Like brewing your own kombucha at home, water births are slowly starting to gain momentum on our local shores. Helped along by the popularity of prenatal yoga classes and a greater focus on homeopathic practices, doulas and midwives are slowly reclaiming their once-prominent roles in the childbirth industry.
Influenced by her Southern California upbringing, model, yogi, and art curator Teresa Herrera-Anthony was well-prepared for the anesthesia-free process. She did prenatal yoga, replaced all the toxic chemicals in her household with natural ingredients, and even participated in hypnosis.
But what if a mother’s body doesn’t cooperate with her carefully considered birthing plan?
After nine months preparation, Teresa experienced some complications that led to her giving birth via C-section. Though her initiation to motherhood didn’t go according to plan, Teresa’s infectious optimism stays intact, and she maintains that she still felt empowered throughout her entire experience.
This is her story.
Being a mother has always been part of my dream. It’s part of my idea of a fulfilled life. But it helps if you have a good partner. My husband’s amazing. We’re aligned in a lot of ways, so having that support system and real partnership has made [being a mom] much better. I was ready to do the whole Angelina Jolie thing—adopt or have a kid on my own—but it’s such a bonus when you have the right partner.
I’m part of the yoga community. I’m also very much into the health and wellness industry, so a water birth has always been appealing to me because it’s the most gentle way to bring a child into the world. When the baby’s in the womb, it’s in the “water” or amniotic fluid. And I figured water to water was the gentlest way [to give birth]. I really studied it, so it was my first choice to do it that way. I’m a Pisces! So anything that has to do with water, I’m game. Also, because I grew up in Southern California, it was the norm, and it’s only [in the Philippines] that sacred pregnancy and gentle birth practices are starting to light.
I had an OB-GYN, but she didn’t do water births, so I had to transfer to another who is comfortable with water births. And of course, I watched videos and read books. [I also] did prenatal yoga—a lot of hip openers, and kegel exercises. Whether you’re doing water birth or C-section, it’s just good to be connected to your body that way. And that’s what prenatal yoga does for you.
I was also doing something called hypnobirthing. I would listen to recordings where everything is worded in the affirmative. Contractions are called “intense sensations.” My husband and I would work on these scripts six weeks prior to the birth, and it really helped me ride the wave of contractions. In water birth, there’s no medication—so I felt every single wave. Also, in March, I detoxified the house by getting rid of all cleaning products and [instead] made my own using four ingredients: vinegar, baking soda, castile soap, and apple cider vinegar. In April, it was personal care products: shampoo and deodorant. I got rid of a lot of stuff. I went through an internal cleaning and a physical cleaning.
From my research, [when having a water birth,] you try to have as little intervention as possible from medication. This documentary called The Business of Being Born is what changed my view on births. My mom had five C-sections, so I was comfortable with the idea of it: You make an appointment, you go in, get the baby out—done. But then you realize all the medication that they introduce into the mother’s system gets into the bloodstream. The baby could get into distress. It’s a whole chain reaction. So I wanted as little intervention as possible for my baby, to give it a gentle birth.
I [planned to have] my water birth at a hospital. They have two [water] birthing suites at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Bonifacio Global City. A lot of water births happen at home—in the bathtub or in a blow-up pool. But in a hospital, if there are complications (which in my case, there were), you have options. You don’t have to worry about getting to the hospital.
Whatever environment you have to create the baby should be the same environment you bring him or her into this world. So, dim lights. I had these LED candles that I got at Pottery Barn all over [the birthing suite]. My husband was there. I had music.
My water broke at 1:30 in the morning. We checked into St. Luke’s by 2 a.m. And by 3 a.m., my birth team—my doctor and my doula—were there. By 4:30 a.m, I got in the water. I was expecting in two hours the baby would be out. But it didn’t happen that way.
I was in the water for hours, fully dilated and pushing, but nothing was coming out. I was getting cramps already and losing energy, so the doctor said, “I know you want to do natural birth, but can we try outside of the water? You might have an easier time.” On the bed, we tried pushing for an hour. The baby’s head was starting to swell because of all the pushing. Finally, they said, “You know what might help? An epidural.” They always gave me the choice. They told me my options at every step, which I really loved.
With the epidural, I didn’t feel pain, but I was still fully conscious and aware. I could push, but the baby still wasn’t coming out, and this was already at 10 at night. The baby’s heart rate was dropping, my heart rate was accelerating, and my husband started to get worried. So I finally said, “[a C-section is] fine.” In the operating room, I knew what was happening, and it was my choice to be there. It was amazing how fast they worked. They got him out within five minutes. He was quiet, he was calm.
A mother’s choice
I think women have to do their own research in terms of owning their birth. What experience do you want to have? For me, I wanted water. I researched anything and everything that had to do with that. Then I also had Plan B and Plan C. Let a mother decide for herself what the best way to bring her baby into this world is. However, I have a disclaimer: If the doctor knows [a certain plan might] not be the safest option for the mother or the baby, then he has every right to let the mother know and weigh her options.
I just have to say: water birth, natural, or Cesarean—women who give birth, period, are awesome. Mad respect! Giving birth itself is empowering. Because you’re doing something that your body was designed to do: Create another human being, have it living inside you for nine months, and have it come out with 10 fingers and 10 toes. I got lucky enough to have a healthy baby boy, and that in itself is a miracle.
As told to Pauline Lacanilao
This article has been edited for clarity.
Photos by Melson Bolongaita
Styled by Randz Manucom
Assisted by Christopher Giden Estella
Makeup by Gerry Penaso of M.A.C
Hair by Ramie Delfin of Bench Fix Salon