As Told by Allison R. | March 31st, 2013
A few years ago, I had read about the benefits of water birth, how it reduces stress on both mom and baby and eases the delivery. Since I basically consider myself a ‘mermaid,’ it didn’t take much to convince me that giving birth in the water was an excellent idea.
When we discovered I was pregnant, Xiaodan and I discussed the possibility of both hospital and home birth. Seeing that I was low-risk and above all wanted the birth to be a tranquil, intimate experience, we chose home birth. After interviewing several midwives in the Ann Arbor area, we chose Helen Stockton and her apprentice, Diana Tomes. They provided support and guidance throughout the pregnancy and helped me take precautions to remain low-risk, in spite of my low platelet and hemoglobin levels.
On Saturday, October 30, I visited my parents in Troy and started to feel some cramps on the expressway. They were not very strong, so I ignored them. The next day, Sunday, I continued to have rhythmic contractions, mainly in my back. I assumed that this was prodromal labor, since they were coming every 5 minutes, but were not getting stronger, longer or closer together.
Sunday night was very frustrating, since the contractions were intense, but still not progressing. When I checked myself, it appeared that my cervix was still hard, and not dilated at all. I figured that this kind of labor could last for days or even weeks, and wasn’t sure how I would make it through this last stage of pregnancy. Daniel called Helen, and she recommended that I have a glass of wine and lay down to stop the contractions. I did so, but the contractions did not stop. In fact, they became more intense when I lied down.
At 8am on Monday, November 1, I called my substitute and told her that I probably would not be able to teach that day. She said she could take over. Xiaodan also called Helen, and she agreed to come over to verify what I thought was happening.
At 9am that morning, Helen came and checked me. To our surprise, I was already 7cm dilated, and the hard thing that I thought was my ‘cervix’ was our baby’s head! “You are going to have a baby on November 1!” she said. Oh the relief! I was overwhelmed with elation and felt all of the frustration melt. I cried joyful tears upon realizing that our baby would arrive in a matter of hours. Suddenly I felt strong and empowered; what had seemed to be unbearable prodromal labor was actually very tolerable real labor.
For the last few centimeters, I stayed in the pool, which was set up in our living room. Helen described this stage as “water mammal labor”, since I submerged myself during each contraction and blew bubbles underwater. I was completely focused and patient, so much that even a gentle “加油 Amore”(Come on!) from Xiaodan was too much distraction for me. My body completely took over, and I just followed its cues.
Between contractions, I couldn’t help but notice what a beautiful day it was. The sun was filtering through our window, and the reflection of the water’s ripples was shining on our ceiling. I could see the trees, the grass, the splendid blue sky outside. The familiarity of home was priceless, and allowed me to relax completely when needed. I was not stuck in bed, but could float around in the pool in the sun and pretend I was in the ocean. The scene was utter bliss.
When it came time to push her all of the way out, Lan-Lan was stuck. Helen did not interfere, but continued to monitor the baby’s heart rate, to make sure she was still doing alright. When her heart rate dropped from 124 to 60 bpm, they had to take action. Helen, Diana and Xiaodan airlifted me out of the pool, pushed on my abdomen and got the baby out within a matter of seconds. It turns out she had been in a funny position, and her shoulder was stuck. Lan-Lan was born at 12:50 pm. Daniel said that he cried, but I remained calm, perhaps partially stunned that there was a baby in front of me! That’s when our new life began!
See Pictures of the Happy Family: Here