In Defense of Birthing Centers

Parenting is a controversial topic, and it starts the moment you find out you’re pregnant. Do you tell people before the traditional 12 weeks or wait, hoping none of your friends fault you for becoming a hermit during the morning sickness of the first trimester? Do you consume caffeine (in limited quantities) or abstain altogether? What amount of exercise is appropriate?

The further along in the process, the more heated the debate. For the actual birth, where should it take place? Will you have an epidural? What are your thoughts on being induced? Who do you want present at your birth? Of course, once the baby is born, everyone has an opinion about pretty much everything you do – even people who don’t have children! Pacifiers – yes or no? When do you introduce a bottle? Formula or breast milk? Co-sleeping: a do or don’t?

The answer to ALL of these questions is quite simple: it depends. No two pregnancies are alike, just as no two sets of parents will be precisely aligned on all parenting issues. Everyone has different beliefs, mantras and goals in mind when it comes to the process of pro-creating. If something works for you, DO IT. If it doesn’t, learn from it and try something different next time. Research and accepting advice is fine, but all pieces of information must be locked together to form an opinion and inform a decision that works for YOU.

One particularly contentious decision that Dan and I made for our journey was to have Ella in a birthing center. I received all manner of reactions from family and friends – everything from raised eyebrows to flat-out disapproval of our choice. “What’s the plan if there’s an emergency?” People wanted to know. And I told them exactly what the plan was. It wasn’t until after Ella was born safely and I told my story that most people’s minds were put at ease (and even then, there are still plenty of skeptics). I fully recognize that the route we took is NOT for everyone. But I absolutely love that it was an option for us. Here are just a few reasons why:

1. My midwife. I’m putting her first because I believe that this is absolutely crucial to a good birthing experience. I could not have asked for more in mine. Even though I began my care with her WELL into my pregnancy (since we didn’t move to Charlotte until I was seven months along), she did everything to find out about the history of my pregnancy. She got to know me and my husband personally through longer appointments than are traditional at that stage, knowing that it would be vital during the birth. She gave me her cell phone number and has never hesitated to quickly answer a text from me on all manner of topics. Still, with Ella at almost seven weeks old, I bother her frequently and she always comes through with sage advice. Despite birthing her own baby about two weeks into my care with her, she never missed an appointment with me. She brought her beautiful daughter in to work and continued to care for me and all her other moms that she is so dedicated to. I could go on and on about how wonderful she is, but hopefully that paints a relatively clear picture.

2. Lack of fear. Knowing we wanted to have a birth that was as natural as possible, Dan and I were quite concerned about the potential for interventions in a hospital setting. I even went so far as to make a list of things Dan should look for and object to if he saw them (needles, scissors, etc.) At the birth center, we were open about what we did and didn’t want with no additional stress about whether our wishes would be respected.

3. Familiarity. I mentioned this in my other post, but the knowledge that we would be walking into a familiar setting and that I personally knew EVERY person that would be in my “delivery room” was an unbelievable comfort, especially during a painful, contraction-ridden car ride to the center. At that stage of my labor, I do not think I would have dealt well with a busy waiting room, bright lights and a bustling hub of activity that usually comes with the hospital territory.

4. Openness. I’ve heard far too many birth stories from friends, bloggers, etc. where the mom was not in control of the delivery process. Pushing too early, unexplained procedures or the infamous c-section conclusion are just some of the things I was REALLY hoping to avoid during my birth, knowing that I would be too out of it to make rational choices or really comprehend what was going on. My team at the birthing center had a conversation with me every step of the way. They spoke slowly and repeated themselves as many times as necessary to break through my labor-related stupor. They asked me questions and involved me in the process, explaining each choice they made, why they were making it and what would happen next. It made an unbelievable difference for my state of mind.

5. Camaraderie. In case it’s not already obvious, natural birth is hard. I’m so glad I did it, but 30 hours of contractions, no sleep and sporadic vomiting had really started to wear on my resolve. This is where the birthing center team was crucial. They reminded me why I was doing this, cheered me on and provided unbelievable emotional support. It also helped me SO MUCH knowing that every woman in that room with me had gone through the same thing with their own children – some of them many times. I don’t know how I would have gotten through it without them.

I know there are others who have not had this experience OR had what they would consider an equally terrific experience birthing elsewhere. And so, to each her own.

3 thoughts on “In Defense of Birthing Centers

  1. I so wish there was a good birthing center somewhat close to us here! I guess that is what happens when you move to old person central. A BC was my first line of choice but there aren’t any super close and with Kyle’s job, we couldn’t really be driving an hour plus to appointments and to have the baby. Oh well! We tour the hospital (the ONLY place to pop a kid out here haha) next week so hopefully it is okay. Most people I’ve spoken to who have had babies there have wants medical intervention, I don’t but fingers crossed we like it as much as they do!

    • I agree – there are far too few of them. There wouldn’t have really been a birthing center option for me in IL either. We just got really lucky here! If you have a WRITTEN birth plan and are really clear about it (I would also recommend getting yourself a doula – they can be amazing advocates in these situations), then you should be fine! If it’s an option, I HIGHLY recommend the water birth route. It was so much more relaxing to be floating in a giant pool of warm water, and all the contractions I did in the bed were excruciating. You’ll do amazing, mama!

  2. Pingback: Reading Wishlist | Workouts to Wine

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