“Women should be permitted to make decisions regarding their care, but should also be informed of all risks, benefits, and alternatives to their selected treatment.” TRUTH
These are a set of quotes from an e-mail I received from a doctor-friend of mine concerned about my choices for childbirth. I had chosen, for my second childbirth, the same as my first, to have a water birth at a local birthing center in the care of a group of midwives.
This friend of mine was concerned for me, as his wife was due on the same day and she had previously had a cesarean section. His concerns were of potential life-threatening situations that may arise and having no “medical” staff nearby.
While his concerns may be valid, as birth is inherently risky, he has been mis-informed about the culture of birth in hospital settings. Hospitals are in place for a good reason and they can respond to serious situations quickly, but what is not a serious situation is often being treated as one. In my case, I had two very low-risk pregnancies (a requirement to be a patient at the birthing center) and felt that the birth center would be the least risky place to deliver my baby. In fact, with my first pregnancy, I did what most newly pregnant moms do and found a local respected OB to see for my routine visits. Once I began learning about the birthing process through my Bradley Method Childbirth classes and speaking to the OB about my wishes, she was not respectful AT ALL of my concerns. I was told in a matter of words that if I wanted a natural childbirth I should seek other care.
Does this sound like someone who is responsive to a mother’s plan? That’s just it though, most mother’s don’t have a plan and trust their doctor to do what’s best for her. I came in with a plan and the doctor did not like what I had to say, so I left and found a caring, loving, embracing birthing center to deliver my babies. I have had many friends and family who have had experiences in a hospital that have led them to look back and try to make a choice that more suited their situation for subsequent births. These mothers, although planning to deliver naturally in a hospital setting were confined to their beds without being allowed to move around to deal with their pain. Who wouldn’t want some medicinal relief if this were the case? Birthing in hospitals has become medicalized and what applies to one woman applies to all. All women will be confined to their beds, all women will receive pitocin at the same time, all women will get an epidural when ready. Frankly, this is sad and women should be appalled.
The good news is we DO have a choice, and we can choose better options for our births. A hospital option may be okay if your provider is understanding and willing to stick to your birthing plan. A birth center is a wonderful middle ground for those concerned with choosing a homebirth. I feel that the birthing center was as close to a homebirth as I could have ever asked for.
I felt that the midwives at the birthing center gave me the best care I could have ever asked to receive. The midwife, nurse and my husband were by my side throughout my entire labor and birth. It was quiet, dimly lit and peaceful for me and ultimately my baby. I was trusting that since the midwife was constantly by my side, she would have a better understanding of what was going on with my body and my baby than any hospital OB would, who rushes in just for the delivery. If something were to have gone wrong in my birth the midwife would recognize it immediately and we would head to the hospital.
Once I collected my thoughts and responded to my doctor-friend with why I made the decision that I did, he was still unwilling to accept the fact that hospitals may not always be the best place to give birth. I told him that my local hospital has a c-section rate of 45% and he suggested that it might be due to advanced maternal age, expectations for pain relief and obesity/diabetes. He never gave in to the fact that many hospitals just aren’t respecting women’s wishes and the time it takes to generally labor and have a baby naturally.
In the end, it makes me realize that we have a long way to go to change the minds of the general public about the birthing options out there and that women’s safety in childbirth isn’t generally better in hospitals. Women do have a choice and a hospital is just one of them.
Rachel McFadden, the Author of Happy Green Babies shares her experience with natural childbirth and the obstacles one can encounter from those who are unfamiliar with the safety of various birthing options.