Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Water Baby?

Last night we toured the Alternative Birthing Center at the local hospital where Toth will be born, if all goes as planned. It was pretty freaking cool.
My experience with our past two births has been that the hospital and the practice taking care of me always seems pretty good during pregnancy. I've always liked the OBs and midwives taking care of me, have always been assured that the hospital protocol is based on "whatever we want," and have always thought the hospital and its practices seemed accommodating and nice.
Then, I go into labor and we show up there, and nothing is as expected. The "intermittent monitoring" promised is disallowed for one reason or another and a fetal monitor is strapped onto me. The birth plan that requested we not talk about pain is missing from my chart (and with our first birth, Epu accidentally took the birth plan out of my hospital bag and left it sitting at home), and at any rate no one would have likely informed the well-meaning anasthesiologist who stops by to discuss my pain-control options (i.e., "Let me know when you're ready for the epidural.") "Allowing uninterrupted parent-infant bonding during the first hour" turns into, "First we'll give the baby a bath, and then she'll have to lie in this warmer until her temperature returns to normal, and by the way our thermometer is dodgy and this will take two hours."
So during the tour last night, I kept asking "gotcha" questions, expecting to find exceptions to the fabulous-sounding policies. At just about every answer, Epu and I exchanged pleased expressions.
For instance, I asked about the baby's first bath, and was told that they DON'T bathe the babies when they're born, therefore, no mandatory visit to the warmer. (At this point, my labor and delivery nurse mom will be saying, "ICK." But since many of the births at this place are water births anyway, the babies probably only need to be toweled off.)
Other things I'm excited about: They have several kinds of birthing stools and chairs, to assist in giving birth in an upright position. A squatting delivery is something I've been told would be good for me to try after my very long and difficult pushing phases with the last two births, but I know that it's difficult to stay in a squatting position for long, especially if I'm exhausted from labor and feeling pain.
Another selling point of the rooms are the queen-sized, regular beds. That actually doesn't impress me much for labor. It actually seems like an adjustable hospital bed would be MORE helpful if you are trying to change positions, etc., but whatever. The idea with natural childbirth is that you don't need to be in bed anway. If it were my hospital, I'd save the big beds for the recovery rooms, where the poor fathers have to sleep on those awful pull-out chairs. (There IS the possibility that we will get to spend the first night in the Alternative Birthing Center, however, in which case Epu would get the privilege of sharing a real bed with me and the baby, and that would be nice.)
Which brings me to the nice big tub they have in there. This place is one of the few hospitals around that will willingly let you give birth in the water. I haven't decided how I feel about water birth yet; it wasn't a selling point for me for this practice. But I DO know that being in the tub during labor provides me with a lot of relief, and whether or not I stay in until the baby emerges, I definitely will pay the extra fee they charge to use the tub. Besides being larger than the regular bathtub, it's nice that it's freestanding, so people can get behind you or on either side of you to help.
After we saw the rooms, we watched a snippet of a video of a woman giving birth in the tub. It IS a little gross; if you have had a baby or watched a woman push one out, you'll know that OTHER stuff tends to come out too, so as pushing goes on the water into which your precious babe will be born is not exactly clear. They even have a little net for scooping out anything solid. (Use your imagination, said the doula giving the tour, but we didn't have to use our imaginations, because the video showed the poop quite clearly.)
Still, the video was quite convincing that the newborn was no worse for wear for being born into water. The mind-blowing part of the video came when the baby's head emerged, and then the mom waited nearly a minute for the next contraction before pushing the body out. That time felt like forever, and there was the baby's head under the water, and no one was worried about trying to get her face above water or suctioning out her mouth and nose. Then the whole baby came out, they put her on mom's chest, she breathed and cried, and was fine.
Of course, this makes sense since the baby was still being fed oxygen through the blood supply in the umbillical cord the whole time. And yet, it goes against every instinct of mine to let a baby's head just sit there under water like that. And I do know that babies sometimes aspirate as they are coming out -- Nutmeg I think aspirated a little fluid although thankfully no meconium. So what if they aspirate some of this icky tub water?
This is all stuff I will ask the midwife about when we go in for our "birth plan appointment" in three weeks.
By the way, we brought Nutmeg along on the tour at her insistence, so she saw the video too. She had already seen photos of a baby emerging from a mom at the midwife's office -- I paged through one of the big binders they have in the waiting room with her to answer her question about how the baby was going to get out of me. She was pretty psyched by the video and not at all freaked out. The mom in the video was very calm and did not show much evidence of pain, so that helped.
As usual, she has an opinion about how we should proceed.
"Mom," she told me on the car ride home, "I want Toth to be born in the water!"


Sara said...

sounds like a great place!! here's to hoping you are able have your wishes carried out this time around. i know what you mean about everything sounding great at the hospital before labor begins but having it be a completely different story when labor starts...i had hopes of using all sorts of labor positions and the shower when i was in labor with harrison, but instead i was stuck in bed, strapped to monitors and completely uncomfortable. ick. it almost makes me want to have another one so i can find an ABC like yours and try to do things differently. almost.

Unknown said...

I think what causes the aspiration/breathing in reflex is the sensation of cold air on the baby's skin. So the warm water would not cause that, at least in my understanding.

I was hoping for a water birth this time with #2 but alas, my "perineum of steel" (as my midwife called it) did not let her out in the water no matter how many different positions I tried, so I had to climb out of the tub with her at a full crown (damn, that was hard!!!) and get on to the birthing stool. Which was great, although it still took two more pushes for her to come out.

Carrie said...

Felicia -- That's what I've been told too -- that it's the feeling of air on the baby's face that prompts him to inhale.
Thanks for sharing that experience -- I have been wondering if being in the water would help my tough, scar-tissue perineum stretch. Maybe it won't. But fortunately, the birthing stools at the Alternative Birthing Center are waterproof and can be used in the tub. Isn't that neat?

Marketing Mommy said...

I, as well as many of my OP friends, have delivered in one of the ABC rooms. They really are great. I was all for a water delivery, but the warm water slooooowed things down a lot and after a couple of hours in the tub my skin was starting to peel off. No one warned me about THAT. In any case, I'd been in labor for 24 hours, so I finally hauled my giant self out of the tub and onto a stool. It looks and feels a bit like having a baby on the toilet, but it worked. 20 minutes later she was born.

Can't wait to hear Toth's story.

Unknown said...

I don't know if the water helped me stretch - I had an episiotomy with baby #1 (after pushing for 2 hours on the bed) and subsequent scar tissue - but with this one, I only had a minor first degree tear (required three stitches). And the tear was only on one side, so I assume it was not the scar tissue from the episiotomy giving way...

Was it the water or just the second child? I don't know. Either way I'm happy though because the recovery was much easier!!

Jeevita said...

I am glad that at the hospital here, they didn't whisk away the baby immediately for a bath. In fact till I read your post I didn't know they usually do that! The hospital here was actually pretty good with all my requests (no meds, delayed cord clamping, breastfeeding shortly after birth etc.). The bad thing was the pushing stage where they wouldn't let me squat and the part after birth where a resident decided to pull my placenta out instead of waiting for it to come out... Oh well, I've got to have something on my wish list for my next labor right?
This place you've found sounds pretty awesome and I hope you have a wonderful birthing experience.

Birthing technique said...

It must have been great and different experience for you. Underwater birth means delivery occurs while the mother is submerged in water. In this method, mother and new born child are benefited. But sometimes child has threat of inhalation also. Good your delivery happened smoothly.