My home water birth
Do you want to know more about home or water birth? One reader share's her experience of both!
About a year ago, I met a woman who was planning on having a home water birth. I wasn’t pregnant yet, but I did plan to have a second child, so the idea of a water birth at home intrigued me. Although I had a drug-free birth for my first child, Emi, she was stuck high up in the birth path after 16 hours of labour and two hours of pushing and had to be yanked out with forceps. It was not the gentle entry into this world that I had wished for her!
There were also several things that I disliked about the hospital birth: leaving my comfortable home in the middle of labour to rush to Thomson Medical Centre, being strapped to the fetal monitor while stuck on the elevated hospital bed, and a well-intended but annoying coaxing of the midwife’s “Push harder!” as if I were not trying hard enough.
Three weeks before my due date, I came across the Hypno Birthing method and contacted Ginny Phang a doula and childbirth educator from Four Trimesters about her classes. While watching the Russian water birth video during our second private session, my desire to have a water birth at home resurfaced. I asked Ginny about homebirth and found out that although she had never attended a homebirth, she was willing to attend one and knew of a doctor who was open to homebirth.
By the time my husband came back from his business trip (9 days before the due date), I decided that I would go for a homebirth if I felt comfortable with Dr. Lai Fon-Min from Camden Medical Centre and if he would support our decision to have a homebirth. A home water birth seemed like the ideal solution to avoid everything I disliked about my first birth experience.
However, things were not looking up. My husband travels a lot, and I wasn’t sure if he would be home for the birth of our second child. My doula from the first birth would not attend a homebirth because of the possible legal complication if things did go wrong. Additionally, my gynae would not perform homebirth for the same reason. In fact, his first words when I inquired about homebirth are that it was illegal in Singapore. I chose not to explore matters further.
One week before my due date, my husband and I met Dr. Lai and decided to go ahead with the homebirth plan. For the next few days, I bought homebirth supplies and rented an oxygen tank in case of emergency. On my due date, I had a check up with Dr. Lai. He did a vaginal examination and told me that I was 3 cm dilated and the cervix was very thin. According to the CTG, the baby’s heartbeat was normal, and I was already having some very mild surges that I was not feeling.
I started to have some mild tightening in my abdomen in the evening. I timed it and they were 3-4 minutes apart but the interval was sometimes longer. I reported this to Ginny just in case things started to pick up in the middle of the night. However, this mild tightening sensation stayed mild all night and I was able to sleep through them. I only felt them when I was in an upright position.
Water Birthing at Home
The next morning I had the same tightening sensation in the abdomen every 3-4 minutes apart. When I reported my progress, Ginny suggested via SMS to visualise a flower opening during the surge. These very mild surges intensified in the morning while I listened to the birth affirmation, rainbow relaxation, and birth imaginary CDs and visualised a flower opening.
The intensity gradually progressed in the afternoon to the point that I woke up during surges when I was asleep. At around 4:00pm, having stayed in the same room all day, I had to get some fresh air. I also felt that my labor might be stalling. I asked my husband to accompany me for a walk. As soon as I started to walk, the surges started to come every 3 minutes and were much stronger. I had to stop and hold onto my husband or an outdoor railing for support. When we arrived at the neighbourhood park, we sat down and the surges were further apart about every 8 minutes and weaker in intensity. We reached home around 5pm and I took a shower.
Over the next 30 minutes, the surges came every 2-3 minutes, each lasting 60 seconds, and they were more pronounced each time. My husband, Wes, called Ginny and asked her to come over after she had dinner. At this point, I was on my bed using slow breathing during each surge. I thought I would wait for Dr. Lai before going into the bathtub in case he needed to check me outside the bathtub. I was very surprised at how quickly the intensity of surges were increasing.
The surges grew stronger and stronger and I felt that I needed to have Dr. Lai come over to check. Wes called Ginny to ask for Dr. Lai. By then Ginny had almost reached our home at 6:40pm.
She told us that she could not reach Dr. Lai so she left a SMS message instead. She asked if I wanted to go in the tub but I said I would like to wait for Dr. Lai. Wes started to fill the tub in-between surges. Ginny took the fetal heart rate using the portable fetal heart rate monitor that we borrowed from Dr. Lai. During each surge, Ginny encouraged and comforted me. Her calm voice was soothing relief from otherwise overwhelming surges and helped me to focus.
