Choosing A Care Provider and Birth Setting
Last night’s All About Birth Workshop was presented for an audience of New Yorkers with heaps of questions about how to plan for their births. Fortunately, a panel of experienced new parents, an expert midwife, and our facilitators Laure Sinnhuber-Giles and Annette Perel, were there to guide everyone through their many different options.
Erin, a busy Type A emergency room doctor, has seen great trauma in her career, and even delivered a few dozen babies herself in emergency settings. Pregnant for the first time herself, her gut told her to select a midwife team in an in-hospital birth center. “Midwives are the masters of uncomplicated pregnancies”, she knew. Her “slow and miserable” labor dragged on, and when she arrived at the hospital she was desperate for an epidural (not a part of her “plan”). The midwife reassured her that she could have one, but questioned whether she really wanted it. After a few hours, Erin found her zen and never needed any interventions. Her dream birth came true; she and her husband feasted on Belgian waffles in bed just minutes after she met her baby.
Liz is the mother of a 2 ½ year old and a 7 month old baby. With her first pregnancy, she assumed everything would be fairly easy and straightforward, just like her two best friends who had recently given birth. She read a few books but beyond that, did little to prepare. She chose her birth setting based on good hospital reviews, but did not know much or choose to question much at her OB appointments. When she went into labor 10 days after her due date, she was shocked by the experience – the intensity, her lack of coping skills, and the eventual stream of interventions that led to a non-emergency cesarean section. For her second birth, she assumed she would have a repeat cesarean, but as the pregnancy progressed she received subtle messages to reconsider. Well into her second trimester, she switched to a provider that really supported VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and made her feel safe in the decision. Liz made numerous changes in this second pregnancy, including: paying more attention to diet and exercise, drinking raspberry leaf tea, eating dates everyday based on a study a midwife told her about, hiring a doula with lots of VBAC experience, getting a hotel room near the hospital so she could labor longer at her own pace, listening to Hypnobirthing audio, taking a VBAC class, seeing a chiropractor and inviting her husband to prepare in new ways as well! Liz labored one hour at the hospital and had her triumphant VBAC.
Kate assumed she would hire an OB and have a standard hospital birth with as many pain drugs as possible. In fact she even romanticized “twilight sleep” in the days of old, when women were knocked out for the entire birth and received a sweet blanketed bundle hours later! It felt “uncool” to want to do anything “hippie or crunchy”. However, when she hired an OB and started asking questions, she got the distinct sense that she was asking too many questions. This prompted a little bit of research. She met with hospital midwives, and eventually began to think about home birth, though she was told by some that this was a selfish decision. A strong sense of feminism was awakened, prompting further research yet. Kate then met with a doula who calmed her fears and supported home birth for a low-risk candidate like her. She realized the statistics didn’t match her fears and she had a greater chance of being hit by a bus in Brooklyn than having something happen during birth! Kate had a 6 hour labor, so fast in fact her doula had to send her backup because she was at another cesarean birth. She felt strong and proud as she birthed a 9 lb baby with no drugs. It was “hellish, awesome and powerful”. The best part for Kate? Pizza in bed with her brand new baby.
Takiya McClain CNM, a Brooklyn-based home birth midwife, has worked in and caught babies in many different settings from hospitals to birth centers to homes. In her 13 years of experience, she has learned to appreciate the values and safety measures in each type of setting but knows that women need to feel safe and confident in whatever they choose. Takiya ultimately chose a home birth practice, feeling that she could no longer work off of policy and procedure papers in hospitals. “I felt like I wasn’t sure I was giving choice”. Through answering the audiences’ questions, she dispelled a few great myths and fears about certain interventions, spoke about the important things to look for in a provider, and warmed hearts with positive anecdotes and confidence in the whole process of birth.