34 weeks down ya’ll and time is drawing near to meet our little girl. I know I’ve said this before but I am truly excited about her joining our little family. Her brother loves her so much already and the hubs rubs my belly at least once a day as he “greets” her. Her arrival will definitely be life changing. But until that time, I’m content preparing for the grueling labor that will precede her birth. Having chosen midwives at birthing center over an ob/gyn and hospital, I believe that even if things do not turn out exactly as I had envisioned, I have been empowered throughout this entire process. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the 99% of women who experience birth in a hospital which is why I'm choosing to deliver at a birthing center.
So what is a birthing center exactly? It’s a happy medium between a homebirth and hospital. To be more specific, you are provided a home like atmosphere while being attended to by medical professionals (certified nurse midwives) who help guide you through your unmedicated, natural childbirth experience by offering emotional and physical support. They do this alongside your partner, family and/or doula. While my hospital experience with my first wasn’t terrible by any means, I knew it wasn’t something I didn’t want to experience again. That alone made choosing a birth center so much more appealing, but that wasn’t my only reason.
There's No Place Like Home...Almost
The first one though, while not the most important is still pretty high up there, is the home like atmosphere. The location where I will be delivering has three rooms that have each been beautifully decorated. I only took pictures of my top two choices but you can see a bit of the third in a later photo. As you can see these are a far cry from the cold, sterile rooms of a hospital. No bright lights. No incessant beeping of machines or people coming in and out of your room constantly checking your progress. Just peacefulness. This is what I want. This is what I need. I need to be able to tune into my body to do one of the most difficult jobs I will ever do.
The Cost Is Less Than That Of A Hospital
Seeing as how high deductible plans are becoming the norm in the health insurance industry, having a baby can be a lot more costly than it used to be. While our deductible is not nearly as high as some I see on a daily basis at work ($2600 for a family to be exact), it still would have cost us over $4000 dollars between the deductible and coinsurance just for the hospital fees alone. Mind you you still have to add in the fees for the ob/gyn and any lab work. At the birthing center, its either $5000 outright if you DON’T have insurance or in our case a little over $2800 for everything but lab work plus some extras. Each location offers, prenatal yoga, birthing classes such as a Bradley Birth refresher class, birth in a nutshell among others and my favorite, centering at no additional cost.
Unlike your regularly scheduled appointments with your ob/gyn where they give you a few minutes of their time, constant vaginal checks and ultrasounds, and very little information shared about the hospital birthing process, centering is a breath of fresh air! Your appointments, which feel more like a mommy (and daddy) meetup, are shared with a group of other mommies who are due in the same month as starting in the first trimester of pregnancy. We are a mix of first timers as well as “old pros”. As one of the two second timers in the group, it’s cool that we can both share our experiences about pregnancy, labor and delivery and life with a newborn. But we are all also learning about the latest in eco-friendly breast pads, types of cloth diapers, how to get your free breast pump courtesy of the ACA and common skin conditions that can afflict your little one that are for the most part harmless, just cosmetically challenging. We’ve talked about more but you get the picture.
We stick to the traditional schedule of coming once every four weeks, then two, etc. At each session, WE record our weight and blood pressure before a few of the midwives meet with each us individually in two separate corners of the room to measure our growing bellies, listen to the fetal heart rate using a doppler and go over any issues we may have experienced since our last appointment. Everything is surprisingly pretty private given we’re meeting in medium sized room. I have yet to hear a conversation between a mom and midwife. Afterwards we discuss the given topic for the week. So far, some of the topics we’ve covered have been self care, relationship changes, particularly intimacy that occur during pregnancy as well as after baby, how you’re going to handle visitors after baby, burping, diapering and swaddling your little one, ways to relax and eating habits just to name a few. We’ll cover breastfeeding at our next session which will also be my last before I began my individual appointments again at 36 weeks. But our most important session to date has been what exactly happens during labor and delivery at the center as well what happens if complications arise. They took us to one of the rooms where they had everything set up as if a delivery was about to occur and walked us through EVERYTHING!
The midwives showed us different birthing positions, different “tools” and apparatus to help progress labor, what your partner could do to help during labor AND what machinery is used and measures taken if baby is not breathing immediately after birth (it can happen if they delivery happens much faster than expected and their startled into not breathing). If medical care is needed beyond what they offer, they will not hesitate to tell you its time to head to the hospital. All they want is a healthy mama and baby. With a hospital within minutes of each of their locations, I’m not worried. Their overall c-section rate (after transport to a hospital and a vaginal birth still wasn’t possible) is roughly 1% while the national average is sitting at a hefty 33%!
THIS is what doesn’t happen in your ob/gyn. If you happen to go into labor on your own and show up at the hospital, it’s pretty much their show from beginning to end. Sure you can come in with a birth plan, but they can and will disregard it in a heartbeat for any reason! During my labor with my son, I wanted the ability to move about the room and labor in positions that were most comfortable to me. Instead no sooner than my water broke after taking a seat in a rocking chair in the room, they ordered me to the bed. Why? I don’t know. I pretty much spend the rest of my time there in one position as contractions rocked my body one after the other. By this time they had also strapped on the fetal heart monitor for constant monitoring, something I was highly against. Why? The fetal heart monitor which was originally designed for high risk or abnormal pregnancies now has become standard procedure during labor and delivery. But it hasn't been proven to be useful in a normal delivery. Quite the opposite in fact. Studies have shown that a c-section becomes more probable with its use because of an anomaly in the monitor no matter how matter. It's just one of the many interventions (unnecessary episiotomies, directed pushing, non-medically necessary inductions) used by hospitals on a daily basis. No thanks. They can miss me with that.
While a birthing center isn’t everyone, it's one that I feel is the best choice for me and our family. I just want the opportunity to experience birth on my terms. I know there is still a possibility that I will not get the ending I so desire because ish happen but I’ll cross that bridge if we get there. I also know that at the end of the day, that simply having my baby come into this healthy regardless of how she arrived is the ultimate goal, feelings of regret from following through with my original birth plan still haunt me because I feel as if I gave up on myself. Something I've done too often in other areas of my life. So for now I can at least hope for a “fairy tale” ending to what has been a journey this far.
In the mean time, baby girl we’re anxiously awaiting your arrival. You’ll come as you see fit.