I had a wonderful pregnancy experience. I want to share my journey and shed some light on options for those who are expecting. What I am sharing is purely my findings and experiences. I strongly encourage you to do your own research. That may help you decide what’s best for you, your family, and your little bundle of joy!
Let’s start at square one. I was being rather moody one day, according to my husband, who said, “You must be pregnant.” So we bought a home pregnancy test and, sure enough, we saw two pink lines! He was right, and believe me, he won’t hesitate to say so. I was filled with many thoughts and emotions, but my big question was, “OK, what now?”
We have so many options today from what we eat to what kind of car we drive. My husband literally spent three days researching vacuum cleaners before we finally bought one. No surprise, then, that we were going to look into options for prenatal care and delivery. I turned to Google, of course, where I found an endless supply of information. That much information can be pretty overwhelming. I learned about hospital births, home births, and birthing centers. There was information about medical professionals who could provide me prenatal care and care during delivery, for example, obstetricians, midwives, and doulas.
My mind was spinning. “I could have my baby at home. Huh, that might be kind of messy, and what about the dogs?” “Should I stay with my current gynecologist practice since it also offers obstetrics?” “Do I need a doula?” So many questions! To get the answers, I did some more digging.
Here’s what I found. An obstetrician is a medical doctor who specializes in care for women while they are pregnant, usually during labor and after giving birth. Obstetricians traditionally work in a hospital setting, and many of them are gynecologists.
A certified nurse midwife (CNM) is a nurse with additional education in midwifery who can provide well-woman care, prenatal care, and care through labor, birth, and after the birth. A CNM can work in hospitals, birthing centers, or private homes.
A doula typically does not have a medical background. A doula is trained in and familiar with aspects of pregnancy, labor, and birth. A doula’s focus is to provide physical and emotional support to the mom during this time. There are also postpartum doulas who provide care after a baby is born.
OK, so those are the people. What about places?
A typical hospital birth would probably include care from an obstetrician as well as other health care workers like nurses and possibly a midwife. From my research and speaking to other moms, I knew the baby would be monitored, probably limited by how much, or if, I could move around/change positions. There would be options for medications and procedures like epidurals as well as a Cesarean section if needed. Plus there would be advanced technology and medical care in case of an emergency. I also learned that some hospitals offer family-oriented birthing centers with a more laid back approach to labor and birth, depending on the type of medical staff.
Then there are free-standing birthing centers that are more like a home setting. They may offer well-woman care and prenatal care, as well as allow you to labor and birth there. They may also provide postpartum care to the mom. Each state has regulations for licensing and accrediting of free-standing birthing centers. If I planned to give birth there, I would have to meet the strict standards of a healthy, low-risk pregnancy. It’s important to find out your state’s requirements, the standards you need to meet to qualify for care there, and which hospital the birthing center is affiliated with.
Then there’s the option of home birth. I had watched several documentaries about pregnancy and birth and found there are strict standards for home births. You need to be having a healthy, low-risk pregnancy to qualify for a home birth. A midwife or CNM typically provides care and brings the necessary supplies to your home when you go into labor and, in case of an emergency, devises a plan for hospital transfer.
Before becoming pregnant, I didn’t know much about these options. I assumed I would have standard care from an ob-gyn and a typical hospital birth that may or may not involve medications. I now love to share my findings with others who are expecting (and even those who aren’t) so they become aware of the choices they have.
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After doing extensive research into the all my options, which consumed me for quite a while, I started to narrow down my choices.
I began to consider my feelings about pregnancy, labor, and birth, and I came to several conclusions. I personally feel it is an amazing gift for women to nurture and bring a child into this world. I know that every woman’s vision of pregnancy, labor, and birth are unique. I also realized that women have been dealing with pregnancy, labor, and birthing long before medicine and technology got involved in the process!
My personal feeling is that birth is a natural thing and that I should go about it in a natural way. Don’t get me wrong; there is definitely a time and a place for medical technology. But if I have an uncomplicated and healthy pregnancy, I really wouldn’t need that technology, would I? I decided no — women have this amazing ability — and I can do it!
Here is my labor and delivery vision:
- I want to look back on this entire experience and appreciate every moment of it.
- I want to tell my child a very positive story about how he or she came into this world.
- I know pregnancy and labor are not all sunshine and rainbows, and I’m preparing myself for that.
- I expect struggles along the way.
- I know there will be pain involved during labor.
- I plan to use my strength, my husband’s support, and a warm and peaceful environment to help get me through the pain and struggle of labor.
- I want prenatal care that is focused on my concerns, my questions, and me.
- It is important to me be in control of actions and choices that I will need to make throughout my labor and delivery.
Now, to apply the knowledge I gained from reading articles and searching websites. Where will I find the medical and emotional care that meets my vision of pregnancy, labor, and delivery? It’s important for me to find the support I desire. And it’s important for you, too. (more to come here too)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are not in whole or in part the opinions of UPMC Health Plan or its affiliates.
My husband and I attended an orientation at The Midwife Center for Birth & Women’s Health, and we made a definite decision to go there. We toured the center and received information about their values, practices, costs, and prenatal care and birth options. We also reviewed statistics for the Center, which showed very low rates for cesareans, low birth weight babies, and pre-term babies compared to the national average. We learned that the Center was equipped with oxygen and medication to stop excessive bleeding, and they had measures in place to handle emergencies.
