I love Christmas time and especially the family festivities and sharing of gifts. It is a time that really warms my heart. This year my heart is warmed and positively thrilled to bits with one of my Christmas presents to myself: the new book edited by Milli Hill just published called Water Birth: Stories to inspire and inform. I am ever so excited because the birth of my first child is one of the featured stories. To celebrate my first published piece of writing I have written a post about my personal experience of water birth including some of the details of the birth story that is found in full in the book. I do hope you enjoy reading.
I have always loved water. Holidaying in France as a young child I learnt to swim with the help of my mum in the shallows of a serene lake. I remember feeling so proud, brave and free as I let my feet lift off the sand and float and began to move through the water unaided.
Growing up many happy days were spent playing with my brother and friends in rivers and oceans. We would leap and dive under crashing waves in Wales, daring the surf to catch us as we ran away. We would shout with raucous laughter, racing, chasing and splashing. We would spend hours making damns, creating pools to soak in. We would alternate pushing against the rivers’ currents with allowing ourselves to be carried tranquilly downstream to the sound of accompanying birdsong.
As an adult I am still instantly soothed and relaxed by the trickling sound of a river meandering along its path and the regular rhythm of crashing surf followed by its gentle tinkling return through shells and shingle.
I continued to swim regularly throughout this pregnancy, getting a taste of how I might feel during a water birth. I enjoyed the weightlessness and ease of movement in the water. I even enjoyed the contrast as I climbed back out onto land, the sudden heaviness pulling me down into the earth, solid and stable beneath my feet. I appreciated the strong grounded feeling with a secret inner glee at the delightful memory of the floating freedom, a sense of power and possibility and the connection with my baby, whom I sensed enjoyed these sensations as much as I did.
My reading revealed fascinating history and surprising facts and ultimately allayed any concerns I may have had over safety.
I read of petroglyphs in Egypt depicting births of Pharaohs approximately 8000 years ago and accounts from the oral traditions of indigenous people who gave birth in shallow sea water or pools. There are examples both old and in modern day times right across the globe, from the Maoris to the Indians of Central America to the Hawaiian islands. These are glorious tales of women supporting women using the warm water to aid relaxation and for pain relief, that really warmed my heart.
In the Western world documented water birth is much more recent and until the latter part of the last century very sporadic. Water birth remained largely unknown until the 1970’s and the pioneering work of two obstetricians, Michel Odent in France and Igor Tjarkovsky in Russia.
Igor’s initial interest in water was sparked by a desire to help his premature daughter by immersing her in warm water in order to create an environment akin to the womb that she’d departed two months early. Seeing her rapid progress he went onto develop glass tanks and to experiment with the use of water during childbirth itself.
Michel Odent set up a Birthing Centre in Pithviers which focused on creating a home like environment with minimal intervention. The birthing rooms included baths for relaxation and pain relief. Inevitably as women enjoyed the benefits of the soothing warm water some women didn’t want to get out again and babies started to be born in the water. By 1983 he had attended over 100 of these water births and was able to publish a medical research paper.
From here on in the popularity of water birth blossomed and bloomed. Supportive studies were published demonstrating the safety, women and midwives were vocal supporters and the opportunity to experience a water birth became more accessible and common as word spread. Today most maternity units in the UK are able to offer water birth to their women.
I was also inspired by positive stories on the internet and the birth of a friend’s baby, nearly 10lbs in water with ease and grace and no tearing.
I bit the bullet and bought my own pool that took up the whole of my living room.
And I was also a little bit nervous. And sometimes just a tiny little bit impatient…
But, eventually my turn came. In my living room, gently into the dark waters of my birth pool, my baby boy was born. The atmosphere was serene and still, apart from some urgent clamouring from the midwives to get my husband back in the room before he missed it! He shot out across the pool like a shooting star across the night sky. His body, dimly lit by the head torch carried by the midwife, could be seen curled and glistening through the ripples caused by my undulating body as it arced into position. Lifted out by myself and my husband together in calm tranquillity, he appeared to be still sleep. The only noise was his sudden, surprising intake of breath followed by a deep satisfied sigh of happiness as he nestled against my chest, legs still floating in the water.
This story, my first birth experience is etched into my heart and transformed me deeply. I have loved telling and retelling my story hoping to inspire other women the way I was helped by hearing their positive stories. The telling of personal stories is a weaving of magic that transforms and teaches. The sharing of positive and empowering stories is a powerful support especially in our culture which tends to share the horror stories far too often. Giving birth awakened a passion in me to support other women on their journeys to mother hood and I am delighted and touched that the story of my first son’s birth will be available to more women than I could personally reach with the publication of the book Water Birth: Stories to inspire and inform
This delightful book is a compilation of women’s birth stories covering a wide range of situations – hospital, home, birthcentre, twins… All with the use of water. All the stories are intended, as the title implies, to inspire and inform of the wonderful possibilities of using water in childbirth. It is packed full of information within the stories themselves and in the commentary by Milli Hill who has herself experienced the delights of water birth and whose story also features.
It is my hope that women reading these stories are uplifted and guided into their own power to choose and create their own positive and transformative birth experience. I hope you have enjoyed reading this and would love to hear from you in the comments below.
You can buy ‘Water Birth: Stories to inspire and inform’ from Amazon here:
Water Birth: Stories to inspire and inform
The definitive book on water birth and the source of the historical data quoted is called The Waterbirth Book and is by Janet Balaskas.
For more about water birth and a taste of Milli Hill’s excellent writing click here to read one of her articles for Best Daily . Milli Hill is a freelance writer and weekly columnist for BestDaily.co.uk. She is the founder of the The Positive Birth Movement You can follow her on Twitter: @millihill
The book is also available to buy from wordery and direct from Milli Hill here