Love the idea of a home birth but not sure you’re that brave? Want the security of a hospital without the pressure? Try delivering in a birth center!
When you are expecting your first child, there are so many decisions to make about the kind of birth experience you want: Who do you want with you? Do you need a birth coach? Do you want an epidural? Would you consider a water birth? And the list of questions lengthens with each pregnancy book or website you obsessively read.
Yet so much of your birth experience depends on where you will be delivering. Most hospitals have certain restrictions, and very few have birthing tubs, for example. So when you are deciding where to go when your time comes, make sure you know what you will be getting into.
We were so happy with our first birth experience that when we found out we were expecting again, neither of us questioned but that we would deliver at a birth center. (You can read our birth stories here).
What made it so special? For us a birth center was the perfect compromise between a home birth and a hospital birth.
In the “natural parenting” community, the ultimate birth experience is a home birth with a midwife. Yet neither my husband nor I was quite ready for that. My sister and two of my cousins had emergency C-sections for different complications that threatened the lives of their babies. As a result, I was more than a little nervous to be far from medical help.
But I have heard even more stories about hospital births where the mother’s wishes were ignored or belittled. Being an “older” mother (I was 33 when my first son was born) only increased the odds that this would happen to me. I strongly believe that birth is a natural, normal event, not a trauma that must be controlled and managed, and I wanted to work with others that supported this view.
So we chose to deliver in a birth center, a decision I was very happy with. Our particular birth center is part of a hospital, although this is not always the case. But it has its own entrance and in many ways operates (no pun intended!) as a separate unit. Indeed, during both of our stays I never entered the main hospital.
Caveat: All birth centers are different. Though they have many similarities, this post reflects my experiences at one particular birth center.
Why I Chose A Birth Center
- Comfort: You can’t beat your own home for comfort, of course, but a birth center is the next best thing. The delivery room was spacious and even included a couch and pull-out bed. Afterwards, we moved to a private room that was comfortable and homey. I know people joke about hospital food, but I loved the meals at our birth center! And it is nice to have other people worry about cleaning and cooking for a while. I would have stayed quite a bit longer if my insurance would have paid for it 😉
- Support: The staff at the birth center was incredibly supportive and personable. During those first hours, it is nice to have lactation consultants and pediatricians close at hand. I also took advantage of the midwives’ and nurses’ experience to ask all the questions I could possibly think of.
- Reassurance: At our birth center, births are attended by midwives and nurses, though doctors (and an operating room) are available if needed.
- Respect: More than anything, I chose our birth center because I knew my wishes would be respected. The staff was very eager to learn what we wanted and at every step took great care to ensure that we had all the information we needed to make our decisions. For a variety of reasons, in many hospital settings patients’ birth plans are often ignored when the time comes and so they end up with a completely different birth experience than they had hoped for. While one cannot control how a birth will go, at least at a birthing center everyone has the same goal of trying, within reason, to create the experience you desire.
Where did you deliver, and would you make the same choice again?
Leanna is a stay at home mother to a sweet, funny, rambunctious three year old boy, with a baby on the way. She draws inspiration from the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith and tries to raise her little Monkey in a fun, spiritual, loving environment. She and her husband, who is from Costa Rica, are raising their little boy to be bilingual and bi-cultural but more importantly to be a “world citizen.” Having studied anthropology, history, and library science, Leanna now trolls the internet and Pinterest for recipe and craft ideas. “All Done Monkey” is her attempt to make sense of it all.
My first birth was at a hospital and my second at a freestanding birth center – I LOVED my birth center birth! I had some post-delivery complications that were scary, so I don’t think I will be brave enough for a home birth in the future. I can’t wait to go back to the birth center again. 🙂