Monday, March 22, 2010

Hospital Birth?

Just yesterday I was talking to a mom just for a couple minutes. Somehow the conversation turned to childbirth and she said her first baby was an emergency c-section. Her second was a c-section, too. I said something like, "You know you can have a natural birth after a c-section." She got this look of disgust and said, "I know, but I didn't find out until after my second, and then they told me no way." I haven't known this mom for very long, but her story is so familiar. A mom who was told she couldn't have something that she wanted for herself and her baby and felt she had no choice otherwise.

I have avoided for the most part being a mom with that story. Sometimes I think it's luck, but then I consider the decisions I've made along the way that have led to three beautiful, perfect, and natural labor and delivery stories. The decisions seemed small at the time, but in the end, they were of great magnitude. And I'm convinced that most of it had to do with the professionals I chose to help me along the way. I'm also convinced that knowing what I didn't want and listening to my gut also played key roles in my experiences.

I chose to have my babies in the hospital. I chose this because I was confident that I could do it on my terms. The midwife I was seeing for my first baby (the third one I had seen in my first few months of pregnancy because I just wasn't comfortable with the first two) was very supportive of my choices and even advocated for me when the OB wanted to induce me because I was overdue. I called my mom crying when we were told we would need to report to the hospital the next morning for an induction, even after the NST had shown everything was normal. My husband was furious because the OB hadn't even seen me. I resolved that if they felt that strongly about inducing me, they were going to have to come find me with sirens and flashing lights. Then my midwife called me and said, no, we had a plan and she would see me on Tuesday for our appointment.

But I didn't make it on Tuesday. Contractions started early Monday morning and after 11 ½ hours of un-medicated labor, we met our beautiful, perfect little girl. She showed no signs of being nearly two weeks overdue and nursed like a champ from the very beginning. My husband commented that I was much more pleasant while I was in labor than I had been in the weeks leading up to it. And even minutes after our baby girl was born, I remember saying, "I could do that again." (I had to laugh because when I got my charts a few years later, the mother/baby nurse had written that I was confident in my ability to nurse my baby, "maybe too confident?" I nursed that baby without any trouble for 22 months, as well as every baby after that.)

After our first was born, I was honored to be asked to be a friend's birth partner. I went to all the birth classes with her and I remember sitting there thinking that there was so much this nurse was not telling these new parents. I'll never forget the look on her face when I announced that if you are the pregnant woman, you still have a say in what they do to you, whether it's induce you or simply what drugs they put in your body or the tests they want you to take. And the same went for your baby. You can ask questions, ask them to wait, or just plain say no. The nurse was horrified. And I was equally as horrified at how horrified she was. It was like she was going to lose the control she had over that class because I had just told them they had choices.

Two years later, I was pregnant again. And my midwife was fantastic enough to write in my chart that I didn't need a hep-lock during labor (the first time it was just in the way) and that after the baby was born I didn't need pitocin to shrink my uterus since I planned to nurse my newborn. When we checked in, the triage nurse was pretty set on poking me. But after I insisted, she left, came back and announced it was okay. Thank you, midwife, for writing it in my chart.

This time I was in labor for 6 ½ hours before our second beautiful and perfect baby girl was born. During labor everyone was so nice and helpful making it a beautiful experience. My husband was again amazed at how pleasant I was during labor. He was a big advocate and super support during the whole process. And everyone just went with it because it was going so well. I remember at one point feeling as if I was stalling out, and I looked up to see the midwife just sitting in the rocking chair waiting so patiently. Then my water broke and we had a baby soon after that.

By the time I was pregnant with baby number three, our insurance had changed and I needed to find a new provider. I asked around and heard the name of one OB from several people. So I set an appointment and made my list of "I needs". At the first appointment I rattled my list off and he looked at me, smiled a goofy smile and said, "You sound like my wife." I could have hugged him.

My new OB was my best advocate and wrote everything in my chart. Everything from not poking me to my request for the placenta. He approved of all my requests, including the fact that I didn't want to take the glucose test, and I am forever thankful for him.

When I did go into labor and went to the hospital, the nurse looked at me kind of sideways when I told her I didn't want the hep-lock. Then I said, "I'm not a hysterical woman in labor. You can poke me later if you need to." I could tell she was somewhat confused by my statement, but as labor progressed, she was quite verbal with her observations of how the whole experience was unfolding. No, I wasn't hysterical (she actually wrote in my chart that I was "very pleasant") and my husband was super supportive and helpful. I've come to learn that all of these things are very rare in that hospital.

In the end, I went from 7 centimeters to my water breaking in two contractions. The next contraction the baby crowned, and the next contraction she was born-less than four hours after active labor had started. And the nurse who was originally hesitant about my requests got to catch my baby. She was thrilled.

