An Accidental Water Birth
Leon Edward Harmon-Jones was born June 14, 2000. I started having mild contractions at about 7 pm on Tuesday, June 13. They felt similar to the contractions I'd been having every evening for the past couple of weeks, only a little more crampy. By midnight, contractions hadn't stopped, and I told my husband, Eddie, that I had a strong suspicion that labor would start that night. "60% chance," I said.
I got him to help me set up the stock tank that I wanted to use for hydrotherapy during labor. I didn't want to have a waterbirth, but I knew that being submerged in water would help with labor pain. We finished that, and I started to cry. "I'm scared," I said. Eddie is a long-distance runner, so he said, "Don't worry, your second marathon is always easier than your first. I just ran my second marathon last weekend, and it didn't hurt nearly as much as my first one." That made me laugh. I laid down in the guest room to try to sleep.
As I lit a few candles beside the bed, I thought about the midwife who says, "When I get to a house and candles are burning and soft music is playing, I know I'm in for a long, long night." I laid on my side and contractions spaced out to 8 minutes apart, but each contraction seemed to be longer and stronger than the one before. Finally, I had a contraction so strong that I felt like I couldn't lay down during them any longer. I got up onto hands and knees, and labor felt much more manageable.
At 3 am, I passed a little pink show. I knelt over the birth ball, trying not to think about how much harder it was going to get. At 4:00 am, I started to fill the tank in the kitchen. The water heater quickly ran out of hot water, and I filled pans and put them on the stove to boil. I got in and knelt in the tub. I was hoping that labor would be easier in the water, but instead it hurt more. Contractions seemed very close together, now. Eddie came into the kitchen around 4:30 am and asked, "Should I call someone?"
"I don't know," I said. He poured some of the boiling water into the tub and went back to bed. Not long afterward, I called him. "Call them," I said, "Call them all." At 5:00 am he called the midwife, her assistant, and a new midwife's apprentice. I started moaning. If I moaned loudly enough, at just the right pitch, I could still cope with the sensation. My four-year-old daughter, Sylvia, woke up. She was putting her fingers in her ears and Eddie thought she might be scared, so he took her in the other room and started playing a computer game with her. "Don't let me miss the birth," she said, and he promised he wouldn't.
Natalee, the new apprentice, arrived about 5:20am. I saw her standing in the living room, looking worried. She doesn't know whether she should come in and try to help me or leave me alone, I thought. I had a contraction that felt completely different and found myself screaming as loud as I could. I recognized that sound, the sound that means the baby is coming-now.
I reached into my vagina to check on what was happening. I felt baby head and around it the vaginal walls. Nothing felt like cervix, but I couldn't be sure. It doesn't matter. Scream and don't push. At 5:40 am, Shannon, the midwife's assistant, arrived. She came into the room and touched my arm. She had a little trouble locating the baby's heart sounds because the contractions were so close together, but after a few minutes she did find the heart and it sounded fine. Between screams, I told her, "I don't want to be in the tub!"
"You can get out," she said, "I'll help you."
"No, no, I can't!" At 5:50 am, I felt my water bag pop. With the next contraction, I had to push. I felt the baby's head being born. Now I'll rest, I thought, wait for the next contraction and birth the body. But no, the rest of the baby was coming too. Wonderful, I thought, It's done! Ah, the delicious relief! Then I heard Eddie say, "What's that in the water? Is that the baby?!" In the dark kitchen and under the water, he and Shannon had no idea that the baby was being born with that one push! Shannon quickly scooped the baby out of the water. I turned around and she handed the baby to me. I looked into baby's dark eyes and knew that it was fine, healthy, perfect.
The baby looked blue, but was breathing steadily and calmly after one brief cry. "It's cold," I said, "Poor little thing. Water babies always get cold." Eddie, my midwife, had pulled up in her car just as the baby was being born. She and Sylvia came into the kitchen. Sylvia was disappointed that she had missed the birth, but said, "We should name the baby 'Waterproof.'"
Sylvia asked, "Is it a boy or a girl?" I lifted the baby up so that she could see, and she told us all. A baby boy! We named the precious little angel Leon Edward Harmon-Jones. He was born 5:54 am, June 14, 2000, weight 7 pounds 6 ounces. What a perfect birth and a perfect baby! It couldn't have gone better if I'd planned every detail.