Yoga teacher shares her incredible home water birth experience
In this fascinating read, Aisa Locsin-Winternitz tells the incredible story of giving birth to her son Raphael Kainoa in their very own living room, in the Philippines.
I got up extra early on that Friday morning, feeling good and rested. It was a big relief, as I had been getting really strong, yet sporadic, contractions for three consecutive days prior to that morning.
Surprisingly, my back wasn’t as sore, my thighs didn’t feel like they were going to fall off, and my heels didn’t feel like they were ready to explode. To celebrate, I whipped up a big breakfast of banana-peanut butter-chocolate pancakes (like the super sinful, unhealthy kind) to cure my hunger pangs.
I remember very clearly making three big ones for myself and a little Mickey Mouse shaped one for the 40-weeks and five-day hitchhiker in my belly.
A little after breakfast time, and for about the twentieth time since I got up, I used the toilet and saw blood-tinged mucus in my underwear. “Oh, joooooy! It’s bloody show time! Baby is coming any day now!”
And just as if on cue, the familiar sensations of contractions kicked in. I sent an SMS update to my midwife, Deborah, and doula, Irina, assuring them that I was still feeling okay, and that I would let them know if anything would progress from there.
Nanay, who was my yaya/nanny when I was a baby and living with us now, left shortly after breakfast for work. Migui, my husband, went upstairs to the gym. I was okay on my own and used this alone time to do my morning house chores.
By around 9AM, I noticed lot of pressure in my butt area – the kind of pressure that feels like you want to poo a huge poo.
I tried sitting on the toilet to relieve the pressure, which helped just a tiny bit. To get my mind off the discomfort, I got busy and cleaned the house.
I was quite amused to find myself transitioning from vacuuming the bedroom, to getting on my hands and knees for breathing exercises in the living room, to getting up again to wipe the kitchen counters, to transferring to my birthing ball to circle my hips, to scrubbing the bathroom floor, then to my yoga mat to stretch my back.
“Oh sweet Jesus, Malasana and Bakasana have never felt THIS good in my entire life!” Thank you, God, for yoga! It was only at around 9:30AM that I remembered to time my contractions. 25 seconds in 20 minutes. It still seemed far apart, though at this point, I really needed to concentrate on breathing, especially at the peak of each contraction.
I messaged my friend Monica, one of my birthing mentors who also did a home birth (a super successful, unassisted VBAC!), to let her know my progress and to ask for prayers, too. She mentioned that bloody tinge could mean today, tonight, tomorrow, or even the day after that. In my head, “The day after that?! How the hell am I going to manage being like this until Sunday?!”
I prayed. “Please, God, don’t make this last too long. Just the length of time you know I’ll be able to manage, however long that may be.” Migui came back from the gym and found me on my bed, on all fours, making strange moaning noises.
Vocalising helped sooooo much. I told him, with a surprisingly calm voice, that he should stay home and not go to work anymore. His face lit up, and just as if he read my mind, says excitedly, “Lets inflate the pool!!!”
At 11:15AM, contractions were 45 seconds in four minutes. I could not talk anymore during a contraction, and I noticed each one was getting a lot more intense than the last. I was in touch with Deborah, who told me to TRY to sleep, have lots of coconut water and a bite or two if I can manage.
I dragged myself out of the bedroom to join Nanay and Migui for lunch. I was either standing up and leaning on the dining chair or sitting on my birthing ball as I ate, still happy that I had that four- to five-minute break in between contractions to rest.
After lunch, I updated Deborah again. I asked if they should be heading over already, considering my situation. She said it was really up to me, and that they would come right away the moment I wanted them there. Looking back, I now really appreciate having that time alone, not only because I felt it sped things up, but also because I didn’t want too many people there, sitting and watching me moo like a cow, while waiting for more exciting things to happen.
At 1:30PM, contractions were already over a minute long and less that 3.5 minutes apart. By that time, it was getting really intense, to the point that I would get a bit cross-eyed with each contraction. I practiced my meditation and breathing techniques.
“At the peak of every contraction, I would imagine diving under a wave, as if I were swimming through the pain and discomfort.”
Coming down from the peak would be my way up to the surface, seeing the bright, blue and beautiful sky. I trained myself to welcome each wave as a step closer to holding my baby in my arms.
I had not asked my birthing team to come yet. Looking back, I think I could have been in denial that this could happen at that very same day. Keeping in touch with Irina over SMS, she sent me a message. “Sounds like you are already in active labor. Are you sure you don’t want us to come?”
“Active labor?!” I replied, in all caps and with a gazillion exclamation points, “YES TO COMING HERE!!!!!!!” And that was probably the last time I paid attention to my phone all afternoon.
It didn’t take long for them to arrive. By 2PM, the doorbell rang and Migui’s excited voice flooded the whole house. Irina and Deborah quietly walked into the bedroom, with me in a Child’s Pose position on the bed. They did not have to say anything. They came over and Irina massaged my aching back, while Deborah knelt on the side of the bed, fixed my hair and gave me a sweet smile.
That did it.