My OB missed it by twenty minutes. I had to giggle when he walked in. "You know," he said with that same goofy grin he had given me at the beginning, "ninety percent of women can give birth at home."

After my baby was born, we suddenly had a room full of people busily doing what they were supposed to do. But one of them was pushing on my tummy in a not-so-gentle manner. Someone must have noticed because my baby's nurse came up to me after that nurse had left and said very gently, "I think I'll just be your nurse, too." I don't know what went down, but I didn't see the not-so-gentle nurse again. And I was thankful for it.

I had caused quite a stir in the birth unit. I got all sorts of questions about what I was going to do with the placenta, questions about babywearing, and comments on how labor and delivery went. Our delivery nurse was so thrilled to be a part of our experience, and I think she was talking to everyone about it. (Three days later when we came in for a post-partum baby and mommy check, they were still talking about us. We also have a picture of baby #3 with the nurse.) They let me walk to the recovery room and even when we were on our way home, they let me wear our baby out the door in my wrap rather than carry her or have her in the car seat, even though they weren't supposed to. I think they liked us.

I'm not saying everyone should have their baby in the hospital. I'm not against birth centers or home birth. What I am saying is that if you know what you want (or at least you know what you don't want), if you are a little picky, a little insistent, and you find the right people, (and you are nice about it in the mean time) chances are that you can have a really great experience giving birth in a hospital if that's where you choose to be. You should not have guilt for changing providers when you are uncomfortable. Yes, there are pregnancies that need special care due to special circumstances, but even then you can insist on what you deem your best educated choice is. And good providers will help and support you along the way and not make you feel that you are a crazy person.

By Heidi Donnelly


  1. Yes yes yes!! This is exactly it! I've had 3 hospital births, and the first one, I had a wicked cool Dr who went along with everything I wanted, my second I was delivered by the nurse and the ER dr, and it went really well (I don't remember the ER dr being there AT all, so no bad, and my 3rd I was VERY much in charge with my birth, and everything that happened to me and my child after wards!
    Good for you for sticking up for what you want in labour, and awesome that you had such wonderful providers during your delivery!

  2. It's great that you had those options available to you. In the county where I live, both hospitals are very strict in their L&D policies (no eating/drinking, no VBAC, no water birth, everyone gets an IV, etc.) and the doctors must toe the line pretty hard or risk losing their hospital privileges. The nearest NICU is more than 60 miles away by helicopter. So for liability purposes, there is little negotiation about their policies. Because of the things I learned while researching my options, I chose to go to a birth center over an hour's drive away so that I COULD have choices and good support. So it's important for women to know that as firm and pleasant as they may be, their providers may not have as much flexibility as what you encountered.

  3. What a beautiful post! Do you mind if I share this on Facebook? I have many friends who feel hospital birth is their best option and I'd like them to be able to see that normal, natural, awesome births can and do happen in a hospital setting despite my very vocal promotion of home births :)

  4. Thank you for this wonderful story about THREE positive hospital births. I'm right there with you (but just one ... so far).

  5. What I am saying is that if you know what you want (or at least you know what you don't want), if you are a little picky, a little insistent, and you find the right people, (and you are nice about it in the mean time) chances are that you can have a really great experience giving birth in a hospital if that's where you choose to be.

    I could not agree with that statement more. I, too caused a stir on the L&D unit. Between my 9lb7oz 36-weeker and my laughing and joking through my entire labor and delivery, and even laughing and joking around with my docs and nurses as I was hemorrhaging, the floor was definitely abuzz about the woman with the "Great sense of humor and really big preemie" as my chart read!

  6. IT IS A VERY NICE SUGGESTION, THANK YOU LOTS! ........................................

  7. Beautiful post!!! It's not very often that you hear such positive support of hospital birth.

    I had my daughter in a hospital, and while things didn't go exactly as we'd planned, I felt like I was informed and given a chance to ask questions and have an opinion every step of the way. As you said, it can be done if you know what you want, how to ask for it, and have the right people to support you.

  8. And with this post, you have completely won me over. I may be new here, but I can tell I'll be back!

    Sarah @

  9. I think what is important is wherever the mom wants to be! Very good post!

  10. Great post!

    This makes me want to get a copy of my charts to see what interesting things were written about me. haha

  11. Fantastic post. I had one horrific hospital birth with my son, and then an incredible and amazing one with my daughter.

    The second time around, I knew what I wanted, and knew how to get it. I was confident in my body's natural abilities and functions. I kept a positive attitude, didn't watch TLC, and refused most of the prenatal tests. My midwife was a joy, every visit was a good one, and I felt in control.

    It really is about your provider and where they attend births. And I learned that confidence and speaking up for yourself (because after all, we ARE the ones who need to take care of ourselves in the end) are crucial elements to having a good birth experience inside a hospital.