A typical stay after a birth with no complications is 4 to 12 hours. Then I get to go home! That’s right, no multi-day stays. This was my only hesitation at first. But, after orientation, I was assured that the midwives have a great deal of experience. Midwives watch for certain details, or “red flags,” to either lead them to transfer me to UPMC Mercy or to give me the all clear to go home. So, in most cases, I will return home in 4 to 12 hours. Plus I get my first postpartum visit at home! And did I mention they’ll also cook me a phenomenal breakfast before I leave — no matter what time it is!
I truly look forward to my appointments. Each time I go for a regular prenatal checkup, I get to meet a different midwife. The midwives take turns being on call, so I don’t know who will be with me until I go into labor. The Center does a really good job of scheduling me with a different midwife each time so that I get to know them. After all the monthly, bi-weekly, and now weekly appointments, I see some of the midwives multiple times. No matter which midwife I meet, the appointment always begins with “what are your questions,” and, believe me, I always have questions. Anything from, can I eat beef jerky, to questions about herbal teas and placenta encapsulation. The midwife is always considerate of my questions no matter how silly or embarrassing they may seem, and she does her absolute best to provide we with answers and/or resources.
After my list of questions, she checks my blood pressure. Then I get to hear the baby’s heartbeat. The midwives use a Doppler at visits and during labor to monitor the baby’s heartbeat. This is my favorite part of each appointment, that little ba bum, ba bum noise is incredibly reassuring, especially in the early months when I wasn’t yet feeling any movement.
The Center does not do labs or ultrasounds. I was able to choose a facility that was convenient for me. Lab results are then sent to the midwives for review. The Midwife Center gave me access to my electronic chart where I can see the information and details of my care. I can even email them my questions. If I ever have any questions or concerns, I have unlimited access. I can call a midwife or nurse 24/7. Since this is my first pregnancy and everything is new to me, it’s very reassuring that I can call with a question anytime. I know that a midwife or nurse call me back in a short period of time, depending on the urgency of the matter.
I will soon be starting my educational classes for childbirth, newborn care, and breastfeeding. I am very excited about these classes and getting one step closer to meeting my baby girl. Yes, it’s a girl! I look forward to the moment they lay her on my chest, and I finally get to see her. I couldn’t be happier with the care and support that I am receiving. I am happy with my choice to use The Midwife Center.
As my belly grew, there were questions: “When are you due?” “Are you going to get induced soon?” “No baby yet?” The questions became more frequent.as my due date — July 15 — approached.
The night before my due date I went to bed crying and I woke up crying. But off to work I went, sobbing and wondering if my baby was ever going to come. During the day I reached my breaking point so I left the office to work from home the rest of the week. Little did I know that wasn’t going to happen. Later that night I went into labor.
I phoned the on-call midwife, who happened to be my favorite, and she advised me to get some rest. My husband then began frantically cleaning the house even though I had already cleaned it top to bottom about five times. I hoped all that cleaning would kick me into labor.
I began timing my contractions and calling family. My mom had a two-hour drive, and I advised her to get on the road immediately. About an hour into things, my contractions were really picking up and only about two minutes apart. My husband became apprehensive and said, “This is not normal! This is how babies are born at home! We have to leave now!” After two more calls to the midwife, we left. It was the most uncomfortable 15-minute car ride of my life. Thank goodness there was no traffic and the tunnel weren’t closed! We pulled into The Midwife Center at the same time as the midwife.
There were no other patients at the Center so I got my first choice of rooms. It was about midnight. The midwife and nurse checked me and said that I was definitely in active labor and I would finally get to meet my baby!
I got into the Jacuzzi and my husband poured water on my belly to ease the pain during contractions. My mom arrived a short time later. Every 15 minutes the nurse would check on my baby — my baby’s heart rate was perfect the whole time! Things progressed very quickly and after another hour, they checked me again. They asked if I wanted to push. Sure, I thought!
A half hour later the midwife told me it was going to be very hard work because of the baby’s position, but she thought I would be able to do it. More than two hours later, having used every ounce of strength I had, the midwife said, “Kayla, reach down and get your baby!” I almost didn’t believe the midwife. But there she was — a beautiful baby girl with a head full of hair! I will never forget the look on my husband’s face! Our baby girl had arrived at 5:46 a.m. She rested on my belly until her umbilical cord was ready to be cut. My husband did the honors.
For the next hour I held her close and admired the miracle she was! While the midwife attended to the minor repairs I needed, baby girl was weighed and measured. Beautiful and healthy baby at 7 lbs. 7 oz. and 19.5 inches long, she started nursing within a half hour of being born. Then she cuddled with me the rest of the morning. The midwife and nurse cooked us an amazing breakfast and we notified our family of the good news. We stayed until lunchtime, then headed home with our bundle of joy! The next day we took her to the pediatrician. The nurses from the Center made two home visits over the next couple days. They examined the baby and me and helped with questions about breastfeeding and other topics.
The experience is like nothing I could have predicted. It was the hardest yet most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I am incredibly proud of myself for going through with a natural labor and no medications. I am also proud of my strong baby girl who did half of the work!
If there is one piece of advice I could give to all expectant moms, it is to do your research, decide what you believe is the best care and environment for you and your baby, and find people who support your decision. No one else will have the same story as you do so there’s no need to listen to the scary things others may share. No matter how your baby enters the world, it’s worth every effort it took to get to that moment!