Water birth was the best choice for Rachel Chamberlain and Jolene Petrof, two local women who wanted to experience a more natural method of giving birth. Mrs. Chamberlain and Mrs. Petrof both chose to work with Julie Szymanski, Elk Regional’s Certified Nurse Midwife. Elk Regional is the only hospital in the region that offers water birth, a natural way of giving birth in which the baby is born into a tub full of warm water.
When Mrs. Chamberlain and her husband, Ernie, were preparing to welcome their third child, they both wanted to experience a more natural method of giving birth. The Chamberlains have two other children – five-year-old Ada and three-year-old Phinnegan. Both were born in Elk Regional’s Family Unit before water birth was available.
“We were very interested in water birth right from beginning, but it just wasn’t a possibility in this area until Elk Regional hired Julie,” Mrs. Chamberlain said. “My husband and I are both vegetarians and live a different lifestyle than a lot of people do. When it came time to give birth, I didn’t want to be induced or have any painkillers. I wanted a completely natural birth that would allow me to be present the entire time. Water birth just fit perfectly with our lifestyle.”
On May 5, 2010, the Chamberlains welcomed their son Keller.
“When I got to the birthing room, I eased into a tub full of hot water. The atmosphere was very tranquil and soothing. The lighting was dim and soothing music was playing. It just felt perfect. I could focus and use the breathing techniques I’ve learned through my yoga practice.
“I tell women who are pregnant that I’m a huge advocate for water birth. It allowed me to be the first person to touch Keller. Keller was my heaviest baby but my easiest labor. I attribute that to the water birth. I was so relaxed and my whole experience was wonderful. I can’t say enough about it, except that I very highly recommend it. It’s just great that in our little rural area we have the option of water birth.”
In July 2010, Mrs. Petrof and her husband, Matt, were preparing to welcome their first child. But because Jolene has a retroverted uterus, or a uterus that is tipped backward instead of forward, she did not want to give birth while lying on her back.
“I couldn’t think of a single reason to lie on my back and give birth,” Mrs. Petrof said. “I knew the pain would be terrible and I didn’t want to have an epidural. After talking with Julie about how laid-back the experience of water birth would be, I wanted to do it.”
On July 27, the Petrofs welcomed their daughter, Breah. Without the water birth, Mrs. Petrof said, the pain would have been unmanageable.
“The pain was pretty significant, but being in the water was so much better,” Mrs. Petrof said. “There was a big difference in my pain tolerance between being in the bed and being in the water. Even the nurses noticed a change. The water was kept very warm, which was so relaxing. Without the water, I’d have given in to the epidural.
“One of the best parts of the water birth experience was how low key it was. I didn’t want to have to go through a birth that felt ‘medical.’ I didn’t want them to take her away from me right away. I wanted to be the first person to touch her – and with water birth, I got that experience. I knew it would be great, but it was so much better than I could have imagined. Water birth gave me the best experience I could have had.”