Before I became preggers I was under the opinion that I would go to a hospital for sure and get an epidural immediately. I definitely judged birthing centers as being completely inadequate. I felt like a birthing center was a place for hippies and lacked people with specialization to handle major medical events like birth. Shortly after becoming pregnant, I started reading a ton of literature on natural child birth. I read that birthing is a natural process and that the woman’s body is designed to do it without interventions. I read that women are far more likely to get a C-section the moment they step in the door of a hospital. I read that the chemicals used in the labor process in a hospital would overshadow the natural chemicals in my body (hormones) and would confuse my system creating the need for interventions. I was so excited when I read that by birthing naturally, a mother experiences the highest levels of the love hormone (oxytocin), which is used not only to create the contractions that allow the baby to be born but also that establish the actual love bond between a mother and her baby. Honestly, that was the most amazing part. A love experience generated by a body to create the highest level of love one will ever feel. From August until December 2012, I had been going for all of my regular appointments to a OBGYN. Unfortunately, the doctor I had selected was a new face for me since I had recently moved and I didn’t connect with her. I thought she was short with me. She granted me the time while I was being probed “downtown” as the main opportunity to ask any questions I had come up with for her. That coupled with my reading on the evils of hospitals started to lead me to believe that her intention would actually be to slice into me to get the baby out instead of letting me attempt to birth naturally in a hospital. I soon went to a hospital labor and delivery tour and also found out that they required women to labor in the hospital bed with an IV. And that, I also read, causes labor to progress much slower. Walking is a tremendous aid to moving the process along. So, I finally made the switch to a birthing center for the remainder of my pregnancy and was cared for by a team of midwives. I felt so empowered and in control of the experience. The birthing center was really nice and new and had a vibe like a home. One of the best things I was told there was that the experience of labor was not bigger or more powerful than me because it was me. If you’ve read my previous post on my birthing experience, then you know I did ultimately have to transport to a hospital from the birthing center during the course of my labor. Unfortunately, my body was not dilating at the speed with which the rest of my labor was progressing. This was caused by my use of castor oil, which was a natural childbirth induction method. You see, I had to be induced because I was 42 weeks to the day pregnant, and the birthing center would have to transfer my care to a hospital because I had run out of time to go into labor naturally due to state laws. What I realized after my labor was that a birthing center is fully capable of helping women to deliver babies naturally. However, in my case, I was induced and it made my body go completely out of whack. My contractions started at like 3-5 minutes apart and didn’t slow down for the next 14 hours. It could not be controlled properly at a birthing center. (I don’t want to ever hear the word “tincture” again!) My half-way dilated cervix got completely swollen (injured) because my body started the pushing urge prior to the opening being ready. And once the urge to push starts, we couldn’t slow it down. In addition, the midwives didn’t realize it needed to slow down to allow my body to catch up. Instead, more interventions took place to speed up the process. Looking back, I think that was done in error – a midwife ruptured my water thinking it would help the baby come out faster. But since, I was only half way dilated, it only enhanced my swelling dilemma. When I got to the hospital, I got the epidural and then was examined by the MD. They realized that I was heavily swollen and gave me medicine to allow my body to rest. Next they had me actually take a nap in order to let my body recover. And they monitored my baby really closely because her heart rate was slowing and giving them reason to worry. Now, when you transport from a birthing center to a hospital, the team of midwives laboring with you comes with you and stays until after the birth. So, while the doctor and nurses were in and out of my room, the midwives were watching me and the baby monitoring systems like a hawk. As I was in and out of sleep, they would notice when Willow’s heart rate would go too slowly and would rush over and stimulate her to get it back up. This took place multiple times. Finally, her heart rate caused enough worry that the hospital staff decided to prep an OR for a c-section. The midwives convinced the hospital staff to restart my contractions with medicine first to give me a last chance to try to push her out. During the pushing I swear there were at least 15 people in the room. My husband, mom, doula, midwife, midwife’s aids, nurses, doctor and all of the doctor’s assistants. I had a team of cheerleaders counting for me, encouraging me, shouting in my face “YOU ARE AWESOME”, “BREATHE Laurie, the ONLY person who can get oxygen to Willow is YOU”, etc. I finally did push Willow out about 40 minutes later. Looking back, I believe it was the combination of all of those people who were able to help me get my baby delivered without the C-section. The hospital staff controlled my body to allow it to catch up with my pushing and contractions and they also monitored Willow with medical equipment to ensure she was ok in there. The birthing center staff convinced the hospital team to let me try one last time instead of simply opting for the C-section. My family and doula held my hands and encouraged me through a majorly stressful and emotional ordeal. I don’t know what the outcome would have been had I never switched to a birthing center. I don’t know what would have happened had I been induced at a hospital from the start of the birth day. Maybe things would have been different if my water hadn’t been broken. Who knows on any of that. So many variables to consider. In the end, I didn’t get that C-section that had me worrying about how to avoid it for months and I had a perfectly healthy baby placed on my bare chest to bond the instant she came out. It took all of those people with their varying training and mindsets on what was best for me to do it. Hospitals way better are trained and equipped to handle complications during labor. Birthing centers and midwives support vaginal delivery and have a long list of methods to try to achieve that goal, whereas hospitals are easily prone to birthing babies via C-sections when there are complications. For me, I had complications and was able to get that last chance to keep pushing that many women don’t get. Looking back ‘would I recommend a birthing center or a hospital’ is the question I know people want me to address. But right now, my answer is both.
When it is time to bring Willow’s sibling into the world, the one thing I do know is that I will not be drinking ANY castor oil. You simply can’t expect to have a beautiful natural child birth when it is started by an unnatural process. I just never connected that castor oil was unnatural when I was happily slurping it down in a chocolate shake. I still felt like I was going natural at that point…um no. Lesson learned.