One Mom Who Made a Splash

Welcome to the third post in the One Mom series. The aim of this series of four posts is to highlight that even though our journeys to motherhood were different, we are all united in our title of ‘mom’. 

At the end of the day, whether you had a C-Section or natural birth, whether you got pregnant easily or had help conceiving, whether you had your baby in a hospital or at home, or whether you were old or young when you became a mom, you’re still a mom. 

End of. 

It doesn’t matter what the particulars of your story are. You’re a mom, I’m a mom, and the woman standing behind you at the grocery store is a mom. We are One Mom. We’re here to share our stories and lift each other up. That’s what matters. 

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of water births, but since government hospitals in South Africa don’t even come close to offering this, I never explored it as a birth option. 

But the author of today’s post, Kirsten, did. 

Meet Kirsten 

I’m a secondary school Science and PE teacher. However, I’m not currently ‘practicing’… Unless you count me home-schooling my two-year-old! 

I’m a WAHM who dabbles in blogging and influencing. I say WAHM as I’m always trying to do things where I can to earn a bit of money and be flexible while still being around for my kids. 

I started my own small local business with a friend — organising outings for kids and parents — but, unfortunately, COVID has put an end to that (for now).

After three years of marriage and at 33 years of age, I delivered my first daughter in December 2014 in England, U.K. My kids are a six-year-old daughter and a two (nearly 3) year-old daughter 

You can keep up with us at www.doinglifewithus.co.za, Instagram: doing_life_with_us or Facebook: @doing.life.with.us.za

What’s Up with Water Births? 

1. What made you decide to have a home water birth? 

I had always wanted to have a water birth as I am a ‘water baby’ and find that water calms and soothes me.

I had also heard it helped with pain and I am not someone who can take medication (with my first birth I had gas-and-air and did not respond well to it at all. It was too strong for me and I felt nauseous and like I didn’t have control), so I needed other methods of dealing with the pain.

With my first daughter, I nearly had a water birth in a hospital in England,  but because I was in labour for 2.5 days and was sent home a few times to dilate, I missed out on my water birth and just had a natural hospital birth. 

I really didn’t enjoy being in the hospital environment and knew I would feel more in control, confident, and calm in my own space. That’s the reason I decided to go for a home water birth with my second daughter.

2. How would you describe what a home water birth is to someone who has never heard of it before? 

Natural vaginal birth in a warm (similar to body temperature) water bath or birthing pool where the mother labours and gives birth in the water for the purpose of helping the labour process in terms of decreasing duration and pain relief; and with the hope (doesn’t always work out) of making the babies transition into the world a little easier i.e. water to water.

3. As you were preparing for your home water birth, what resources — if any — did you use to help you prepare?  

Experience, advice, and help from my midwife, doula, mom, and homeopath. I chatted to other moms that had had home water births. 

I also read an amazing book called ‘Juju Sundin’s Birth Skills with Sarah Murdoch’ that provided me with incredibly useful and proven pain-management techniques for labour and birth.

4. I was surprised to discover that water birth can be a costly endeavor. How much did your water birth cost you, or did you DIY it? 

Sorry, I don’t agree 🙂 

I had a midwife, a doula, and a backup gynae (in case of an emergency) and it cost me R12,000.00, which I have heard is a lot cheaper than a hospital birth. 

I managed to convince my Medical Aid to pay the full R12,000.00. There were a few extra costs that came to around R1,000.00 that weren’t covered by the medical aid like the hiring of the birthing pool, but I didn’t think it was a biggie to cover those costs myself. 

So I think it was definitely a more affordable route to go. 

5. What were the 3 best parts of your home water birth?

Firstly, it all happened in the comfort of my own home. After she was born, my firstborn and all parents were able to meet her literally 30 minutes afterward. We got to have skin on skin and her first breastfeed in our bed. 

I was able to have a shower in my own shower, get dressed into my PJs, order pizza for dinner, watch some TV, and then wake up the very next morning in my own bed to my newborn in my bedroom. 

