If you had told me five years ago that I would elect to deliver a baby naturally, with no interventions or pain medication, in a setting other than a hospital, I would have laughed. A lot. As far as I knew, babies were born in hospitals. And sometimes
When Lincoln was born, I used the OB recommended by my primary care doctor. I faithfully went to all of my appointments, asked very few questions, and when it came time for birth, just went along for the ride. This is perhaps not the best approach to something as big as birth, but I didn't know any better at the time. I assumed that my team of providers at Lincoln's birth had my best interest at heart and didn't question their judgment, ever.
And here is what I got as a result:
1. My delivery doctor was a complete stranger, I met him when he came in to check my dilation. That's always fun.
2. I was strapped to a contraction monitor and forced to work through painful contractions while lying on my back. I didn't know any better - but I would have been much more relaxed had I been allowed to move around.
3. I went into labor naturally and arrived at the hospital at 6pm on Saturday evening of a holiday weekend. My labor was progressing very quickly and the baby was holding up just fine, yet my doctor recommended that we proceed with a vacuum delivery after about an hour of ineffective pushing. Maybe I am wrong, but the timing of everything kind of made it seem like he had other places to be that weekend.
4. To facilitate the vacuum delivery, I received an episiotomy. I learned later that this makes a mom far more likely to tear in future deliveries, as the scar tissue must grow back from a direct incision rather than a natural tear. Yay me.
5. When Lincoln was born, it was probably half an hour before I was able to hold him. I didn't know at the time that this could make it harder to bond with and breastfeed my baby.
6. I got no rest in the hospital. None. Every time I thought I could fall asleep, someone would come in to check vitals on me or the baby. If the baby happened to be sleeping, he would be awake then. The one time that I actually managed to sleep, they had taken Lincoln for a routine hearing screening. I woke up in the middle of the night, three hours later, to discover that my baby had never been returned to my room. When I called the nurse, they told me this test took several hours. I watched the test when Adelaide had it - it took five minutes. So where was my baby for three hours the one time I slept?
7. When I was having terrible problems breastfeeding when Lincoln was four days old, I called the hospital lactation consultant to try to find out if Lincoln had been given formula or a pacifier - he had a great latch at first and then seemed to forget. She was incredibly rude and refused to look at his chart for me. I said that I was concerned he was not eating and her response was "Well you have been home for two days. If he is not nursing, WHAT are you feeding him? He has to eat." My response was silent crying. Her response to that? A huge huff and "Come to our breastfeeding support group next Monday. I can look at you then." This phone conversation happened on Thursday. Sure, I'll just starve my baby for the next four days until your meeting. No problem!
|Lincoln's Hospital Birth, February 2011.|
In spite of all this, when I found out that Adelaide was on the way, I didn't plan a whole lot of changes. Our insurance had changed and I hoped to deliver at a hospital that was closer to home, so I asked around and found a doctor who delivered there. This hospital had a great track record for being breastfeeding-friendly, so I thought that was a good sign. I assumed that since my labor with Lincoln was fast and I barely had time for an epidural, that I would likely be looking at giving birth unmedicated. But I figured we would just address it when the time came.
I don't think there was any one specific thing that led me to feel I was not in the right place for my delivery. My OB was nice, the staff was friendly. I frequently had to wait an extremely long time for my appointments, but I assumed that was just part of the business - since everyone in the world seemed to be pregnant at the same time as me.
I guess at some point, I started thinking about the actual birth. And the recovery. I was really not excited about staying in the hospital for 2-3 days. Lincoln was still nursing and had never spent the night away from us. I was worried that having Mommy gone for several days was going to wreak havoc on his little system. Adding a new baby was bad enough, but why introduce her after Mommy has been gone for days? We also had another insurance change around this time, so I was looking at providers anyway. When I was bemoaning the hospital stay to a friend, her response was "well have you looked at a birth center?"
I hadn't. But that was all I needed to get started. I did some googling. I talked to some other friends. I told Andrew that it was a possibility we were going to switch and we went to a tour of the birth center facility when I was about 30 weeks pregnant.
And I loved it.
Everyone was friendly and smiling and helpful. The birthing suites were beautiful. I had the option of a water birth (something I had really never considered). I would have appointments with all of the midwives who might be present at my delivery. I would be allowed to labor in whatever position I wanted, with no attached contraction monitor. I would be able to hold my baby immediately after she was born. I would definitely not have a vacuum delivery except in a case of extreme emergency. I would have tons of breastfeeding support.
And best of all? I would get to go HOME within 4-8 hours of birth. No days of recovery time with constant poking and prodding at the hospital. My baby would never leave my side and Lincoln would have Mommy home hopefully the same day.
It was perfect. I was still a little worried about having no pain medication - but because of all the other wonderful aspects of the birth center, I almost didn't mind. I switched providers at 30 weeks. Since I transferred so late in the pregnancy, it was difficult to schedule everything appropriately so that I could meet all of the midwives on staff. In fact, I met one of them three days before Adelaide's birth.
When Addie's birth day came, I could not have been more relieved at my choice. We arrived at the birth center just two hours before her birth, but nothing was ever frantic. The atmosphere was relaxed, yet exciting. Even through all of my difficult recovery complications, the overall experience was above and beyond my expectations. I didn't end up going home until 14 hours after Adelaide was born - but that was still much better than 2-3 days.
|Adelaide's BIRTH Day Cake at the Birth Center, November 2012.|
A birth center is such a great option for someone who is not comfortable with a hospital birth - and also not comfortable with a homebirth. I know that I personally, after dealing with recovery problems after Adelaide's birth, will probably not ever consider a homebirth. I had a pretty scary situation this time around, so I would prefer to always be somewhere with the necessary supplies to take care of any problems that may arise. Of course, her delivery was so fast I am a little worried about having an unplanned unassisted homebirth (or car birth) with future child(ren).
If you've made it to the end of this, you get the most awesome reader award. What's your experience? Hospital? Birth center? Homebirth? I would love to hear your thoughts!