My (our) arrival at Natural Birthing

Birth Center roomI wanted to write a post on my journey to natural birthing, but as I began thinking about it I realized that it wasn’t really my story to tell. My wife was the one who began it, I was only riding along. So, I only think its appropriate that she tells her own story (of which I’m very grateful):

When I found out I was pregnant with our daughter, I felt really unprepared for all the decisions I needed to make. It wasn’t something I thought of prior to being pregnant. I knew I wanted kids, but I figured there wasn’t anything to think about. You get an OB, when it’s time to have the baby you get an epidural and voila baby is here. Then you feed them formula, put them in disposable diapers, and put them in their crib to sleep. I picked up a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and as much as I feel that book is lacking in a lot of ways, it did make me realize their were other options. One option I didn’t really think their was a choice in was in my care provider. After all midwives are what third world countries and rural towns use, right?

I chose an OB that was recommended to me because she was open to multiple birth styles, she was pro-natural birth, but also pro-medicalized if that’s what you wanted. I had heard there was a birth center nearby, but quickly dismissed that as friends jokingly called it “the vagina cottage,” where really weird, hippy people go to birth and besides “what if something goes wrong and I’m not at the hospital!” I liked my OB. She was nice and very open to dialogue, the problem never really was with her. The problem came the day I delivered. By this point I decided I wanted a natural birth, I read all about it and was confident I could do it, even without knowing anyone who had. I imagined a happy, empowering birth. What I got was a feeling of being beat down and bullied. My blood pressure was high when I was admitted. I was made to be continuously monitored and labor on my back, while having back labor. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t take it. It wasn’t long before the cascade of intervention took hold, first narcotics and then the epidural. By time I delivered, I hadn’t slept in 36 hours, and hadn’t eaten in about 24 hours. I wouldn’t get much sleep that night as they constantly checked on us, and I wasn’t given any food either because “the cafeteria was closed.” I was mentally, physically, and emotionally drained. The nurses also did a good job of making me feel incompetent because I wasn’t following their protocol exactly. Breastfeeding was a disaster because of my lack of energy and this new baby being in basically a drug induced sleep from all the drugs I had been on during labor. None of this was what I had dreamed of, not even close.

It wasn’t long after this that I started to question what I should have done differently.  Research after the fact lead me to realize that I really wasn’t prepared the first time. I then knew real live people who birthed at that birth center or at least had prenatal care there, and it didn’t seem so weird anymore because these people were normal. They weren’t some tree-hugging person, they were just like everyone else I knew.  I’ve never been a fan of hospitals, so of course trying to have a natural birth there had been a bad idea. Naturally, the thought after this was I should have gone with a midwife as well. Like I said before there is nothing wrong with my OB,but I’ve always been the kind of person who prefers to try natural alternatives before going to see a doctor and getting medicine. I’m not anti-medicine, but I’d rather not over medicate just because it’s there.

The decision was made, at least by me, that next time I was going to a midwife and a birth center. We then moved, and when I first arrived in the new area I looked for a birth center, scared I wouldn’t find one. As luck would have it there was one only 15 minutes away. Unfortunately, it would take some time (and a little medical help) to finally conceive, and when I did, I called up the birth center with no hesitation. During a tour of the place, the first impression was it felt relaxed and home-like. At my first appointment, it was a world of difference from my OB appointments. I was shown how to weigh myself and do my own urine check (that may sound weird, but it makes me feel like I am in control of my own care). The waiting room has lots of toys and looks like a living room, giving my toddler plenty to do. We met with one of the midwives, who took as much time as we needed. She explained things and allowed us to be as involved or not involved as we wanted with the visit (for example offering the opportunity to look at my cervix during a pap smear). If I have non-urgent questions, I can contact one of the midwives via facebook, and she usually answers the same day. I remember sometimes waiting all day for the OB’s office to call back after complaining of symptoms of a UTI. When I’ve had actual health concerns such as spotting in the second trimester or the stomach flu in the third, a call to the midwife’s pager or the center usually gets a quick return call from one of the midwives. I was further shocked when the day I called about the stomach flu, that the midwife actually took the time to call back later in the day to see how I was doing.

Already, the difference between my two experiences seems like night and day. With one I felt like a patient who had a disease, the other I feel like I am being treated like an educated human being. I feel truly empowered and supported in whatever decisions I make concerning my pregnancy and birth. I’m allowed to research and decide, instead of being informed what is best. I look forward to the impending birth and truly feel ready for it this time.

I think the best part of the midwife/birth center model is the personalized care. The mother doesn’t feel like a commodity moving through the baby factory, but an actual living being with their own thoughts, feelings and expectations. At every step along the way we’ve felt the support of our birth center family. This has led to a calm, relaxed pregnancy and I can only imagine the birth will be the same. I only want the best possible experience and outcome for mother, child and family, and I know we’ve found the best place for it to happen. What was your experience?