The Birth of the Water Baby

The cover of Midwifery Today magazine from Autum 2015

The cover of Midwifery Today magazine from Autum 2015


“In 1977, a state hospital near Paris began quietly changing the way women gave birth.

Obstetrician Dr Michel Odent believed that childbirth had become too medicalised and he wanted a more natural approach.

So he introduced a pool to ease the pain of labour and eventually some babies were even born in the pool.

Witness speaks to Dr Odent about the innovation that has become a revolution using the power of water.”

This intriguing 4 minute BBC Witness video documents the introduction of the birth pool to labor and delivery. Watch it here.

7 Reasons Why Families Choose to Birth at a Birth Center

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When a potential client comes to tour the birth center, sometimes they are sure that’s the route they want to go, and sometimes they are exploring their options and trying to find the right fit. Here are 7 reasons that you may want to birth at a birthing center:

1. The ability to relax - Let's face it. The bright lights, beeping machines, and incessant intrusion of strangers in your hospital room is not the best way to promote peace and relaxation. At a birth center, the entire space and experience is designed to be calm and comforting.

2. The comforts of home without being at home - Some families aren't comfortable with the idea of birthing at home, but want to birth somewhere that feels as comfortable as home. The birth center fits that bill, and it has all of the equipment, technology, and experienced care providers needed to keep you safe.

3. Freedom of movement - At the birth center you can move around freely, and even give birth in whatever position feels most comfortable for you. You aren’t restricted to the bed. Additionally, the birth center has birth balls, birth swings, and labor ladders to help you move your body into supported positions that are great for labor.

4. Water! - The birth center has deep birth pools in each room that are a lifesaver for many women. We call water “the midwife’s epidural” because it is so effective at providing pain relief! You even have the option to give birth in the pool if it feels right. Water birth has been shown to be safe for both the birthing person and the baby.

5. Support for a natural birth - You don’t have to fight with your provider about your desires for your birth. Natural birth, delayed cord clamping, immediate bonding with my baby - these and more are all the norm at the birth center, not the exception.

6. Knowing your birth team - Unlike at a hospital, you will know the midwives who will care for you during your birth. In fact, you will likely spend many hours with them over the course of your pregnancy at your relaxed 45-minute prenatal visits.

7. Cost - There's no way around the fact that finances came into play when choosing where to give birth, and the birth center is actually far cheaper than a hospital birth. The birth center is also covered by many major PPO insurance plans. All the amazing benefits, plus cheaper to boot.

It's a marvel everyone isn't having their babies at a birth center!


NYT And WSJ Weigh In On Home Birth As Midwifery Keeps Making Media

Yet another article popped up today on midwifery - one of several over the last months. This one is an opinion piece in the New York Times.  In it, seven contributors weigh in on the safety of home birth versus hospital birth - four obstetricians (one of whom is the president of the American Congress of Obstetricians), a certified nurse midwife, a certified professional midwife (who is also the president of the Midwives Alliance of North America), and a home birth mother. Not surprisingly, opinions are pretty clearly demarcated along professional lines, with OBs arguing that home birth is too risky and midwives (and mother) arguing that home birth is a safe alternative to the hospital. 

Despite the frustratingly biased title (jeez, NYT), the opinion piece, for the most part, lacks the nastiness and contempt that the home versus hospital debate so often stirs up. The most balanced opinions are offered by Aaron Caughey and Marinah Valenzuela Farrell. Both acknowledge that no matter the location, there is inherent risk around birth. Caughey, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology and the associate dean for Women’s Health Research and Policy at Oregon Health and Science University's School of Medicine, asks what risk is acceptable, and concludes that "as long as women are being properly educated about the risks and benefits of location and birth, hopefully they are able to make a decision that reflects their preferences." Farrell, a certified professional midwife and the president of the Midwives Alliance of North America, reminds us that hospitals carry risk too - a reality that anti-home-birthers often ignore. Several of the contributors articulated the need for better collaboration and care integration among different provider levels.

