By Barbara Harper
I want to tell you a brief story of a birth that took place in 1984. It was my own birth, one that I had prepared for by not only reading a great deal, but also by getting on a plane and going to France to visit a small hospital, Pitivia, where Michelle Odent had written Birth Reborn. The experience of watching women giving birth without drugs, laboring and giving birth in water attended by midwives, nursing their babies and having uninterrupted contact with them after birth changed my perceptions of labor and birth forever. It also reinforced my own instinctive attraction to wanting to birth my baby in the water.
So back in the U.S. on October 26 th, around 11:30 p.m., after laboring for nine hours by walking, squatting, singing and "ohm-ing," I climbed into a homemade birthing pool which had been placed beside my bed. Immediately, I felt the incredible relief that water gave my laboring body. My body reacted by increasing the frequency and intensity of contractions so much that I felt I had been struck by lightening. I quickly finished dilating and began to push my baby out completely involuntarily. Samuel floated out of me. He smiled at birth. We all smiled and I dedicated the rest of my life to spreading the word about how safe and effective water birth is. Thousands upon thousands of women and their care providers have received all the information they needed to feel correct about their choice to have a water birth.
When a woman relaxes in a tub of water, the most feminine of elements, she achieves a level of comfort that in turn reduces her fear and stress. A woman's perception of pain is greatly influenced by her level of anxiety. When labor becomes physically easier, a woman's ability to concentrate calmly is improved and she is able to focus inwardly on the birth process. The body responses of mother and baby are intricately linked. The ease of the mother who births in the water is transferred to the child who is born in water. The water offers the baby a familiar comfort after the stress of birth. His limbs unfold, his eyes open, reassuring the child and allowing his bodily systems time to organize. Together, mother and baby are profoundly affected by this gentlest of gentle births.
Where to Get More Information
At www.WaterBirth.org you will find answers to all the most commonly asked questions about water birth, a photo gallery, a complete and extensive and continuously updated bibliography, a list of books and videos that are available for sale and information about portable pools. Taking portable pools into hospitals really helps change the environment and the attitude of care providers. If you would like a referral to a water-birth site or practitioner anywhere in the world, our staff would be happy to assist you. Simply call 1-800-641-BABY and enjoy the experience.