Monday, August 03, 2009

Birth, one year later

Then - 3 August 2008.

Now - one year old.

A year ago today, Magdalena was born. The story of her birth is here, and having done it completely without drugs remains one of the most fulfilling and empowering events of my life. I don't say that to belittle anyone who happily chooses an epidural. I just mean that giving birth naturally was something that I really wanted to do, something I worked hard to prepare for, and something I ultimately successfully achieved. It doesn't matter what it is - accomplishing a goal is always something to be proud of.

As I look back on the experience of laboring and giving birth to Magdalena, I am realizing after the fact how many of the circumstances at the hospital's birthing center (Porter Hospital in Middlebury, Vermont) were peculiarly right for me. If I were pregnant now and investigating potential birthing facilities here in Ithaca, these are the things I would absolutely insist on. The sad thing is that many, if not most, facilities in America would not give them to me. The usual caveats of assuming a normal labor without danger to mom or baby apply, of course.

At Porter Hospital,

-I had a private room with its own bathroom attached. This may not have been the case at the Birth Center in Tucson where I started out prenatal care (there are three birthing rooms there but only one has its own bathroom with a large tub).

-I stayed in the same room for the whole time (labor, delivery, and recovery).

-I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Heck, the nurses even brought me food during labor. No ice chips here.

-I was not given an IV or even a heplock. This one still kind of surprises me.

-I was allowed to labor in a tub even though my water had already broken. This is apparently a big no-no in a lot of places.

-I never had to be "checked" unless I requested it.

-I was never offered any drugs for the pain by any staff, the nurses, or the midwife.

-When it came time for the actual birth, I was allowed to use any position I wanted.

-When Magdalena was born, I got to hold her and nurse her right away. It was about an hour before they got around to cleaning her off and weighing her.

I've had a few friends ask me recently about giving birth at freestanding birthing centers vs. the hospital vs. home. The more I think about it, the more I realize that it doesn't really matter what a place is called, or who runs it. As you can see, I had my ideal birth experience in a modern hospital, not at home or in a freestanding birthing center. In fact, I actually preferred the hospital in Middlebury over the Birth Center in Tucson. This shows that a hospital is not always the cold, impersonal, intervention-happy place it is often made out to be in some of the more angry birth literature out there.

So to those of you who are pregnant and trying to decide where to give birth, my advice would be to strip away all preconceptions and all labels. Forget the terms "birthing center" and "hospital." Decide what's important to you, what you're absolutely not willing to compromise on, and then find out who can make it happen. It might be a midwife at home. It might be an OB at the hospital. It might be something in-between. Do yourself a favor and don't rule anything or anyone out.


Susanne said...

Happy birthday to Magdalena! When did she start walking? On your trip across the country?

Great to hear you accomplished one of your goals by having a natural birth. Sounds like a great hospital there in Vermont!

Liz Johnson said...

Happy Birthday, Magdalena!!!

And AMEN. You said it perfectly.

Nancy said...

Happy Birthday to Magdalena! Hard to believe it's been a year.

I'm looking forward to having an epidural-free birth, hopefully...and the hospital here seems pretty lenient with whatever patients want, except that I won't be able to birth in the same room I recover in (I had a one-room deal with Rachel, which really was kind of nice). Oh, well. You can't have everything. :)

Aimee said...

Wow, its already been a year? Well written, and have to agree with you on those important points. I looked at birth center here in Denver and resigned myself to giving birth in the hospital with OB's and no water, etc. Then the stars aligned and I gave birth in Portland exactly the way I had always imagined.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

You struck gold twice with the Magdalena experience: Porter Hospital & the midwife you found. It makes my birth experiences look like the dark ages (although there were huge improvements between the first & last child).

The Ensign's said...

...and Middleberry's population just doubled because of this post. All the prego women up and moved because of all the possibilities their hospital provides.

Happy Birthday Magdalena!!!

sarah said...

Happy Birthday baby Magdalena! We miss you!

Lilianne said...

Yay! Happy Birthday, Magdalena!!!

Alli E. said...

Happy Birthday to Magdalena! That means Delaney's birthay is only weeks away...Wow!!

Sharalea said...

I want to give birth at your Vermont Hospital!!! :) Sounds perfect. Every one of those points was not allowed at the hospitals (or birth centers!) that were in my area with baby #1 (last summer: Kentucky--ended up being a C-section & THEN they said "nope, you could never do vaginal now, you must always do C-section!)

Glad to get outa there, looking forward to our next birthing adventure, hoping for hospitals like yours in Vermont!!

Happy Birthday to Miss Magdalena!

Anonymous said...

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