I love water. I find it very soothing whether I'm in it or just looking at it. It's Mother Nature at her best and worst. It can kill you as quick as it can heal you. And when you get right down to it... it IS you. I've actually nearly drowned three times, and yet I continue to get into water every chance I get.
So I keep water around me all the time. If I could live on an island, I would. I would settle for being on a lake or a river. But alas, there is no such place around here. So when we selected this house, one of the features that drew me in was the tub. No, it's not a lake, but it is large and I can soak my body in it without feeling like I'm wedged into a clam shell.
I take baths frequently in the evenings anyway, but while pregnant, the joy of a bath is hard to describe. When I first learned I was pregnant with Athena, I was horrified to read that not too long ago, doctors advised women against soaking in baths or pools because there was a fear of infection. Fortunately, modern medicine has wised up on this issue, and now bathing and swimming are encouraged as the best form of relaxation and exercise, respectively. You still aren't allowed to soak in a jacuzzi, but that is because of body temperature regulation rather than any sort of grossness in the water.
I even considered a water birth the first time around. If you aren't familiar with this phenomenon, it basically means that you labor and deliver in a large tub of water, and the coolest part is that once the baby is born and before the cord is cut, you can actually hold the baby underwater (it will continue to breathe through the cord) so the transition into the cold, dry world is supposedly made easier on her (or him). It seemed to me to be the most relaxing and soothing of the choices for labor and delivery.
I didn't choose a water birth basically by default. When I went searching for an OB/GYN in the area, there were very few who accepted our insurance and were reasonably close by. This struck me as quite odd, considering we are very close to both Duke and UNC... two of the nation's top medical schools and teaching hospitals. Then, when I started calling the various practices that WERE listed on my insurance company's site, some didn't even answer the phone! This is NOT unusual around here, unfortunately, as there are a kajillion doctors in the area due to the large teaching hospitals, and yet none of them seem to take new patients anymore. To say it's a pain in the ass is to understate the issue grossly.
So I did find a GREAT practice, but it turns out they only practice at one hospital, Rex Hospital. It's part of the UNC family of hospitals, and it isn't the closest hospital to our house. (There are about eight hospitals within a fair drive from our house, and we could really deliver in any one of them if we wished.) However, this practice is really good, I really liked the doctor I met, and best of all, they answered the phone. Therefore, I chose them. And at this particular hospital, there are no birthing tubs. Ergo, no water birth.
Turns out this was a very fortunate turn of events for me. First of all, now that I know how messy a birth really is, I'm glad I wasn't sitting in a tub with all the goo of childbirth floating around me. Second, I actually tried to get in the tub at home when I went into labor in the hopes it would help me relax and soothe the contractions. I stayed in the tub for maybe three contractions and realized that I would rather be ANYWHERE than sitting in that tub. It was just uncomfortable and awkward. As much as I love water, I wanted nothing of it when I was delivering my baby.
That said, right up until labor begins, the tub is my best friend. I now take a bath pretty much nightly, sometimes twice a night. When you haul around 25 extra pounds jutting straight out of your abdomen all day, the feeling of floating in a tub of warm water is exquisite. Your body actually becomes weightless, and for once, you don't notice the heft of the baby pressing against your back, or pulling down on your belly, or even kicking your spleen. He goes from a kickboxer to a slow-rolling beach ball in a matter of moments. If only I could sit in a tub all day...
And the tub also helps me with the horrible insomnia that comes from pregnancy. Last night, I believe I had the worst night's sleep ever. Athena was up about six times in 2.5 hours with some sort of headache and stuffy nose, and I had a raging headache myself. After finally getting back to sleep around 2:30 am, I awoke at 3:00 just to toss and turn for another hour and a half. Finally, I got up and went for a soak in the tub. Ten minutes of relaxing and floating and my body was ready to hit the hay again. I swear, water is magic. It's the safest and easiest way I know to defy gravity.