It was so surreal to have a baby in my bath one evening and then wake up the next morning in my bedroom to a newborn in her Moses basket.

My second best part was having a doula and midwife. It was wonderful to have experienced and highly knowledgeable ladies there with me before, during, and after this experience.

Having someone who focused exclusively on me (the doula… Even though I had my hubby and mom there too, they could become stressed, upset and or tired, but the doula remained calm and knew how to encourage, support, guide and help us) and someone focused exclusively on my baby’s well being, safety,  and so on (the midwife).

Finally, I felt like I had so much more control with regards to the techniques and water for pain relief and distraction. I thus handled the experience so much better and everything went so much faster — 4 hours of labour, compared to 2.5 days of labour with my firstborn!

6. What were the 3 most difficult parts of your home water birth? 

Not really difficult, but a little disappointing… I had everything prepared, but because everything happened so fast, I wasn’t able to birth her in my birthing pool as planned and instead had to birth her in my bath. 

The birthing pool was going to take too long to fill and unfortunately I forgot that our geyser only switched on at 4pm (exactly when I was about to give birth!) and so my poor mom and hubby had to run back and forth with kettles of boiled water to get the bath to the correct temperature. 

I shot her out after my last big push and so she did not get to calmly remain in the water like I would have liked. Instead, she was quickly lifted out of the water, so as to avoid injuries from the bath taps. 

Due to this push, I tore and had to have stitches (the injection was actually the worst!) which was really ouch. I was so sore and bruised after my birth and then having to be stitched up was very painful. Removal of the placenta was also very unpleasant.

  1. What are the biggest misconceptions regarding home water births? What do the movies get wrong? 

They’re unsafe or risky for you and especially your baby and if you have an emergency or problem, then you are in big trouble.

If you are healthy and classed as a low-risk pregnancy, then select the correct midwife who is certified, professional, very experienced and knowledgeable, have a back-up gynae, and prepare a plan or plans if certain scenarios occur. 

Your midwife should be able to assess the situation and determine — based on what she sees and hears — what the best route is to keep you and your baby safe. Whether that be to continue with a home water birth or if it’s safer to go to the nearest hospital. Midwives are medical professionals who have been trained to deal with emergencies.

Home water birth is messy.

All birth is messy. I hardly saw any of the mess as my doula and midwife dealt with it, sterilised, and kept things clean as we went.

Only hippies have home births. 

I’m not a hippy and I had one and most of the moms that I know who also had home water births aren’t hippies either. Home water births are growing in popularity. 

Medical Aid won’t cover home birth. 

Incorrect. My Medical Aid was only going to cover R9,000.00 of the R12,000.00.

I then complained and pointed out they were willing to cover me completely if I had a hospital birth and by me going this route I was saving them so much money. They agreed and paid it in full. 

Choosing a home birth means you’re saying ‘no’ to all pain relief.

This is not the case. I went the homeopathic route, although I didn’t end up using anything as being in the water and using my pain distraction techniques worked perfectly. 

Midwives and doulas can’t give you an epidural, but instead have so many other soothing techniques to help you cope with pain too. 

8. You’ve given birth at home and at a hospital. How did the two experiences compare? Which one was ‘better’ for you? 

Both experiences were so different. The home water birth with my second daughter was by far ‘better’ for me. 

With my firstborn, I had excruciating contractions from Friday at 7pm and she was only born on the Sunday at 10am. They only worked out on the Saturday evening that my waters hadn’t broken and so they needed to break my waters. 

During this 2.5 day ordeal, they sent me home three times to dilate more and during this time I lost my birthing pool and had to go the hospital bed route.

I have a very high pain threshold, but I was in the worst pain from the very first contraction. On the drives back and forth, I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even sit in the car and I screamed a lot… Which is not like me at all. 

I used gas-and-air to help with the pain and did not respond well. Sometimes, I felt like I was separate from my body and looking down at someone else’s body. 

