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Help Save Waterbirth

Well, you all know what a big advocate I am of safe, gentle birth…I’ve been referred to by friends as their “midwife”, “sensa”, “doula”…and I’m about to have my second homebirth. Not just a homebirth, a home waterbirth. There is something very special about this. First of all, having a birth at home is an amazing experience in and of itself. When a woman is in labor, the comfort of her own, safe home is incomparable. The cold and sterile setting of a hospital with its harsh lighting and unfamiliar smells and sounds can actually hinder labor. Our bodies are equipped with a ‘fight or flight’ response to danger…and hospitals can actually trigger this response, slowing down labor. I had Mickade in a hospital, and while it was a fairly mom and baby friendly hospital, I still wound up scared into having an IV and internal fetal monitor (yes, they actually screwed a wire into my baby’s scalp to monitor his heartbeat) by my supposedly natural-birth friendly midwife and the other hospital staff. Don’t even get me started on how recent studies indicate that any kind of continuous fetal monitoring has NO effect on fetal or maternal outcome, and appears to only increase c-section rates…therefore putting moms and babies at MORE risk, not less, in the end. But this is neither here nor there and I’ll save my rants for another time.

What I really wanted to get to, in relation to birth, is how much WATER can play an active role. When I was in labor with Mickade, I was not lucky enough to get a birthing room with a tub but I did have a shower…and wow was it Heavenly!!! It’s still amazing to me that hot water can offer so much pain relief that it can keep a woman from screaming for an epidural. I was tired, and wanting a break, yes, and considered some drugs just so I could sleep a little…but I didn’t get any, and it’s ONLY because of that shower. Lillian’s labor was different, and I account a lot of that to being at home, and with her being my second, I knew what to expect and could prepare myself better. I labored for a little while in a tub, then in the shower for transition…and once again…could not have made it without that shower!!! I moved to the birthing tub to birth Lillian, and I honestly barely had to push…everything was so relaxing, I was able to let my body do most of the work without any conscious effort of my own. I had no tears, no soreness…I climbed out of the tub with my beautiful new baby and right into my own, comfy bed. I think no one was more surprised at the difference a home and water birth makes than my own father…he was so shocked to see me 30 minutes after birth looking and feeling so good!!! I think it erased all the doubts and worries he had about me birthing at home.

Waterbirth International has played a key role in the US over the years in getting the word out about natural birth, and water birth, and helping mothers, midwives, and even OB’s see that birth CAN be natural…and how beautiful is when it IS natural. The medical model proliferates the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth, treating women like ticking time bombs during pregnancy…even though we have been birthing our children this way for thousands of years. (In fact, the current model of care for women with them being flat on their backs and attended by men is very, very new…perhaps only in the past 100-150 years or so). And yet, our neonatal mortality rate continues to rise, from 10 births per 100,000 in 2000 to over 13 per 100,000 in 2006. (I find it interesting to note that the US was part of a WHO initiative to lower these rates to about 4 per 100,000 by 2010…and we are going in the opposite direction.) Incidentally, we are one of the only developed nations where midwives don’t attend the majority of births. Most nations leave OB’s to care for the high-risk women, and midwives to care for the rest…which makes sense for our health and our pocketbooks!

Waterbirth International is in trouble. If you think you can help in anyway, by donating money or purchasing products from them or even just adding a link to your blog…please do!!!! The women in our country need all the help they can get to learn that they do have choices in birth…choices that are often safer and healthier than the ones their care providers may openly offer.