When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I didn’t hesitate to give birth at our local hospital.
It helped that our hospital was pretty progressive. As in, you get a midwife instead of an obstetrician as long as you have a low-risk pregnancy. They were also great about letting women birth in whatever position felt right, be it squatting, crouching on the toilet, or laboring in the tub. (I went for the tub.)
It was a phenomenal experience. Nothing like the horror stories you hear about other hospitals where C-section rates are sky-high and women lose control over their babies’ entry into the world.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Hospitals and obstetricians are terrific, essential at times, and provide miraculous life-saving feats. In fact, one of my good friends is an obstetrician. But, there’s a time and a place for her services. Truth is, the majority of women have healthy pregnancies and don’t need any kind of intervention, yet the majority of births in this country include interventions that are often unnecessary and too frequently complicate the birthing process.
Despite all our fancy, Western-medicine interventions, infant mortality in the U.S. is ranks somewhere in the mid-twenties for modern countries. C-section rates are twice as high as rates recommended by the World Health Organization, and nearly four times higher than the world average.
All I’m saying is … birth doesn’t have to be medicalized, medicated, or scary—IF you’re blessed with a low-risk pregnancy. Otherwise, yes. It’s a blessing to have the interventions we have. Just make sure they’re necessary.
This leads me to my recent big decision … which is to give birth at a birthing center instead of a hospital.
You see, there’s a new birthing center in my town. We’ve been without one for something like twenty years. It’s been a dream that one particular midwife here has been working toward for over eleven years now, and it just opened last month. The space is beautiful. Lots of color, lots of artwork. A pond with goldfish and a waterfall when you walk in.
If you go in for a checkup, you go to a “visiting” room where you sit on a comfy couch lined with pillows. The expansive windows look out over gardens. Yes, there’s an exam table in the corner, but it’s only used when necessary. They have two dedicated birthing rooms complete with deep bathtubs and live orchids. Outside, new trees have been planted and there’s a sculpture garden for children to play in. You can pretty much do whatever you want, too. Videotaping is allowed, candles are welcome, and most of the tests and needle pricks and checkboxes that hospitals mandate are optional.
Overall, it’s completely devoid of a “hospital” feeling, yet housed within the center is a full lab along with well-qualified, experienced medical personnel.
It was still a hard decision, though. Partly because we had a great experience at the hospital with our first birth, and partly because—even though I feel pretty strongly about having a natural birth—there is still a tiny, worried feeling inside of me that likes the security of birthing in a hospital environment.
After a ton of reflection, I’ve opted to put that feeling aside. I’m going to trust my body along with the medical staff at the birthing center—assuming I remain low-risk and healthy, of course. So far, so good.
Besides, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to try a home birth. This will be kind of like that, only it’s more like going to your neighbor’s calm and welcoming house. And, as my husband puts it, we won’t have to scrub our sheets afterward.
I’ll let you know how it goes … any day now!
P.S. I seriously can’t stop inhaling Doritos.