I was astounded when my daughter, Pua, announced that she planned to have a home water birth. Having her baby at home was one thing, but doing it in a tub of water was another.
Home births are not new, but neither are they the majority choice. I asked my daughter the questions any concerned mother would have. Is it safe? What is a water birth? Are midwives licensed?
Pua assured me that if complications occurred before or during the birthing, she would immediately go to the hospital. She interviewed licensed midwives and chose a woman who was also a licensed nurse. Pua's husband, Roy, would act as coach.
She explained that her reasons for choosing a home water birth were to offer a better transition for her new baby and a comfortable process in birthing for herself. She also recommended a documentary for me to watch, The Business of Being Born.
Pua went 10 days beyond her due date. During that time, she experienced Braxton Hicks and tolerated my birth predictions and baby concerns. Her midwife, April Kermani, a CPM (Certified Professional Midwife) in Las Vegas, Nevada, assured her during weekly checkups that everything was fine within. On the ninth day, April recommended black cohosh, an herb to promote labor. However, that evening the labor pains began and the herb wasn't administered.
At about 11:45 Roy woke me to say he'd filled the tub and April and her assistant would be arriving shortly. I found my daughter already sitting in the tub, smiling, quietly enduring through a contraction.
Before the midwives arrived, Pua and Roy used their HypnoBirthing breathing exercises to go through a series of surges, or contractions. Her moans were primal, but there were no screams of fear or pain.
When they arrived, the midwives set up their equipment; then they sat down and waited for my daughter to do the work. Their words of encouragement were supportive, and the wee hours progressed smoothly. Roy soothed Pua by holding her closely and rubbing her back and shoulders.
Eventually, April's assistant checked for the baby's crowning. When the top of the head appeared, she guided my daughter to "breathe down," allowing the muscles to move the baby out. All the while, Pua moved around in the tub to assume comfortable positions, beginning with sitting alone and then sitting within Roy's embrace, and ending with her arms around him as she gave birth to their child on her knees.
I was awed by the sight of my granddaughter's face emerging underwater.
At 2:33 a.m. Ava emerged healthy, alert and curious. Kim clamped the umbilical cord in two places and handed a scissors to Roy to cut, but not until the cord pulsed out. April held the placenta in her gloved hands; it looked alive and sacred. (Roy and Pua later donated the placenta to University of Nevada Las Vegas Medical Research Center.)
I couldn't help but think about Pua's birth-my own natural childbirth experience in a hospital-and how much easier the birthing experience would have been if I'd had the choices that are available to mothers today.