Birth Center vs. Hospital

Three of our births have been in a hospital setting and this latest birth we chose to go to a birth center with midwives. I have written previously about why we chose this route for this birth so I won’t go into that right now, but since we gave birth to our son a week ago I have had many people ask me how the birth center birth compared to the hospital birth, so I decided I would write about my experience. Don’t worry I will spare you the gory details of birth. I will just compare experiences.

First off, when I got pregnant the first time 11 years ago I wanted to have a natural child-birth. I am not a big believer in medications and take as little as possible. I pride myself in being a strong woman so I figured I could handle the pain of childbirth without any medications. What I failed to realize was that I could not do it without support, and the hospital does not provide that support. When I got to the hospital and told them I wanted a natural child-birth, without medications, they laughed at me. My labor went very long, 24 hours, and I ended up asking for narcotics toward the end of it. With my second and third child, I went the epidural route and had a very “normal” birth experience for today’s woman. After birthing my third child, I did some research about natural child-birth because I felt like I had somehow failed by using medications to get through it. I decided I wanted to do it differently if I got pregnant again and in my research found that if I wanted a natural child-birth, a midwife was the way to get that experience. So, we went to a birth center for baby number four.

The experience of the birth center was very different from the hospital. In the hospital you are hooked up to a thousand machines that monitor this and that and given IV fluids and medications to help speed up delivery,but in the birth center you aren’t hooked up to anything so you are free to move around where you want to. The midwife does come in with a doppler every hour or so to check the baby, but other than that they just leave you alone. It was really nice to just have that time to ourselves and not feel the pressure of monitors beeping and people coming in and out. I spent a lot of time watching Netflix and eating and drinking what I wanted to, also not something you are allowed to do in the hospital setting. There was a really nice whirlpool tub that I spent some time laboring in and it really helped with pain management. As far as pain goes, I was really surprised that it wasn’t nearly as painful as I thought it would be up until the last couple of hours before he arrived. I think being in a relaxed setting really helped with that.

When it came time for him to be born, it was a lot different from my hospital experiences. In the hospital you are put on the bed  and instructed on when to push and how to deliver the baby. This never worked well for me. I spend 3 hours pushing with all three of my previous births. But this time I got to choose where and when I pushed. There was no counting to 10 and all that they do in the hospital. I pushed in a number of positions, mostly because his heart rate kept dropping. Thankfully it only took 30 minutes to deliver him and then we discovered his cord around his neck 4 times! That is unheard of. That is what was causing his heart rate to drop. If I had been in the hospital, I would have had a c-section. I am so glad I didn’t have to have that.

As far as natural childbirth goes, it’s very different from medicated childbirth. After he was born we had a doctor’s visit to the ENT to get his tongue clipped and a receptionist was admiring him and asked me if we had “natural childbirth”, I said “yes” and then discovered that she meant, “did you have a regular delivery or c-section?”. She was using the term, “natural” as opposed to “c-section”. When I realized this I was offended, because for me, my other three births were not nearly as challenging as this one was. The pain was intense, I will not lie. I really and truly wondered if I could do it many times during the process. The fact that I did do it, I am extremely proud of. Every birth is different, so I would never say one type of birth experience is easier or harder than another, but for me, natural childbirth challenged me in a way the other births had not.

After Luke was delivered I got to hold him for two hours before they did anything with him. He nursed and was so bright-eyed. I was amazed. My other kids had the effects of medications and were sleepy and lethargic when I delivered them, but not Luke. He lifted his head and smiled at me as soon as he arrived. Such sweet moments. I wouldn’t trade any of that for the world. Then four hours later we got to go home and sleep in our own beds. That was wonderful.

Overall, I really liked the birth center experience. I would do it again. I think every woman should get the right to choose where and how they want to birth their child. Everyone is different and each setting is appropriate for certain people. People keep asking me if we are going to have any more kids. I think that’s a crazy thing to ask any mother who just gave birth two weeks ago. Of course, I don’t want to go through that again. I still remember it! That is not a decision I feel one should make this quickly after birth. That is a decision we will save for a few years down the road. If we do have another one, will we do the birth center again? I don’t know. We have had three of our four kids with cord issues at birth. It seems to be something that my body does poorly, so I think we might opt to be in a hospital just in case a c-section is needed. But again, that is a decision we would make later on. Right now, I loved the birth center experience I had and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

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Baby Luke, just a few minutes after birth.

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