Thursday, June 26, 2008

The birthing center

I really had no idea what was waiting for me here in Middlebury as far as prenatal care and delivery facilities went. The two major wildcards were the one available midwifery practice and the Porter Hospital Birthing Center. If the first didn't work out for whatever reason, I knew there would be at least a few OBs in town for backup. Fortunately, as you know, the midwifery practice looks like it's going to work out just fine.

Porter Hospital, from the hospital's website

But there's only one hospital in Middlebury, so I was anxious to see it for myself. Yesterday, I took a tour of the Birthing Center and to my immense relief, it is a wonderful facility.

Miriam and I took the bus there. It is technically within walking distance, but it would have been a long walk. When the bus pulled up to the hospital stop, the bus driver asked me if I was in labor. I laughed and said I was just there to take a tour. He breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Good, but if you were in labor, you should have told me and I would have raced right over here." I'm glad to know the bus drivers of Middlebury are looking out for us car-less pregnant ladies.

A birthing room, from the hospital website

There is one pre-partum room and four birthing rooms at the Birthing Center. The Birth Center in Tucson only has three birthing rooms, and I suspect they get a lot more traffic than Middlebury does. When we visited yesterday afternoon, there was no one there but the nursing staff. The birthing rooms also serve as recovery rooms, which is a nice bonus.

The thing I was most excited to discover about the birthing rooms is that they each have their own huge tub with shower attachment and optional chair. Water was what helped the most during labor with Miriam, so I have a feeling I will definitely be utilizing that benefit. What's interesting is that while the hospital provides the tubs, it doesn't technically allow water births. I asked the midwife how they enforce that, and she kind of shrugged and said, "they don't like you pushing while you're in the water." Also, apparently, this policy is on the table and might be changed in the near future. I'm not an expert on birthing facilities or anything, but the fact that a small-town hospital even has a birthing center, and that said birthing center has tubs for every room, and that they are even considering allowing water births - it sounds very progressive, don't you think? It's interesting, anyway.

Each mom is only allowed to have two guests with her during labor. I can imagine a lot of people having major damage with that policy, but I think I like it. In Tucson, some of the delivery rooms were full to bursting with all kinds of friends and family, all chatting on cell phones, creating noise and being boisterous, and clogging up the hallways and other facilities. When Miriam was born, the only people in our room were me (obviously), Jeremy, the midwife, and the nurse. So I don't think I'll have a problem with the two guest limit.

Another policy that some people might have a problem with, but that I think will be OK for me: there is no nursery. The baby stays with you all the time, except for a brief trip out of the room for those standard newborn tests and screens.

You can wear whatever you want at the Birthing Center - they don't make you wear those snappy hospital gowns. Which, on the one hand, is awesome. But on the other, it's kind of nice not to have to worry about getting your own clothes terribly stained. So I'm still undecided on this one.

Now, about those epidurals. I asked the nurse about it and sure enough, they do not offer them. They do offer intrathecals, which also have side effects but are not as all-numbing as an epidural. At least, that's how I understood her explanation. I'm really hoping to not have to find out any more about them.

I feel so, so lucky to have such a nice facility available here. It is very new, as is the midwifery practice, so if we had been here two years ago or even last year, it would have been a totally different experience.


Shannan said...

I love midwives and I loved my birthing experience at a small "country" hospital (in Silverton, OR). I truly hope your experience was as good as mine b/c my first two births were not as great.

Lindsay said...

I had an intrathecal with Tyson. I would recommend it for anyone looking for relief without having to deal with catheters and not walking and such. However, I am still undecided about whether or not I will use an epidural, intrathecal, or nothing with this next baby.

Bridget said...

Shannan, I hope the same.

Lindsay, I'm glad to hear a first-hand account of an intrathecal. The nurse was listing off all kinds of side effects, which was a bit overwhelming until I remembered that epidurals have freaky side effect possibilities, too.

Liz Johnson said...

That is so exciting!! I want to give birth there!

The hospital in Indiana where I would have delivered actually allowed and encouraged water births (which was shocking to me, since it was a real hospital). Over 80% of the births were attended by the midwives I was seeing and the C-section rate was below 10%.

Sadly, this hospital was unexpectedly closed earlier this month to allow for more $$ to be put towards the new hospital. Of course, the new one won't allow water births. !$%@&!@

Mikael said...

you are one brave woman to birth in a place that doesn't even offer epidurals. Now that i have experienced a natural, drug free birth, I never want to experience that again. Epidurals are my friend :)
Congrats on finding a place that meets all your needs, I hope this labor and delivery will be a lot better than your last one.

Kristen said...

This entire town sounds like a fantasy. My mind wandered to the town of Humbleton, PA where you may recall Ned, Rod, and Tod lived briefly.

Anyway, I am just so pleased that the amenities and atmosphere in your birthing center are all you hoped for. I believe that your peace of mind going into this birth will dramatically influence its outcome in a positive way. It makes me excited for my next experience with childbirth. It truly is an experience...and that is one reason why some of us choose not to be numb. I am genuinely excited for you!

My sister had an intrathecal with her first birth. She hated it, but I think it was due to misguided expectations. She was (falsely, according to her) led to believe this option would take away the "pain," while she would still be able to "feel" what was happening. She was happier with the epidural the next 2 times, if that explains.

I don't quite understand the fear surrounding water births. The baby receives oxygen through the umbilical cord until well after it has emerged, and it will not instinctively take a breath until its face is exposed to air. I suppose those hospitals that insist on fetal monitors being strapped to the belly would object. But it would be just as easy to use a handheld monitor at regular intervals, and if something isn't going right, the mama can always get out of the tub.

As for your wardrobe, consider getting something just for the occasion so you won't mind if it gets stained (although with modern laundry technology, it's not likely). I planned on wearing just a cotton tank-bra and a little sport-skirt or something. But I never got around to getting them, and in the focused-yet-dreamlike state of natural labor, modesty had no place (for me). So I just went without. :) I didn't think I would ahead of time, but it is so weird how throughout my birthing experience, my body and mind were so absorbed in their mission to bring forth a tiny new life that no thoughts of embarrassment or indignity ever surfaced. For obvious reasons, pants will be no good after a certain point, so I'd suggest a little robe that you find comfortable, or the sports bra/skirt combo.

Bridget said...

I really would like to wear something of my own, just for comfort's sake, but I have a feeling that "of my own" would end up meaning "nothing at all," for all the same reasons you just mentioned.

Kristen said...

Well, I must admit that I am delightfully surprised at your admission. I even hesitated posting my last comments, wondering if many readers--including you--might feel it was too personal. Giving birth is one of the most primal human experiences, after all, so why not do it naked? :)

Aimee & Fam said...

I totally agree with Kristen in everything. I gave birth and gave no thought to the fact that I, too, was as naked as my baby (when he finally emerged). I don't think I would have wanted anything constraining me. It wasn't even something that crossed my mind. I was in the tub during the whole labor and loved the water. The only time I got out was when the midwives recommended using gravity. As for the 2-guest limit, it makes it really easy to tell people. I really enjoyed the fact that it was just me and Kevin (and the midwives). Good luck, it looks like an amazing place!

Anonymous said...

Do they give you the option of an epidural?


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