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.