Water babies 2
07 Apr

Water Babies

While reading The Babymoon Experience, the author talks about how modern women are shielded from the birthing process. In days of old, giving birth was something that was done in a community of females and women of all ages would be exposed to it earlier in life; however, somewhere along the way the birth experience moved to the hospital, instead of the home.

Thinking about my own contact with birth, I cannot believe how little I’ve been exposed to it. Up to the point of actually getting pregnant, I had two moments in my life where I came face to face with the realities of childbirth: one was when I was sitting in an emergency room a few years ago. A woman and her sister came in. The latter looked panicked and was yelling, “My sister is in labour. Help!” The other woman was calmly breathing as they were led into the hospital. I remember my own reaction to this; I welled with panic, nervous that the pregnant lady was about to start screaming her head off. My second experience involved a couple of images in the Tate Modern. It was a photographic study done of women just after childbirth and, in one of the photographs, there was a mostly-naked woman wearing see-thru mesh panties with blood dripping down her leg.

And in addition to this, we’ve all seen births on television or in the movies. So obviously there is a lot of screaming, threatening, cursing, and there is always a parking spot available right in front of the hospital. Also birth is always done on your back, surrounded by doctors and a concerned husband. Interesting fact: apparently the fashion of giving birth on one’s back was started by Louis XIV who wanted his mistress/wife to do it that way so he could see his children being born. Somehow, the fashion stuck.

The point is I’ve never seen a live birth before. And no, I’m not going to watch One Born Every Minute because TV producers want drama and conflict and would, therefore, edit these births to deliver that. When I’m trying to convince myself that birth can be calm and gentle, this is not what I need to see.

So my curiosity was piqued when my old reflexologist, who moved to Edinburgh about a year ago, gave me a DVD called Water Babies to watch. And Saturday afternoon, while relaxing at Mhor, seemed the perfect time to do it.

We put the DVD in, not sure what to expect. James was even more scared than I was to witness his first birth and sat on the edge of the sofa like he was about to get a lesson from teacher. We definitely didn’t expect a documentary made in the 80s that started with a load of propaganda images about how obstetricians ruined the birthing experience by medicalising it in the 70s. Image after image flashed up onto the screen of women screaming in agony with men in scrubs surrounding them. Actually, the images reminded me of a picture in our family album of my birth. It showed my mom, on a gurney in a room surrounded by men in scrubs. Once the documentary got past the bit where they convince you that hospital births are bad, they get down to the nitty gritty of talking about water births.

Ironically, the fashion for water births also started in France in the late 70s. We got to see quite a few water births and some of the hairiest vaginas known to mankind. (My hair removal expert asked me the other day if I was going to have a Brazilian before the birth. Now I see why).

Once we got past the propaganda and the 80s styling, we really enjoyed this film. Not only do I want a water birth if possible, but James is also feeling a lot calmer about what is expected of him during the birth, having watched many men with 80s haircuts cuddle their wives and encourage them through the process. He’s going to start working on his 80s hairdo now.

We stopped watching the doc when it started talking about research in Russia, where a doctor insisted the babies he’d birthed in water pools had stronger paranormal abilities than ones not birthed in water. I began imagining a Russian army of paranormal water babies taking over the world. It would have made a great episode of Alias anyway.

Having read a lot on our babymoon about birth there a few things I think I know about what I want for my Abdul’s birth:

- I don’t want an epidural
- I don’t want an episiotomy
- I want Abdul’s birth to be as calm as I can possibly make it
- I want a baby with paranormal abilities

Water birthing seems to be a good way to ensure all of these. I would love to hear stories from anyone else who has experienced a water birth. Please feel free to share in the comments.