In England, you don’t get your own midwife and so you can never build a relationship with the person that is going to be there with you during this time. In fact, because I was in labour for so long, there was a change in staff twice (which included lengthy paperwork processing while I continued with my contractions, screams, and pushes) and so I was pretty much surrounded by strangers the entire time. 

I didn’t know the gynae or midwives. It was my first child and so I didn’t know I had options and could — for example — move about and try different positions. No one told me, so for the most part I was on my back in a bed, which I didn’t find comfortable. 

I didn’t have anything to eat and not much to drink during this entire time and so by the end, I was so exhausted I could only do three pushes and would then start to pass out.

I needed to do four to get her out and so her head was in and out for a while before they decided (the gynae and midwife had a disagreement about this in front of me during labour) I either needed an emergency C-Section or they would assist with a suction cup to get her out. I decided to go the suction cup route. 

With my home water birth, I was out and about running errands, driving, and taking my daughter to her swimming lesson before I even realised I was actually 9cm dilated and officially in labour. 

The contractions were completely bearable and I didn’t scream (only once…for the final push!) during the whole process. I think that’s because I had planned, kept myself busy and distracted, and used techniques to distract myself from the pain. 

I was only in labour for four hours (compared to the 2.5 days with my first). I ate, drank, danced, smiled, spoke, and felt alert and in control. I ended up not having to take any pain medication. 

9. What are the must-haves for a successful home water birth? I’m imagining a paddling pool, water wings, candles, and dreamy music but I’m guessing I’m wrong. 

Birthing pool, bikini or crop top (something you can breastfeed with afterward), towels, blanket, pillows, waterproof plastic sheet and mattress cover, old sheets, garbage bags, salt, fan, heater, heat pack, ice, homeopathic meds eg rescue, and massage oil are essential. 

An exercise ball, snacks, food, water, jungle juice, candles, music, camera and charged battery doula, family support (e.g. mom and/or your partner), file with necessary documents and details in case of emergency are also must-haves. 

10. What advice would you give to women who are considering a home water birth? 

Things don’t always go according to plan. I didn’t have my daughter in our birthing pool, but instead in our bath, so just remain calm and go with the flow.

You never know how things are going to go when you’re in the moment. 

Sometimes you won’t get your water birth (which is what happened with me my first time) or maybe you’ll not feel like birthing in the water after all.

Plan, be prepared for certain scenarios, have everything ready, set up, and available. But be open to changes on the day and in the moment and go with your gut.

I highly recommend going the homeopathic route when it comes to something to help take the edge off your pain.

Take the time to drink and eat something small every 15-ish minutes. You’ll need the energy and it’s important to stay hydrated.

Have about five techniques you have learned and practiced that you can use to help with pain relief and distraction. Dancing to your favourite song, stamping and counting your footsteps, staring at a spot during a contraction, focused deep breathing in and out, and so on.

Let your husband learn and practice these techniques, so if you start to panic on the day, he can remind you of the techniques and do them with and encourage you. 

Get a doula too. They make a huge difference. 

Talk About Diving In!

I don’t know about you, but I feel educated as heck. In all honesty, I definitely did not have my facts straight when I first got in contact with Kirsten. Like at all! 

For starters, I thought that water births were mega expensive. Like in the tens of thousands of rands kind of expensive. 

Secondly — and this one is embarrassing — I believed that water births were exclusively for people who refuse to wear shoes in shopping malls and who somehow always smell like patchouli or some kind of essential oil.

Two happy surprises in one article!

Overall, I’m really happy that my misconceptions have been smashed to pieces. The idea of giving birth in an environment that is created by myself and the appeal of natural pain relief has made me reconsider my stance on water births.

Massive thanks to Kirsten for taking the time to answer my questions, I appreciate it to no end. But I also appreciate you educating me — and hopefully one or two of my readers — on the ins and outs of home water births. 

To learn more about home water births, or simply get to know Kirsten and her family a little better, don’t forget to check out the Doing Life With Us blog. Or get social over on Instagram or Facebook

See you next Wednesday for the fourth and final post in the One Mom series. I’m not crying, you’re crying. 

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