I've never really wanted to be one of those people that get on a rant and not let it go but I have now found myself to be a 33 year old woman who is pregnant and trying to find a balance in prenatal care and delivery options. Let me just give a bit of a background here. I already have a daughter, she is 13 years old. I gave birth to her in a hospital and overall, it was not a bad experience.
I was 20 years old, I had been through schooling for Medical Lab assisting, and even placed in State Competitions for it. I had a growing love and respect for the medical field. I planned to (and did) go back to school for my Phlebotomy Certification. In preparation for my delivery I preregistered at the hospital and went to birthing and breastfeeding classes. I knew what I wanted for an ideal delivery. I knew I didn't want to take any drugs and to only use alternate options for relief from discomfort. This had been a very healthy pregnancy with no complications and I was at my prime.
Upon arrival at the hospital I was put in a wheelchair and taken to the Labor and Delivery Ward. I failed to call the doctor before we left for the hospital (it's not like I'd done this before) so I was put in bed with a fetal monitor until they heard back from him. The bed was probably the last place I wanted to be. Since I had not made the call that was required, the hospital went into default mode.
I know how that works.
I have since spent several years working as a phlebotomist, some of the time in the hospital and some in a family practice and a few as an Autotransfusionist-in the OR. I have been the caregiver and I know what happens the minute you check into the hospital. You somehow lose all personal credibility and the staff automatically assumes that you don't know what you are talking about, you don't know the lingo and you are incompetent to make good decisions.
Carry this concept over to the Labor Ward and it is magnified by the thinking that a woman in labor cannot make a rational decision for herself.
While trapped in the bed I had more paperwork to fill out. I certainly didn't understand why, after preregistering at this hospital and even taking classes there, was it necessary for me to fill out more paperwork between contractions. Alas, I guess this was tolerable. I have no idea how long I was made to stay in bed, but it was far longer than I wanted to be. If it weren't for my husband convincing me to comply, I would have gotten up much sooner. Once the hospital heard from my doctor, I was allowed to be up and walking around.
The first nurse I had was not at all helpful; she even looked at me during a contraction as though she had never seen someone in labor before. My second nurse-though...Jennifer was her name; she was a God-send. I had back labor and was using my husband as standing support to help off load the pressure. This was not his environment; he seemed to be at a loss. He wanted to be helpful but needed to be told what to do-which is not normal for his character. Jennifer stepped in and gave suggestions to help relieve my discomfort. One of them was getting in the shower which was very soothing.
Once my water broke I was directed back to the bed since "the baby was coming". With a following contraction I was told to push, so they could see what kind of progress I was making. Apparently it was more than expected because after that I was told to "blow off the next contraction" because my doctor had not arrived. I was assured that if the baby came that there was Dr. So-and-so outside of the room if needed.
I have to say, at this point I didn't care WHO caught the baby-it was time for it to come!!! I did follow directions though, and my doctor made it in time. After my perfectly healthy daughter was born the doctor stood up and shook my hand and told me I did a great job. I achieved my goal; I brought her into this world without the intervention of drugs. I didn't want her little system to have to process out anything unnecessary when I was capable of giving birth without medication or other intervention; what my body was designed to do. However, once in the Mother-Baby unit, I did concede to an Ibuprophen.
I was disappointed though, when the umbilical cord was cut (sooner than I thought was necessary) and she ended up needing to receive oxygen since her poor little body was a dark purple/red. This was not an emergent state but still something that seemed preventable and deflated the value of what I had just accomplished.
In the past several years I have had one sister give birth in a birthing center (twice!) and another do a home birth and two birthing center deliveries. I've notice how much more in-tune their midwives were to what my sisters wanted. They seemed to be in much more control of their situations and happily satisfied with their outcomes.
However, when I go into a birthing center their strides towards a homey atmosphere seem to remove a sense of certainty of a standard of care. I'm not saying that it is not there, just merely that I find assurance in the pristine setting of a hospital. Let me follow that up by saying, after working in the OR and out on the floors too, that concept is nothing but an illusion. I have found blood from previous patients on equipment set up in fresh new rooms. I've watched as housekeeping staff drag a mop around the center of the floor and don't clean to the edges or the corners. Yet, I still find that I want to trick myself into thinking it's "clean-er". I have also been it the birthing centers that are so far into their concept of womanly power that apparently they don't need to even dust!
I want to have my baby in a place where all of my options are there; where I can have the option of birthing in a tub, or lying on my back in a hospital bed. Where I can use a birthing ball, or be on all fours. Where they can catch it in the shower or while I'm walking down the hall. I feel like if I'm in a hospital my only option becomes the bed. If I'm in the birthing center, I don't even get the option of a normal hospital bed. If I'm in the hospital they are going to make me do what they think is right and disregard what I want, but at least they will take care of me for a few days after. If I'm in the birthing center I get to do what I want for the birth but then I have to pack my own meal and leave within a few hours, without assurance and assistance for the days to come. Why isn't there an in-between option that respects the value of the medical field while giving the freedom to have the least bit of intervention for the care of your baby? Why is it that an OB acts like "natural birth" is like getting prenatal care from a witch doctor and birthing centers act like OBs are standing at the door with a syringe in one hand and a scalpel in the other?