February Workshop: How to Have A Great Hospital Birth
On February 26, Choices in Childbirth hosted its perennially popular workshop, How to Have a Great Hospital Birth, with facilitator Tanya Wills of Manhattan Birth. As always, the workshop centered on the powerful stories of moms and their partners who recently gave birth in New York City.
Amanda and Kevin, Kyessa and Byron, and Alison and Andwele, shared vastly different but inspiring versions of hospital births. From switching care providers late in the game, to advocating for more time and space for the kind of birth they wanted, these parents ultimately challenged the audience to do their homework and understand what their options truly are.
All three couples chose to have a doula present, based on the evidence that doula support can minimize unnecessary interventions including cesarean births, as well as reduce pain and shorten the length of labor. Andwele was particularly grateful for having a doula, likening the trust he had with her to going to a mechanic: “I take my car in but I don’t really know what’s going on – to have an advocate there for me, that would just be great.”
Amanda listed off a number of simple techniques she used to stay calm and comfortable and benefitted from having Kevin time her contractions using an app so that she could predict when a contraction would start to feel easier. Alison shared how her hospital had a two-person maximum policy in terms of how many people could be in the room with the laboring mother, besides hospital personnel, but they told her they really only enforced this in the case of an emergency. This allowed her to have Andwele, her doula, and her mother supporting her through the birth. Kyessa says of labor, “You meet your true self”. She and Byron walked away from an unplanned c-section feeling positive about the trusting relationship she had with her care providers. She knows that because of her midwife, she was able to get immediate skin-to-skin time with her baby and to be able to breastfeed right away.
The panel also included Elaine Keller-Duemig, CNM, owner of Central Park Midwifery, and Annette Perel of Clearbirth. Elaine is a hospital-based midwife and former L&D nurse, while Annette has been a doula for over 13 years and worked in every labor & delivery hospital in the city. Both Elaine and Annette described their roles in a woman’s pregnancy and labor, highlighting that, “if you advocate for your rights beforehand, you have more options.”
Speakers shared a number of tips about how to prepare not only for a healthy birth, but a great birth, including:
- Know that a first-time mom’s labor could be anywhere from 4 to 72 hours, but it’s not at all like the Hollywood movies!
- Find a team of doctors and/or midwives who really support you and can explain their cesarean, induction and pain medication statistics.
- Find a hospital that supports your birth preferences and tour that hospital so you know the lay of the land.
- Keep easy-to-eat foods that you don’t have to chew (such as yogurt) on hand.
- Stay hydrated. Drink to your comfort level, but enough that you’re getting up at least once an hour to urinate.
- Consider easy, inexpensive comfort tools like cold washcloths and rocking chairs or exercise balls. A soak in the tub or a warm shower can have an immediate positive effect.
- Prepare for an uncomfortable ride to the hospital (bring an eye mask to keep things dark, invite a doula, consider traffic as you think about when to leave home).
- Doula tip: An experienced doula can help you from early in your pregnancy to ask your provider the right sorts of questions, to keep you at home as long as possible, to inform nurses of your preferences upon arrival, to recreate the home like environment you just came from and remind you of comfort techniques you wanted to use.