  1. 07 Apr

    Claire Hanley

    My first born was intended to be a water birth, however as the maternity unit only had one, and was in use when our moment came it was a bed birth. A long painful labour, a vontusse delivery and a nifty snip to help matters along. Not good.
    You can imagine my apprehension when it came to my second time. Second births by there very nature are easier but the scars of the first still make the task daunting when the time comes. This time I made sure I rang the maternity unit in advance to let them know I wanted the birthing pool and to start filling it. (it isn’t a 5 minute job) So we arrived, after several pauses in the carpark and corridor. A quick assessment of dilation and I was quickly helped into a deep tepid pool of water. The pool is like a large kids paddling pool only deeper. Because of the depth of water the weight dispersion within you lifts everything. There wasn’t the same pressure on my back. My legs felt lighter, and the whole thing just felt so much more relaxing, natural and liberating. Chris was at the side of the pool. My arms were supporting me along the edge, so it was easy for him to put his head close to mine and feel his arms along the length of mine. Gas and air was on hand to, and he was able to hold this across my mouth for me. As the labour progress, it was so much easier to push, and quite easy to place my hands between my legs and feel babies head. An incredible thing. With a few final pushes, out plopped Iris. Plump, clean, and remarkably peaceful, compared to Arthur, dragged out, crying and in need of a clean. Because the water is the same temperature as body temperature, your baby doesn’t actually breathe until they come out of the water, the temperature drops slightly and the cord is cut. Those several seconds of waterbirth are really quite precious.
    Thats the romance of the experience. Realistically, tell the hospital you want a birthing pool, give them notice. Keep yourself neat and tidy, and try to be regular. (There is a lot of downward pressure when you push. The midwives have a sieve handy though) I hope you and James have a beautiful experience. If you want to have a personal chat, feel free to call me.

  2. 07 Apr


    Hey! Really enjoying your posts Julia, especially as I am due in a few weeks and so its eating up some of my mat leave boredom!

    I have been thinking about how to post my own comments without sounding like an old bloody stick in the mud. I am so happy that women now are much more open to natural births and with hypnobirthing, waterbirths and home births being much more common and encouraged. Its almost like we are going back to basics which is great, after all women have been doing this for years!

    But.. unfortunately I also think we need to bear in mind a couple of things.

    Firstly, births rarely go as planned and for some women this can be difficult to deal with after the event. My own story is this. I also wanted a very natural, calm birthing experience, no episitomy, no pethidine, no epidural and I was actually looking forward to the challenge ahead. I had my ipod ready, glossy mags, snacks, books, swim wear, hell I even spent weeks before massaging my perineum with almond oil ready to avoid the tear. I was going to do this in the most perfect way. When I started in labour I was controlling the contractions with deep breathing, so far so good and so off I went to the hospital.

    I arrived at the hospital at 5.30am and my son was born at 8.15am. The first I knew of his arrival was when I woke up from the general anasthetic to see a little bundle in the crib next to me.. you must be mine I thought. My first feelings were of being cheated out of the birth experience, so sad that I’d been probably the fourth person to have held my baby after nurses, doctors, my husband. Then even weeks later I was upset by this and in many ways felt as if I’d failed as I couldnt share in the ante natal stories and anecdotes of second stage labour, pain relief, being handed the baby, husbands crying etc.

    But over time I have learnt that it wasnt my fault which leads me on to my second point, that actually although its great we are looking more towards natural births we also need to remember that medical advances have saved lives. My son woudlnt be with us today if it wasnt for the intervention of amazing midwives and doctors. His heartbeat had for a while been going up and down so the midwife was aware of a potential problem but she monitored me before it plummeted and it was clear that he was in trouble. Thats when it was taken out of my hands and thank god within minutes I was in theatre and my sons life was saved.

    It took a few months really to come to terms with this and now I can see that you don’t get a medal for how your child is born, you get a beautiful amazing little human being whatever. But for my second baby due in a few weeks I have chosen an elective c-section as this is the only way I can ensure I am awake for her birth, the thing that is most important to me.

    So I suppose I basically just want to say that have your birth plan ready and embrace the methods that are available to you but bear in mind that your little one might not play ball and don’t build yourself up for a fall like I did. For a friend of mine she also desparately wanted a water birth but was gutted as when ever she got in the pool her contractions slowed right down and she had to give birth on the bed.

    I sincerely hope you have the birth experience you want, it makes such a difference. A good friend of mine recently had a fantastic homebirth and it sounded amazing, I always get her to retell her birth story when we’re with mums to be! Two of my ante natal friends from first time round also had water births which they loved so fingers crossed for you.

    ps One born every minute has actually had a couple of really nice waterbirths, might be worth trying to catch them online? It is worth watching as to be fair, the births they have shown have all been best case scenarios and have put childbirth, maternal care and midwives in a really good light. The only drama and conflict are the complete cases they get to appear on the shows, particularly the common sense challenged husbands/ partners! But I suppose you would need a screw loose to agree to have one of your most intimate and least dignified moments in your life put on national TV!

