Are you trying to decide where to have your baby? Or have you had a baby at the hospital and wondered what it was like for those who went a different route? I guess you could say I’m a jack of all trades when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. With my fourth pregnancy currently on-going, I’ve experienced all of the following: smooth sailing, morning sickness, hernias, and even a fractured rib. I’ve also had the benefit of having my babies just about everywhere you could imagine (well not everywhere…). And since I’ve had a baby at each of the three places that most women nowadays have their babies at, I’d like to offer my take and opinion on each one:
My Hospital Birth:
Where: Baylor Downtown
I was induced at 39 weeks, which was a blessing in disguise because as the most “natural friendly” hospital in the area I spent over an hour after check-in politely arguing with the nurses that my OB and I had agreed that I could wear a Hep-Lock instead of a full blown IV. (A Hep-Lock is basically a tube inserted into your hand that allows medical staff to immediately hook you up to an IV should the need arise.) After the nurse “threatened” to the call the doctor and I wholeheartedly encouraged her to do so, the Hep-Lock was put in and I was induced.
After induction (which was having my water broken after a failed course of Cervidil) and a confirmation of the baby’s happy heartbeat my fetal monitor was removed as I was able to labor freely. Husband and I walked up and down the hallway (remember – gravity is your best friend!) until the contractions were so close together that I literally was only taking two or three steps before having to lean on him. We required a nurse switch when we finally settled back in our room, as the nurse assigned to us was again insisting on something that my OB was not requesting (strapping on the fetal monitor). The doctor came in, she left, and a different nurse came in who left us completely alone to labor with the exception of visits every 30 minutes or so to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. I munched on snacks, stayed very hydrated, and made it to transition.
Notes about a first birth: You really believe that it works like television, and that when you push the baby is just going to come out. So when my dear doctor told me to start pushing and she was on the other side of the room I literally wouldn’t push. What if the baby just popped out onto the floor??? [There was also no screaming or berating of Husband, as I’ve seen in every movie with a pregnant woman…ever.]
In a matter of moments the bed had been broken down and I was suddenly surrounded by glaring lights and lots of people. Nurses, assistants, and whoever else happened to wander in, I suppose.
Then, quick as a wink, I had my baby girl in my arms. No episiotomy, but a large stretch that she recommended putting two or three stitches into anyway. I immediately started nursing her, and when I saw them putting the IV into my arm (what, now?!) they explained that they were just giving me a routine dose of Pitocin to ensure my uterus clamped down.
[Insert scream]. Yes, I screamed in labor and delivery after I had the baby. Not before, not during, but after. Some friendly nurse had just walked up to me and started kneading my uterus full strength with her hands like, I don’t know, I was paralyzed from the chest down. I screamed – she turned red and apologized: “Oh I’m so sorry! I’ve never done this on a woman who wasn’t completely numb!”
Being moved into the recovery rooms upstairs was a horrible disappointment. I’d tried early to reserve one of their “deluxe rooms” but to no avail. The room was so small that there was no way I would’ve ever asked Andy to try to stay there…especially when I needed him to be full strength when I checked out.
Considering that everything was routine, including frequent breastfeeding and diapers, I found myself annoyed at being woken up every three hours to re-check my vitals. I had literally gotten up and gone to the bathroom less than ten minutes after I’d delivered. I was also walking the halls several times a day. But that’s the thing about a hospital…they have to treat everyone the same, regardless of risk or evidence.
By the morning of the second day I was dressed and waiting for my doctor to come so that she would sign my check out. Blood work came back great, and away we went with our first child.
Pros: It’s your typical hospital setting. If there is an emergency, you have everything you need right there. Then again, as big as that hospital is, it might take me as long to get to the Emergency Room as it would just to drive frantically from my house.
Cons: Staff was really unequipped and unused to having a patient who didn’t want to be checked in, hooked up to an IV, and given an epidural as quickly as possible. The rooms were also horribly small.
My Birth Center Birth:
Where: Allen Birthing Center
After my experience at Baylor, I knew that I wanted to again have a drug-free delivery and again wanted to avoid as much as possible the risks of unnecessary and snowballing interventions. I also knew that I did NOT want to spend even one evening in the hospital unless necessary.
I arrived at the birth center in labor at 38 weeks only to be sent back home – my contractions were too close together and weren’t actually dilating me. One resting nap and two hours later and we were back at the birth center and I was in real labor. After about an hour the midwife started to fill up the birthing tub, but by the time it was filled up I was so far progressed that there was no way anybody could convince me to get inside. My bag of waters still hadn’t broken by the time I was fully dilated, so I just started pushing and it finally broke about two seconds before her little head appeared. One more push and the baby was out!
I was done! Well, not quite. After 45 minutes post-delivery my placenta still hadn’t come out. I had nursed, taken tea, walked around, and even gone to the bathroom. No bleeding and no placenta, so I had to be transferred non-emergency to the McKinney Medical Center. Booooooo. The umbilical cord popped off when they tried to use it to pull out the placenta, which meant that this UN-lucky lady was in for one manual placenta extraction.
I bartered over the amount of morphine they gave me, trying to get it as low as possible. [For the record I don’t recommend this EVER. If you have to have a placenta extraction just let them give you the drugs! Picture somebody trying to put the baby back inside you, and you’ve got the idea of what it takes for someone to pull it out.] Bloodwork was run before they would release me, and when the doctor begrudgingly noted that my red blood cell count was that of a normal person who had not just delivered a baby I thanked the midwife for being so vigilant about nutrition during pregnancy. They wheeled me and the baby out, and we were on our way home just a few short hours after she’d been born.
Pros: A quiet, relaxed environment which enabled my first daughter to come upstairs immediately after delivery to meet her new baby sister. The echoing of the chimney made her declare “I hear mommy laughing!” when she heard the sound of me pushing upstairs.
Cons: The drive home at midnight was brutal, I will not lie. Also, if you are high risk or unsure that you want a drug-free labor this is not the place for you.
My Home Birth:
Where: My Home
So the thing is, after you’ve had a baby at a birthing center you realize there’s really no difference between the birthing center house and your house. Especially if your house is located five minutes away from several of the largest hospitals in Dallas. After talking to several midwives AND an OB we were informed how rare the specific placenta problem I had experienced was. We also decided to plan in advance for a shot of pitocin in my thigh immediately after birth…just to be on the safe side. So we took the dive and had the midwives at Allen Birthing Center deliver our third little girl.
They arrived at the house when my contractions were about 6 minutes apart, and around 4:00 in the morning we opted to have my water broken to bring the baby down [I was very worried about our other girls waking up when I was in the end stages of labor]. In the wee morning hours our newest addition had arrived safe and sound, and a short 45 minutes later my two other girls came toddling down the hall to snuggle in bed with me and their new sister. And by the way, that placenta? It came out easy as pie less than 8 minutes after delivery.
Pros: The comfort of laboring at home made this experience wonderful. Immediately after our daughter was born the bed was stripped and re-made while I lay on the couch, and when I climbed back I didn’t climb back out for days.
Cons: None, unless you are high risk or unsure as to whether or not you want a drug-free labor.
There you have it: those are my experiences. What about you?