Born in a Bathtub
(This story was originally published in Child and Family Digest, May 1954)
I planned by some hook-or-crook to have the baby at home – a little difficult to manage since my obstetrician is chief of staff at G—- Hospital and would obviously not be willing to participate in a planned home delivery.
On the other hand it might do the cause a lot of good to go ahead to the hospital and demonstrate how it can be, so I was really undecided till the last minute. As it happened, it was all taken out of my hands by my waking in the middle of the night Monday in advanced first stage. I had slept through most of it. I didn’t realize then how close I was to the transition or I would have gotten the doctor on the phone right then.
Anyway, I felt sick to my stomach, so I went to the bathroom and vomited, wondering the while if it was something I had eaten, or if this was actually transition. While pondering this, I felt the need to have a b. m. so I sat on the stool and had a tremendous movement. (Could it be that nature provides an “enema” when things proceed without interference?)
I was conscious of a pressure but still was doubtful that I could be in transition already. Whilst still sitting on the toilet and trying to decide what to do there was a tremendous expulsive contraction and the water broke. From here on out, the whole thing was a series of surprises. There was no longer any thought of summoning someone (my husband was asleep in the next room), the lowered consciousness which Dr. Dick-Read describes settled on me, and my only thought was to deliver the baby.
I was absolutely devoid of fear, but did have a not too coherent thought about wondering if there would be any difficulty about the cord being wrapped around the baby’s neck or any of the other complications which would need medical attendance. I decided to get into the bathtub so that any fluids could drain away without mess. I put the bath mat on the bottom of the tub and assumed a sort of all fours position, but with hips lower than the shoulders.
The contractions were most bearable in this position but felt so entirely different from the second stage contractions I have experienced before. For one thing, no terrific back pressure was present and at first little if any urge to bear down as before. I could feel the baby descending with each contraction and I mostly panted and concentrated on relaxing the outlet as I had practiced so many times the past months.
Pain? Very little, if any – mostly sensations of fullness. At last a sort of sensation at the outlet. Before I could stop myself, I reached down and felt – sure enough, the head was crowning. Then, and I feel very chagrined to admit this, I got very excited and started to push down, much too hard. Then I settled back into sitting on my heels so the baby would come gently onto the bath mat, and moved forward as the body came so he was deposited, as it were. Yes, he: a boy, a wonderful, perfectly formed, beautiful boy!
I turned around to pick him up and he was already breathing, also wriggling a bit, blinking and making little funny noises in protest to this unusual turn of events (for him). (He did not cry.)
I moved him to the clean end of the tub and sat back on my heels again to observe this little boy. I just wanted to enjoy him all to myself for a moment. Then I called to my husband, who had slept soundly through it all (I’m truly sorry about that but I just didn’t have the presence of mind to call him any sooner.) And he came rushing in, all in a dither. His first reaction was concern over whether we were really all right or not. I told him to phone the doctor and have him come tie the cord. The doctor was very upset over the news and wanted me rushed to the hospital immediately in an ambulance.
But I felt wonderful, certainly no need to go to the hospital now that the baby was already here. Was the placenta born yet? No, there hadn’t been enough time for it to come yet. Then I would have to go to the hospital, said he. Call an ambulance and hold it, he’d be right over. Within a few minutes after this, the placenta just dropped out of me – no contractions or pushing or anything (I was still sitting on my heels.) There was another wonderful sense of well-being and strength, and I was determined more than ever not to go to the hospital.
The next twelve hours were the most hectic I ever hope to experience anytime. It started with the doctor walking in the door and bawling me out soundly for having done it; then he examined me and discovered a tear which had occurred back there when I got excited and bore down too hard – so I would have to go to the hospital anyway.
When I got to the hospital things went from bad to worse. Everyone was openly horrified at THE THING I had done and there was much discussion over the whole thing. Tried to get the baby put on the first available nursing schedule and we argued about that for 12 hours.
Then someone decided that since he was born outside the hospital, he would have to be in isolation for three days and neither I nor his father or anyone could see him these three days. Then I really hit the ceiling and caused so much commotion threatening to leave the hospital that very minute; etc. that the rule they had been quoting me suddenly got itself changed to the extent that I could have him for nursing after all.
He was still in isolation at the nursery, which suited me fine anyway – no telling what manner of germ we avoided by his not being in the central nursery! When my milk came in on the third day, we left, because there just was not enough nursing time. My boy was hungry and I had so much milk.
Forgot to mention, he weighed 7 pounds, 15 ounces. My posture had been so good that everyone was really surprised at his size. Even the doctor said it would be a small baby. Have been doing postpartum exercises and am now wearing my pre-maternity clothes, ten days after delivery. My waistline is still perhaps an inch larger than before. Looking back at the whole experience, I think it was a good lesson for me to have received the type of treatment I did at the hospital – it brings into clearer focus the importance of change in many hospital procedures.
* * * * * * * *
Click here to read a letter to the editor that was published in the next issue of Child and Family Digest.