In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Natalie Courtois, 36, shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I knew I wanted a water birth as soon as I found out I was pregnant. Birth terrified me. I had this horrible vision of being surrounded by loads of people on a ward and it being very medical and intimidating. I didn’t like the idea of people seeing me completely naked, so I guess choosing to be in the water (and wearing a bikini) was my way of having some form of control over it all.
I was living in Brighton at the time and knew a lot of people who’d had water births. There seemed to be a rise in these alternative ways of getting the baby out, so I jumped on board. I was lucky, too. You can request a water birth, but it’s pot luck whether other women on the day manage to nip in there before you.
Thankfully, they didn’t. I still worried about the whole thing, though – my birth plan was ridiculous. It was all “if this happens, I want this, but if this happens, make sure you do this”. The midwife must have been in hysterics reading it. She said I’d literally covered every single aspect, thinking the worst. I don’t know why, I was just genuinely petrified of dying.
I was 24 when I got pregnant and it all happened very quickly – within three months of meeting my partner. As a first-time mum, I struggled with having no idea what to expect about birth, especially as I was the first of all my friends to get pregnant. I didn’t know what was normal and what wasn’t. I didn’t know if the pain really was that bad (because yes, it was absolutely excruciating) or if I was overreacting. I didn’t know if women had it way worse than me and I should just get on with it.
My daughter came a week early. I went into labour at 7am while my partner was getting ready for work. He’d already nicknamed me “the woman who cried birth”, so didn’t believe me when I said it was happening. “Oh for crying out loud, you’re not in labour,” he joked while getting ready to leave the house.
When I went to the loo my waters broke, confirming that, in fact, I was.
And they kept on breaking in the taxi on the way to the hospital, which I’m told is quite unusual. We were desperately trying not to alert the driver as we didn’t want him to kick us out. God knows how, but we managed to pull it off.
Considering my in-depth, panic-written birth plan, I felt quite calm when I arrived in the hospital. My room had dimmed lights and relaxing music. I couldn’t get in the pool in the beginning – I had to put it off until I was more dilated or I’d have been an actual prune by the time I gave birth.
However, I did have four baths. Four. I had this thing in my head about being clean. It became massive for me – I didn’t want to have blood near me, so I just kept getting in the bath, and out again for a bit, and back in again.
By the time I was able to get into the birthing pool, I was nearly fully dilated. I was wearing a bikini and was able to keep my briefs on until the last crucial moments. Being in the water didn’t take away the pain, but I had gas and air which eased it a little and made me go silly and chat gobbledegook to everyone. I did find it hard to hold back how much pain I was in, though – I even lost my voice afterwards, I’d been screaming so hard.
No one was in the pool with me while I was contracting, but a midwife came in to assist me as Ivy’s head started to crown. The strange thing about water births is that once the baby’s head is out, they stay there under water until the rest of the body follows. I remember feeling her head between my legs and worrying that she would drown, being stuck down there, immersed in the water.
It took a few more pushes (and a lot of screaming) for Ivy’s body to come out. I felt so relieved in that moment and, as you can imagine, it was really emotional, as a first-time mum, that she was finally here. We had a few minutes together in the immediate aftermath – she was slowly lifted on to my chest and I loved the feeling of being in the water holding her. I found it so calming.
That stillness soon came to an end when I was told I had to get out the water to deliver the placenta – but everything (including Ivy!) was still attached to me. Imagine me, one post-birth mother, carrying my baby via the umbilical cord, out of a pool when I’m wet and slippery. Yeah, that was interesting.
It felt like my first wave of responsibility as a mother. “Get out, don’t slip, don’t drop her,” I thought to myself. The midwife led me to gym mat on the floor where I delivered the placenta and my partner cut the cord – he’s left handed so there was a bit of a moment with the scissors.
Despite the worry, the stress, the anxiety over giving birth, I was on a total high after Ivy was born. I would’ve gone and done it all again immediately.
My birth advice?
100% if you can, have a water birth, try it. From my experience, it’s such a relaxing way to give birth and being in the water was great for me. Also, trust your midwife and what she tells you – they’re absolutely amazing and do an amazing job, and we’re very lucky to have them.
As told to Amy Packham