The new normal? Maybe.


OK, Colin (you know who you are). I’m back on the midwifery soapbox. Sort of. I got asked to write a blog about water birth for a hospital site. I kept the property rights, so it’s posted below in all its restrained glory.

Yes, I looked for a picture of lemmings leaping to their deaths, but never once mentioned that women in their thousands do not jump into the Bering Sea in the throes of active labor.

Except for those really staunch Russian women who do so in their threes (they were featured on a website years ago). They can probably be  seen across the Bering Strait by that gal who knows how to field dress a moose. She has a bunch of kids–wonder if she’s got “giving birth in the Bering Sea” on her resume.

I’ve been known to remind people (especially people with a medical reason for not being able to have one) that water birth ain’t natural. We haven’t done it for thousands of years and we’re not going back to our roots when we do them. An epidural can be more natural than water birth. (Especially those where they let the baby float around under water for minutes and minutes and hours. Forgive me. I’m just not that groovy.)

But boy oh boy, a tub full of warm water is a great thing for relieving pain if you’re not having an epidural, and when a baby comes out without much fuss (either way) there’s nothing better. Housekeeping thinks so too, as they wash the evidence down the drain. Epidural births happen on the bed, so housekeeping hopes the midwife’s good at mopping up all that stuff.

I’ll never forget the first days of trying to provide a “birth pool” in any of the hospital rooms where women wanted them. A doula (bless her long-suffering heart) would bring in this huge, inflatable tub and start it filling. Hopefully before the baby came or the water heater gave up.

There were plenty of times the water wasn’t ready, or the woman wasn’t ready, or the fitted top didn’t fit and the water got cold. And I’ll never forget the time a woman had a death grip on my hands, her feet braced against the tub, and super-human strength that was going to pull me head-first to my death. Yep, just like a lemming.

To save myself, I sat my butt on the floor, braced my feet against hers through the side of that squishy, ridiculous tub, and congratulated myself on cheating death. Next thing I knew, my pull exceeded her pull, and she and all those hundreds of gallons of water landed in my lap. Nobody drowned, and we were laughing SO hard that the baby flew out. Also into my lap.

I don’t have any kids, but am considered a mother many times over in the Biblical sense because of events like these. If you don’t believe me, just see Genesis 30:3. In the Tanakh Translation the barren Rachel says: “…that she may bear on my knees and that through her I too may have children.” Lovely.

And neither Rachel, her maidservant Bilhah, nor the benighted Leah were concerned with whether or not their babies were born in water. They just wanted them. And wanted them safe. Which is what my blog for the hospital tries to get across in “Waterbirth and Plan C“:….pdf

If the stoopid link doesn’t work, go down to the Blogroll at the bottom. It does. Sometimes.

About An UnCool Midwife

I'm a midwife who's been up all night for most of the last 30 years. Before that, I was editor of a small town newspaper. I left that job swearing I'd never face another 3 am deadline. Now I’m thinking what I really needed was a good night’s sleep. (And they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.) But I miss writing, so I’ve decided to launch a blog to record some of the brain activity that occurs between naps. I’m a little worried about exposing my tender underbelly to the pointy public, but have decided to dive in and see how we all get along. Unexpectedly, this blog has become an outlet for thoughts & feelings that occur with my new diagnosis of breast cancer and its ongoing treatment.

10 responses »

  1. I just read ‘Water Birth and Plan C’ and loved it! In fact I have to say that I am totally jealous that I didn’t have someone with your wit and experience with me, to help me through my labors. My generation got left in a labor room, mostly attended by our poor clueless husbands. Periodically a nurse would pop in to check our progress, tell us not to be such a big baby, and then leave again until it was time for the doc to arrive and catch the baby. Thank goodness times are changing! I will be looking forward to your next article.

  2. Kay, you are such an excellent writer. Even beyond the topic, I so enjoy the way you put it all, so warm and accessible… and often very funny!

    As for the topic, you are spot on about the many “plans” one must be open to at that precious moment of childbirth. I remember being bombarded, during the months leading up, with all the options available to me at the time, sometimes even scolded for not showing proper enthusiasm for one plan or the other (particularly the one the person scolding me “LOVED!”). But your description of what is most important – a healthy birth where both parties involved go home at the same time – is exactly right. I ended up getting an epidural, in traditional bed mode, and being in the able hands of a warm, wonderful doc whose own experience with childbirth gave her great empathy. It was a transcendental experience and I was glad I didn’t have any stringent plans (beyond that one mentioned!) to feel beholden to.

    Your writing on this topic will be a great resource for mothers facing all those many options, water or otherwise! Well done, my friend!

    • That is exactly what I’d love to get across to people, Lorraine. You had and epidural and “still” found the birth experience transcendental. It’s birth, for crying out loud! A new baby! What’s not transcendental and miraculous about that? No matter how the baby comes to us. Thank you for saying it for me. And for US.

  3. Kay oh Kay – How I love you and your writing. Thank you on behalf of all the midwives out there who try to be groovy and loving water birth but find it often makes the whole process so much harder!! That is saying something of a process that is innately hell on wheels all on it lonesome. Trying to explain that to a woman who hasn’t even experienced a cramp with any period she has had sure is a challenge. I think I will just refer them to your article. Thank you

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