My tears started flowing. No, they were not tears of pain or fear or sadness, but more of tears that were brought about by the realization that THIS WAS IT. This is really happening today. I am going to birth my baby today. I am going to hug my baby in my arms, TODAY.
By around 2:15pm, my contractions were so close to each other, that I didn’t even bother timing them anymore. It felt as though there was no break in between. I had just come down from one contraction, and I would already feel another one coming!
This was tiring me out. I was getting so cranky and did not want to be touched. I also wanted it very quiet, probably because on my own, I was already making so much noise.
My 12-hour birthing playlist on my iPod remained unplayed. In my husband’s excitement and nervousness, he was getting a little bit too loud, and even tried to make a few jokes with the birthing team to lighten up the mood. I could not take it then.
I waited for a contraction to be over, opened my eyes, grabbed the first thing I saw and threw it straight at him.
“Shut up, Migui! Just shut up! Please SHUT UP!” I think I said please. Good thing it was just a used shirt that I picked up. And even better that we can laugh about this now.
To give me some space, Migui stepped out of the room and kept himself busy with filling up the pool. Deborah helped him, but would come back to check on me and baby every so often. Irina stayed with me most of the time, and continued massaging my back, that felt as if it were ready to split into two.
My contractions by this time seemed to come from my lower back and tailbone area, and would travel around to my lower belly, then eventually radiate up and down my body.
Even my forehead and baby toes were hurting! My hips felt like they were going to break, and my femur bones ready to detach from their hip sockets! It was so intense that I was praying for a break, even just a short one, to get my mind and heart back into the proper perspective.
I seriously felt like I was close to going crazy. Staying on my bed didn’t seem to help my situation so I figured I needed a change of scenery.
Irina helped me get into the shower and left me there, as she knew I wanted some time alone. I leaned over on a plastic stool and allowed water to run down my back. This felt really good for a while, until another contraction came.
My hormones were probably going haywire by this time, because I was starting to imagine things. One moment I would think I was at my home in the province, then the next, in the birthing suite of the hospital nearby. At one point, and only in my head, I was looking for my sister-in-law, Amanda, because I wanted her to take me to the hospital.
“What the %$!# am I doing here?! I’m going to die in this bathroom! Take me to the hospital! GIVE ME MY DRUGSSSSSS!!!!!” Each time that I felt that I was losing it, or when my mind was drifting off to a far away place, I would remember to say a prayer to help me come back to consciousness.
Only God knows how many Hail Mary’s I prayed in this time that I was in transition.
Irina came back in to check on me and asked if I wanted to transfer to the pool. I was so relieved to see her face, as I was just about to give up already. It seemed like I was in the shower for ages, but in reality, she said it was just for about 5 quick minutes.
We slowly made our way out of the bedroom and towards the living room where the pool was. We passed the guest bathroom in our little hallway and I made a stop to sit on the toilet again. By this time, my legs were like jelly and there was really heavy pressure on my butt and tailbone, as if my coccyx wanted to detach from the rest of the spine.
I was shaking and shivering uncontrollably, and every time I reached the peak of a contraction, which seemed to last forever, I would hang on to Irina, as if my life depended on it.
I was tired.
Suddenly, each contraction started to give me the feeling of wanting to bear down – of wanting to push. I didn’t even know what I wanted to push out. Baby? Poo? Farts? I really wasn’t sure. I just knew I wanted to push. Extremely overwhelmed by this feeling.
I remember stomping my feet on the ground and holding on to Irina even harder – so hard, that I still managed to wonder if I was hurting her or not.
I entered the pool at about 3:15PM, and got myself to stand on my knees, with my arms leaning over the edge. This seemed like the only position that I could get myself into. Sitting or squatting felt impossible that I didn’t even bother trying them out.
The weightlessness and warm water were a very much welcomed feeling, allowing me to relax a little bit.
Migui and Irina took turns pouring water over my back. They also tied my disheveled hair into a neat pony tail, wiped my face with a cold towel and massaged my back and hips. My eyes were closed most of the time, in silent prayer and in constant search for strength and inspiration to draw from.
Every time I opened my eyes, I would look at Deborah, who was sitting on the floor in front of me, just to get that look of reassurance from her. At one point, I remember asking her, “Is this still normal?!” She answered gently, still with a smile, “Perfectly normal and you’re doing a great job.”
I was exhausted beyond words and started to doubt my strength and capacity to endure any more of what I was feeling any longer. Despite the exhaustion, I found myself fighting the feeling and holding back on the urge to push.
And then something clicked. I had to stop fighting it!
I had to allow my body to do what it had to do. I had to push when it told me to, in the same way that I had to rest when it told me to. I had to make all the sounds it wanted to make, and move it around in all the ways it wanted to move! I had to have faith that my body knew what it was doing. I had to have faith, because I spent about 36 weeks preparing and praying for this moment.
I had to let go. And so I did, and it was that feeling of complete and total surrender.
Slowly, I found my body taking over. I didn’t have to force pushing at all. My body was doing this for me. The bearing down feeling came along with each contraction, a little before reaching the peak.
