labor came just a few hours after my 40 week appointment with the midwife, my intuition was not quite as keen. I spent a restless evening and then a sleepless night riding contractions that still seemed not much stronger than the Braxton Hicks contractions I’ve been experiencing for weeks.

At some point in the night things ramped up and I was jolted out of my shallow sleep with every contraction. Still, I was skeptical. It was only when I barely made it into the bathroom and vomited into the sink that I finally admitted this was it. Our baby was coming!

Noah, the midwife, called in the morning and told us that we should have her come over as soon as managing the labor became a three-person job. In the hours Rob and I spent alone before she comes I discovered that nothing I had planned for sounds appealing. Forget the birth music I chose. I only wanted silence. With every contraction I told Rob to put pressure on my lower back, but it only seemed to dampen the pain. Finally Rob needed to fill the birth tub, a job that would have been infinitely easier had we been able to hook up a hose in the house. But instead Rob had to fill it with hot water by hand so we told Noah and Mary, my best friend, to come over.

I was lying on the couch when Noah arrived; staring outside at the brightest February morning I have ever seen. I always thought it would rain on the day my daughter was born. Once again, I surrendered to the element of surprise.

Only last night we ate dinner and laughed through my contractions. Only last week we rummaged through her CD collection for powerhouse birth music.

When Mary finally arrived I was tucked away somewhere inside myself. In retrospect I realize this is the closest I ever got to that dreamy state known as “Laborland.” Mary’s loud and cheerful voice only pissed me off. Didn’t she know that I just wanted quiet? But how could she? Only last night we ate dinner and laughed through my contractions. Only last week we rummaged through her CD collection for powerhouse birth music.

With Noah’s hands on the small of my back, primed for action, and Mary stroking my feet, I dove into a contraction. I learned to distract myself from the pain through Non-Focused Awareness. My mind skated from the sounds of construction outside to the brush of skin against skin to the blinding yellow of Mary’s daffodils. But I only skimmed the surface of the sensations; each one was given its due, before I moved fluidly to the next.

“As soon as you can, soften to the sensation. Soften your hands, your back, your belly,” Noah said. The pain drained from my body as the contraction ended. My cheeks were on fire and I could hardly catch my breath. I heard Rob filling the birth tub, pot by pot.

I turned to the midwife and told her the story of my 11th Valentine’s Day. The bathtub in our home had been out of commission for months, leaving my mom and me dying for our regular, luxurious soaks. As a Valentine’s Day gift my dad boiled countless pots of water to fill a tub for each of us. I feel safe in that story and in the memory of a perfect expression of love. And every splash of water I heard at that moment made me feel safe, too. The midwife smiled. She says my mom and I must be mermaid girls, the way we find such peace in the water. I thought of the next mermaid girl to come, an Aquarius baby born in water. Rob filled the tub where she will soon swim up to meet us.

“Acts of love,” Noah said, motioning towards my husband. And even though I was so scared, even though the pain was so strange and unknown, I felt loved. I know I am loved.

The afternoon felt like it dragged on without any sign of progress. I admitted to Noah that I was scared of the pain becoming too much to bear. “I know,” she said, stroking my hair. “And there are thousands of women around the world right now wondering if they are strong enough too.”

I wondered how this could possibly be called active labor when I felt so completely passive, as if labor was happening to me.

The pain began piling up on itself, leaving me breathless after every contraction. I wondered how this could possibly be called active labor when I felt so completely passive, as if labor was happening to me. Even the slightest movement set off another contraction. I felt like I was lying in a field of landmines. All I could do was lie still and get out of my body’s way.

Lying there, I became obsessed with “transition.” What does it feel like? Is it any better than active labor? Worse than pushing? How can this possibly get any worse? Noah answered each question with the utmost patience and admitted that some questions she didn’t have answers for. Only in retrospect did I learn that while my mind was preoccupied with transition, my body was actually enduring it.

The contractions pulled apart and I was miraculously able to fall asleep between them; something I haven’t been able to do for an entire day and night. Rob lay behind me, hands ready to press down on my back at my signal. I am later told that I slept so deeply I started snoring. But before long the contractions ramped up again and I could no longer sleep. At this point Noah has not checked my dilation once but something keeps telling me that I really did want to know how far I have to go.

“I don’t want you to be disappointed if you’re only 3 or 4 centimeters,” she warned, but I told her to go ahead anyway. She moved quickly because there was virtually no relief between contractions. Every time I felt one rip through my belly I would writhe and jerk around in pain, making it impossible to check. After checking Noah was silent and let another contraction come and go before telling me what she felt. I think we are both a little shocked when she announced “You’re almost completely dilated.”
I felt empowered by this sudden feeling of control. I was no longer mentally checking out so my body can do its thing, now I had work to do!

I felt empowered by this sudden feeling of control. I was no longer mentally checking out so my body can do its thing, now I had work to do!

Rob and I moved into the tub, triggering a handful of back-to-back contractions. I slumped into the water and wrapped my arms around the edge of the tub, letting my hips float to the surface. But now when a contraction came I felt the urge to push and as I pushed with the contraction the pain was pushed away.

Noah, the assistant Jamie, Mary and Rob cheered me on from around the tub. The pushing part was almost easy — it was the pain of my hips spreading apart that drove me to push harder and longer, knowing the end is in sight. My water broke as I pushed and everyone else could see her hair. When I demanded to know the color, they said it is dark, as I imagined. I looked at the clock in the kitchen: 6:30. “This baby better be born by 7,” was all I can think.

6:36pm: everyone was cheering me on through a contraction, but when I got to the end of it I just kept pushing and out she came! Surprised, Rob caught her in the water and he struggled I get hold of her slippery body before Noah grabbed her, unwound the cord from around her neck (it was so long!) and handed her to me as I turn around.

The baby in my arms wasn’t dark-haired as promised. I barely recognized this fair-skinned, red-headed girl, though she is my spitting image. For nine months I had imagined a baby that looked just like her Italian papa — but she was perfect. And as the three of us laid on the bed in exhaustion and wonder, placenta coming out, Pitocin going in (to staunch the bleeding) we announced her name to the midwives with pride: Ophelia Catherine.

Thank goodness she’s here.

Comments on Water birth of a third generation mermaid

  1. Ah, a redhead. Never you mind what the research says; I always keep the hemorrhage box close to hand when the laboring woman is a redhead. Congratulations and may you continue to be wonderfully surprised by your little mermaid.

  2. Thanks everyone!

    Nicole- Is that an old wive’s tale that redheads tend to bleed more? I’ve never heard that! We were definitely concerned about the bleeding because I had pretty low iron levels at one point late in my pregnancy. The placenta didn’t want to come out and I was bleeding too much. Hence the dreaded pitocin.

Join the Conversation