When my husband and I found out we were expecting, we were (to put it mildly) in a state of nervous shock. What helped us begin to reconcile to the situation was a visit to a local birthing center run by a Certified Nurse Midwife. A baby had just been born and people were celebrating, calmly rushing about grabbing this and that, and laughter and infant cries could be heard from behind a closed door.
This is normal and natural, we began to realize, and having a baby is quite common and not the end of the world! Because of this and other experiences we knew we wanted a midwife to deliver our baby, but the more we pondered it the more we felt the need for a hospital setting. I grew up with home births; my mother’s last three babies were born at home, complication-free, and I was present for the last. I studied a little midwifery at one point, and have always been a vocal proponent of home birth. But I had never intended to make the decision for myself, and found that both my husband and I were far more comfortable delivering in a hospital.
We chose St. Mary’s in Blue Springs, MO, a small but well-equipped birthing center with a Level II NICU and private birthing suites for each mother. A CNM who was, according to the laws here in Missouri, overseen by a group of OB’s, administered the birth.
I was scared that we would be forced into decisions we didn’t want to make, that my desire for a natural birth would be scorned, or that the setting would be uncomfortable for us. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We prepared for the birth by taking an intensive 4-session birthing class with a certified instructor. The class certainly did help us know what to expect, though I must say that it’s different knowing that chills and fever and common in transition and actually experiencing the bone-wrenching, teeth-clattering reality! Likewise birthing positions—I tried most of them but not for long, eventually finding my own combinations that worked best for me. The labor and birth were pretty normal—26 hours, some very intense moments but steady progress—but there were some complications afterward which were handled with grace and efficiency by our midwife and the hospital staff. I think a good midwife could have taken care of the situation at home just as well, but I was quite glad to be in a hospital when things began heading downhill.
Each nurse who attended was incredibly sympathetic, efficient, and non-manipulative. The nurse who was with us most treated me like a sister, which astonished and pleased me in the midst of the worst pain I had ever known. She loved natural birth, she informed us at the beginning, and proved it by being a wonderful third set of hands to help me cope. At one point I asked about pain medication options and these were presented without pressure, the midwife and nurses making it clear that what they wanted most was for me to be comfortable with my choices. When I opted not to get an epidural or any painkiller, they helped me cope with the pain in an unobtrusive way.
The entire labor, delivery, and recovery took place in one suite. Since our daughter Eire was as healthy as possible (9 and 9 on the Apgar scale!) she remained in our room with us at all times. The staff fully supported my husband’s involvement with the birth and made nursing possible for us by giving encouragement and offering the services of a wonderful lactation consultant. Recovery was much easier for me than it would have been at home since I had plentiful food, ice packs, and nurse’s assistance. I was thrilled to see that they cared for my husband’s welfare too, as he had been through a lot during the labor! When it was time for us to go home, a nurse sat with us and for over an hour gave her humorous take on life with a baby—sex, feeding, rest, recuperation, and relationship. It was tremendously helpful.
If we have another child we hope to return to St. Mary’s and use the same midwife. Our experience couldn’t have been better.
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