I was making sounds that I didn’t know I could even make, and wondered at times, if they were still coming from me. But I didn’t care anymore, moaning and grunting felt so good! It was as if I had let go of my conscious and intelligent mind and unleashed the animal in me.
The books and my friends were right all along. Your body DOES shift into this cavewoman-like being, very ready to allow nature to do it’s thing.
I felt my insides slowly shift and open up to make way for my baby. I swear with my whole heart that I felt him move down my birth canal, eager to come out into this world.
Everything was happening so fast and I am thankful Migui made it into the pool just in time. Within seconds, I felt my baby’s head crowning! Deborah asked me to reach down to touch him.
“Oh my goodness, he has so much hair!”
The next contraction made me want to push so hard. It almost felt like if I didn’t push, I’d explode into little tiny pieces!
I didn’t even care anymore if I tore or not.
Whatever fears I had of perineal tears flew out the window as I pushed a few more times. I felt myself stretching, to accommodate his head, as I pushed. It was burning and excruciating, yet exciting and ridiculously liberating at the same time.
It was the kind of pain that made me know I was real, that I was very much alive.
They always said pushing the baby’s head out is the most difficult part of birth. I was exhilarated that this part was almost over. I gave one more big push and finally, his head was out!
All I could hear in the background was my husband’s excited voice, almost half-shouting with joy, “Oh my God, love! I can see the head! The head is out! You can do it, love. You’re so strong!”
I knew my baby needed to stay submerged until I fully birthed him, so I made sure not to stand. I also knew I wanted to catch him so I managed to step one foot forward in my birthing version of Anjaneyasana, which allowed me to balance better, without having to hang on to the pool’s edge.
I gathered all my strength and gave one last big push. The rest of his body slithered out of me, with so much grace and ease.
As if I had done it a thousand times before, I reached down, caught my baby and brought him straight to my chest. His body felt so soft and fragile, so good against my skin. He opened his eyes for a few seconds and we looked at each other, like we both knew very well that it was written in the stars that our souls were destined to meet this way.
Time had stopped, just for the both of us, and nothing else mattered.
I had spent eight long months physically and spiritually preparing myself for this birth. I studied books on home birth, interviewed people who had gone through one, sought after doctor friends’ advice, took many steps back from my yoga asana practice and devoted more time to pranayama and meditation, nourished myself better.
But nothing, nothing at all, could have prepared me for what was to be felt, that very moment when I scooped my baby out of the water.
All the pain went away in an instant and was replaced by pure joy and immense love.
LOVE. I was so very much in love. The feeling made me want to burst into flowers and confetti and colourful heart shaped balloons! No words can properly describe it – I just know it was the best feeling I have ever felt. It was complete bliss, and I will remember that feeling forever.
It took us a few more minutes to remember to check on our baby’s gender. Up until his birth, we were never really sure. I checked and exclaimed, “He has a birdie!!!! It’s a boy!!!”
Deborah checked on him and gave me a towel to help keep him warm. He was so peaceful and didn’t cry at all! It made me so happy and proud that he looked for my boob and latched on right away, feeding like an expert.
We stayed in the pool for about another hour, waiting to birth my placenta. My sister, Carmie, and sister-in-law, Amanda, arrived during this time, and I remember holding on to Carmie’s hand as I pushed my placenta out. I then had a small piece of it in a strawberry, banana and vanilla ice cream smoothie. It was a wonderful treat, after a long afternoon of hard work.
I didn’t do a full lotus birth, although I chose to delay the severance of the umbilical cord for about four hours.
At around 7:30PM, we had a cord burning ritual to separate our baby boy from his placenta sister – the very source that has provided him with nutrition for 10 lunar months.
I learned that the umbilicus is the entry way to all abdominal organs, and in Traditional Chinese Medicine, they say that the placenta holds the life force of the baby.
By heating this, life force is sent to your new born. This warm energy is said to help reduce the risk of bleeding and entry of infections. I wanted all this for my baby, as well as a most gentle parting of baby from placenta.
It felt great to be in the comfort of my own home.
The rest of my family came by for a short visit to welcome our little one, as I had dinner of green papaya and malunggay soup. I took a nice and long shower and was ready to rest by 10:30PM.
Deborah and Migui tucked me and my baby in bed and ordered me to get some sleep. As much as I knew I needed it, I could not. I was so alive, awake and high on the hormones of love. I spent another four more hours staring at our new baby, still in disbelief that he was mine, that he was the very same being that I kept safe in my belly for almost 41 weeks. It was a little past 4:00AM when we both dozed off in peaceful slumber.
On the sunny and blessed day of the 24th of October, at 3:58PM, our Raphael Kainoa was born into this world – at home, in the water and straight into the arms of his mama.
It was the birth that I have always prayed for – sweet, gentle, natural, unmedicated and full of smiles and happy tears all around. I would absolutely not trade this experience for anything else in the world.
Do check out this water-birth story in Singapore as well! We’d love to hear your thoughts on Aisa’s incredible birth story. Share them in a comment below!