Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Where to Have a Baby?

The decision to have a home birth was a pretty simple one for us.

I knew I wanted a natural birth and I hate hospitals. Hospitals scare the pants off me and every time I am in one (whether visiting someone or being in one myself), I am crazy uncomfortable. I can't actually pinpoint exactly what makes me so uncomfortable about hospitals.  It may be a combination of the attempt to make everything sanitary, the machines and wires, the doctors and nurses always hustling around, feeling like I'm always in the way, and the plethora of weird rules and regulations.  Not to mention the association with illness and death and that overwhelming hospital smell (what IS that?).
I just have an impossible time trying to relax among all of those things and I knew that relaxation is the key to a smooth and pleasant (as can be expected) labor.  I feel that the act of bringing a baby into the world is one of life and celebration and peace and the hospital setting seems (for me) to be counterintuitive to that.**
So, needless to say that the hospital was never an option that was on the table for us. 

The other option we explored was a local birth center.  The birth center specializes in natural birth and is located across the street from a hospital, so it's a popular choice for mothers looking to birth naturally but who may be concerned about complications and want to have a hospital nearby.
My hesitation with the birth center was that it is 40 minutes away on a good day without traffic.  I really disliked the idea of spending 40 minutes laboring in a car.  Also, the birth center had a waiting list. So it didn't take long for us to take that option off the table, too.

A lot of women in Philadelphia choose to birth at the birthing center in Pennsylvania Hospital.  The center has a widwifery practice and specializes in supporting natural birth, but is IN the hospital, which also gives many women comfort in case anything goes awry.
We live less than 2 miles from this hospital (and 3 other hospitals) so we figured if we needed to go to the hospital, we could get there easily and quickly.

The concern over something going wrong in my pregnancy occured to me for maybe a day.  Honestly, I just wasn't worried.  I was healthy and without any risk factors and I found confidence in knowing that the women in my family have all had fairly easy deliveries.
I wanted to labor and give birth someplace safe, warm and familiar.  I didn't want any kind of audience.  I wanted zero interventions. Home just seemed like the most natural place for us.

The model of care in a home birth midwifery practice is a lot different than a traditional OB/GYN setting.  My appointments lasted at least an hour each time, and covered things like nutrition, my activities, my ailments, measuring the baby, checking my bloodpressure, and a discussion of any other questions and concerns I had.  EVERY visit was like this (except my home visit).  I spent the early part of my pregnancy seeing my regular OB practice and it was not the same.  No one asked what I was eating, or what kinds of activities I was doing.  They checked my weight and blood pressure, felt my belly, and sent me on my way.  I'm sure there are people out there who will disagree with me, but I felt the experience with an OB was far less personal.

Some women who have home births opt not to even get ultrasounds.  We figured that since we weren't birthing in a hospital, we wanted to know what we were dealing with up front, so that we could be prepared just in case anything was amiss.  We opted not to find out the sex (and I'm SO glad we did, it was a great motivator during labor, even if I did forget to check as soon as he was born), so other than confirming our baby was healthy, we didn't get to see him too much while he was in utero.  (As it got late into my pregnancy, my midwife never checked me for dilation, either.  In my case, ignorance was bliss.)

Throughout my pregnancy, my midwife gave me books to read (she has a lending library in her home office), and suggested supplements and foods to help with any issues I was having.  She recommended chiropratic adjustments to help get my pelvis all lined up and ready for labor, and to help with some minor back pain, and encouraged me to run, swim and do yoga as long as I wanted.  The whole experience was a holistic approach to supporting me in my pregnancy, while treating it like a natural life process and not a medical procedure. 
While it may not be the best decision for everyone, it definitely was for us.  The whole experience of working with a home birth midwife made being pregnant as enjoyable as can be expected when a person is 9 months pregnant in the middle of July.  I cannot wait to do it again (someday).

**Disclaimer: I would NEVER, ever recommend a home birth to someone who is nervous about giving birth or worried about things going wrong (nor would I ever try to persuade this person into having a home birth).  It is my personal belief that in order for a home birth to be a positive, safe experience, a woman really needs to embrace the idea and be confident and relaxed about her ability to give birth.  If you're nervous about giving birth and prefer the comfort of having traditional medical professionals nearby, a birth center is a much safer choice.