  3. 07 Apr

    Juliet Hollingsworth

    This is not intended as a sales pitch but everything I read is screaming at me hypnobirth hypnobirth! It can make such a difference and really allow you to have the birth experience you describe above. There are some great classes out there & it’s especially useful for Dad’s to be …. try it, you won’t regret it!

  4. 14 Apr

    Birgitte Lydum

    Hi Julia, I’ve just had a chance to read through a couple of your blog posts, and I can see that you want a water birth. Good for you.

    Now, I was never one of those women who believed that child birth can be pain free and that it’s all in the mind, bla bla bla, but I did want a natural water birth and I got it and it was fantastic.

    I gave birth to Esther in Kingston Hospital’s Malden Suite and I can highly recommend it. Lovely big rooms, own shower/bathroom, big pillows and a tall bed to lean on (you move around a lot when the heavy painful contractions begin – I did anyway) and the midwives there were so laid back, calm and comforting.

    There’s a big comfortable birthing pool in each room, which they helped me get into a couple of hours before Esther was born. The contractions immediately felt much less painful and it was such a relief in every way.

    My husband sat behind me (outside the pool) holding me, and we were chatting and laughing, all very relaxed, with the two midwives in between contractions. They never touched me, just told me when to push. A lot of the time it was just myself and my husband in the room, and the atmosphere was very intimate and relaxed.

    4 hours after arriving there (with mild contractions that didn’t hurt at all) Esther was born. The big bag of stuff that I had brought, full of everything from calming music, things to eat, loose clothes, a book for husband, etc etc etc was left untouched.

    Straight after the birth (where Esther flew to the surface of the water like a little torpedo) and I’m sitting with her in my arms, still in the pool, the midwife suggested filming a little video clip on my phone, to remind me of how peaceful it had all been. That little 2-minute clip still makes me so happy.

    I was in there 12 hours in all – then they sent me home. I had, before the birth, said that if I could I wanted to live at the hospital for at least a week after having the baby, because I thought I would be nervous about bringing it home, but once I’d had her I was quite happy to leave. You get your own room (with bathroom) to sleep in after the birth, and there’s telephone, internet connection and even games to play above the bed! Not that I slept, emailed, phoned or played Tetris (!) the 8 hours I was in that room, I just stared non-stop at the baby in the plastic cot next to my bed and breast fed her every time she woke up (took some getting used to for me, but she seemed to know how it was done…)

    On my hospital release form under the title Medication Used it says “Maternal effort only”. That made me feel very proud :-) I’m convinced that it was the water that made the birth so easy, so I’m encouraging everyone I know to do it.

    Oh, and don’t forget to drink raspberry leaf tea! My NCT teacher, Josie Wood, suggested it to me. You start drinking it a month or two before birth (better double check with your NCT teacher or online). It’s supposed to make labour easier, by strengthening the uterus (the uterus is a muscle – I did not know this beforehand..) and making it more effective. Worked for me anyway. The midwife even asked me before sending me home: “Did you drink raspberry leaf tea by any chance?”

    So there, a positive (water) birth story (you usually only ever get to hear the bad birth stories I think…) Good luck with yours, I really hope you get to have your daughter in water.

    B x

  5. 15 Apr

    Olivia brabbs

    Hi Julia – water birthing was amazing for me. I actually went frown the hypno birthing route which helped me give birth to my little girl Holly in a calm and natural way. I spent the last 4 hours in the hospital pool and hadn’t planned to birth in water but once in there was no way I was getting out. Taking tips from hypno birthing there’s tons you can do to create a chilled ambience – lights low, gentle music, low voices and minimal intervention from staff. Your husband can take a big role in this working with staff to keep things chilled. Water means you are “fiddled” with a lot less – a quick heart monitor every 20mins. Holly’s heart rate stayed constant even during the birthing stage. Only negative was things were a bit icky in the water afterwards but hey birth is messy and tbh it’s the last thing on your mind!

    Oh – and on the paranormal bit – Holly was born en caul meaning with her membranes intact which apparently means she has special psychic powers!

    Wishing you tons of positive birthing vibes x x x

  6. 15 Apr

    Birgitte Lydum

    Hi Olivia,
    How funny, Esther was born in the amniotic sac as well! The midwife said it means a lucky baby – sweet.
    Not sure about Esther’s psychic abilities, although she does seem to have a 6th sense when it comes to waking up early when I’ve had a late night…

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