The NYT opinion piece follows a strongly pro-midwife article that appeared in late January in the Wall Street Journal. Using the Frontier Nursing Service, a noteworthy midwifery and nursing program started in Appalachia in 1923, as an example, the WSJ article nails it when it explains what makes the obstetric and midwifery models so different:

The great strength of American-style obstetrics is in reacting to catastrophe. But we're terrible at preventing catastrophes before they happen. While our traditional obstetric mode is reactive, the style of midwifery [...] is proactive. A low-tech, high-touch approach has been shown to effectively lower rates of C-sections and early births in several modern cases. Moreover, this personal, coaching approach is the most effective way to address chronic problems like obesity and diabetes.

Like just about everything else in our culture, our "standard response to health problems in the U.S. is more: more hospitals, more highly skilled surgeons, more access to the top technology. But we know for sure that at least some of the increasing danger of birth has been driven by the medicalization of the process."




When I was 11, I met my midwife. She had thick, grey hair that fell in waves all the way down her back. She was gentle and motherly. Her name was Kristin, and, for me, it was love at first sight. 

It is hard to explain the feeling of meeting the person whose hands were the very first ones to ever touch you. And most people never get that chance. I felt the most special connection to her, and a deep sense of wellbeing, because she had been the one to ensure that I made it safely into the world very, very early on a Friday morning in 1981. 

My mom, my dad, my sister and I the night of my birth in our home

My mom, my dad, my sister and I the night of my birth in our home


I was my mom's second kid. My older sister, Deena, had been born in the hospital 11 years earlier. Now my mom was in her late twenties, and had decided to have me at home in my family's tiny rental house in Austin, Texas. The house was tucked away behind the Austin Books & Comics store on a cul-de-sac called Capitol Court (the store is still there today). Only a handful of people would be at the birth - my dad, my sister, Kristin and a family doctor who was also a close friend. So it was an intimate affair - and it turned out to be a quick one. After four hours of labor, at 1:53 am on October 16, I slipped out calmly and without drama. My dad remembers the night like this:


My parents told me the story of my birth many times when I was a kid, and they talked about it like it was truly a miraculous experience. I think my birth had a profound impact on them. And not just in the way that the birth of a child changes all parents. That is to say, it wasn't really of my doing; it was the experience itself. Here's my mom:


My mom used to tell me she thought I "must be on vacation here on Earth." From the way I entered the world, to how I moved in the world, quite literally from continent to continent, she felt I lived a charmed life. I definitely have not always felt charmed, but I have sometimes wondered if there was some truth to that. 

There is no doubt that the way I entered the world affected me. It shaped my worldview in such a deep way that I actually became a midwife. My beginning - a story of peace, trust and intimacy - laid the foundation for my vision of who I was and what I represented, and I took it on as an identity.

I also took it on as a challenge. I used my birth story to push my own limits, and as a rationale for taking risks. It is what has allowed me to do and see many things by age 33 that many people will never do or see. Because I have always believed that no matter what I do or where I go, or how difficult or scary things get, the true me is the person who made her arrival without fear, without fuss, and definitely like she was meant to be here. 

Me in a basket

Me in a basket


That's why when I met my midwife at 11, I was awestruck. She had been at my birth too! And not only that, but she had helped orchestrate that experience for me and my family. She had welcomed me here and made sure that my journey was safe, peaceful....even... magical. "She must really love me," I remember thinking.

I've looked for Kristin since. I lived in Austin again as an adult from 2011 to 2013, and I asked around about her. Some of the older midwives remembered her, but didn't know how to get in touch with her. By this time, I was a midwife myself, and I really desired to come full circle and connect with the woman who had inspired me. I found her on Facebook and wrote her a long email. No response. I guess a hippie midwife living on a commune in central Texas probably doesn't check her Facebook all that often.

Even though I haven't been able to connect with her, I feel satisfied. I was eventually able to connect with the family doc who was at my birth (interestingly enough, he ended up helping me with some of the paperwork I needed to obtain my California midwifery license). I feel like I was given an immense gift for my very first birthday - better than any gift I've gotten since. My very first moments in this world were protected. My transition was gentle. And the first hands that touched me were hands that loved me. For me, that has made all the difference.