Remembering that I was supposed to urinate every hour, I went to the bathroom. Afterwards, I decided to go into the tub. The first surge I experienced in the tub was so much easier that I asked Ginny whether it would slow down the labour. Ginny assured me that there was no turning back at this point. Sure enough, surges started to intensify. I started to suspect that I was in transition since I was making comments like, “this is getting too difficult!” I tried not to keep my hopes up because I didn’t get the chance to advance to the transition stage during my first labour, despite being in intense labour for 10 years.
Ginny suggested Wes to have dinner. He agreed and went downstairs. Ginny poured water over my body and asked if I wanted to do a deepening technique and also suggested that we ask Wes to get into the tub with me as the tub was too big for me to find a stable position. I started to feel very hot (which I believe is another sign of transition) and asked for a cold towel. We tried a deepening technique but surges were too intense for me to focus during the intervals. Not knowing how far in labour I was, I started to doubt my ability to continue until the end.
When Wes came up to our bedroom, Ginny asked him to get some ice water for a towel dip. After bringing the ice, he changed to his swimming trunks and got into the tub with me. Ginny showed how he could support me. He sat in a tub and I leaned against him. During surges he gently massaged my lower back while making a comforting encouragement. I felt much better in this position. I felt more grounded and supported. In the meantime, Dr. Lai called and Ginny reported our progress. He said he would come over right away.
At 7:50pm Dr. Lai arrived. He asked if I wanted to have a vaginal examination. I said yes. I needed to know how far into labour I was. I asked him to wait until after the next surge. Ginny asked him if he could do the vaginal exam while I was in water. He said it would be easier outside but he can manage in water. That was a great relief. He checked his stuff and waited until I was ready.
At 8pm after few surges, Dr. Lai did the vaginal examination. He told us that I was fully dilated and the baby’s head was at stage 1 position (which he explained that baby only needed to travel another 2cm) with the amniotic sac still intact. We were both very pleased. Dr. Lai went downstairs to wait.
The next 20 minutes or so were truly magical. Here I was in our own bathtub with my husband who kept encouraging me saying; “Baby is relaxed. Masami is relaxed. Baby is happy to be in the bathtub with Masami.” The room was dimly lit with essential oil aromatherapy. Ginny was also encouraging me in her calm voice. I felt everyone trusted that I knew what to do even though I had no idea what I was supposed to do.
I never came this far with our first labour. But eventually I started to feel confident that my body and my baby knew exactly what to do. It was a very intense yet very peaceful moment. I let my body take over. Then I felt a strange sensation. Ginny said something about water releasing. I reached down and felt the baby’s head crowning. I could not believe it!
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Then magically Dr. Lai appeared and put on gloves and an apron (later I learned that Ginny called him to come upstairs) and told us he could see the head. Still no one ordered me to push or told me what to do. During the next few surges I gently eased my baby’s head out of my body. I stopped to wait for the next surge, but Dr. Lai asked me to give a push to let the shoulders out.
At 8:23pm our baby son Tyler Yuta Heiser was born. Dr. Lai passed Tyler over to me. I immediately tried to breastfeed Tyler. Dr. Lai clamped the cord and let Wes cut the cord. I had a wonderful time admiring my baby in my arms who seemed to be very calm yet alert.
Ginny then carried Tyler while Dr. Lai helped me get out of the tub and move to our bed to deliver the placenta, as I had requested. Wes kept commenting how calm and gentle this birth was. I could not agree with him more. Wes and I were surprised that the intense part of labour lasted less than 3 and half hours.
Afterwards, Dr. Lai stitched a tear with Wes holding a powerful torchlight, Ginny and I cooed over the baby who was wrapped in microwave-heated towels. Tyler was alert and seemed to be sucking my breast very well. When Dr. Lai finished stitching, Wes called Emi into our room to meet her baby brother. Emi, who is two and half years old, was excited to finally meet Tyler. The birth of Tyler could not have been more perfect. We thank Ginny and Dr. Lai for making it possible for us to have a peaceful homebirth. They are truly brave to decide to support our birthing wishes at the last minute.