What Happens When You’re Making Other Plans…

Now, while it is my intention to give birth naturally, without the use of medical intervention, and hopefully in water, I don’t technically have a birth plan. I’ve never done this before, so how am I to know what I’ll want?

Marcie’s second daughter was born in the front seat of a Toyota hatchback, parked haphazardly on the sidewalk right in front of a Philadelphia emergency room. Having learned from her first (mildly traumatic) birth experience that no “birth plan” is foolproof, Marcie took a more lackadaisical approach the second time around — perhaps too much so. One block into the two-block walk to the hospital Marcie’s water broke and she could feel the baby’s head begin its descent. She threw her pillows to the ground and tried to follow, yelling at her frantic husband in goofy delirium: “I’m doing it here! She’s coming now!” Her husband, determined that his child not be born on a Philadelphia sidewalk, left his transitioning wife under the watchful eye of two willing passer-bys and ran back for the car. By the time they lurched to a stop in front of the emergency room (mere minutes later), Marcie had her feet up on the dashboard, her dress over her head, and her daughter’s emerged head between her legs. Her husband arrived at the passenger door just in time to catch their baby girl as she (literally) popped out. Twenty some years later, as Marcie recounts her dramatic birth story to me in stitches, her message is clear: Feel free to make a birth plan, but plan on doing something completely different.

Now, while it is my intention to give birth naturally, without the use of medical intervention, and hopefully in water, I don’t technically have a birth plan. I’ve never done this before, so how am I to know what I’ll want? But really my general nonchalance is a product of my confidence in the professionals handling my labor and delivery, and in the environment where I will be giving birth — I know that I will have the space and support to determine what I want and need as I go.

As mentioned in a previous post, I have a midwife I love and a doula that, with strong knowledge of my wishes, will be my advocate (and, if anything goes wrong, there is a well-practiced OB/GYN on hand). I am also giving birth at the Neugarten Birth Center at Northern Dutchess Hospital. Birth centers have been become increasingly popular in recent years, and whether free standing or hospital-affiliated offer a much different birthing experience than a traditional hospital. In essence, they allow for something halfway between a home birth and a hospital birth. (Now, not every hospital is the same, or every birth center, so it is worth looking into the policies and protocol of your local facility before making a decision.)

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In general, my enthusiasm for the birth center stems from the fact that my lifestyle and personal preferences will be respected during this most intimate life experience. During my tour of Neugarten last week, there were a number of things that stood out; here are a few of its biggest selling points:

  • A U-shaped unit attached to the hospital proper, the birth center was quiet and peaceful. There were no machines sounding loudly, no nurses or doctors running to and fro; the chill vibe seems perfectly conducive to the openness and relaxation I’ve been told birthing requires. And it’s worth noting that C-sections are done right in the birth center as well, so should that situation present itself unexpectedly, you’re literally a moment away (as is the anesthesiologist).
  • There is a large waiting room and kitchen. You are allowed to bring your own food, or order food in, which is perfect for those such as myself with strong dietary restrictions/preferences. And if I’m feeling hungry during my labor, I’m allowed to eat.
  • There was no formal nursery — all babies room in with mom (and dad, who has 24-hour access). There is a small room by the nurses’ station with a crib and a rocking chair so should you be alone and need a shower or a few quiet moments, a nurse or volunteer could watch the baby.
  • The private birthing suites are spacious and accommodating, with private bathrooms and a pullout chair bed for dad. You are encouraged to bring comforting things from home, including pillows, music, and pictures. Apparently someone once brought their own lamp — whatever you need to feel at home (as long as it doesn’t involve an open flame).   
  • I will not automatically be hooked up to a fetal heart monitor or IV once I’m admitted. I may eat, shower, and walk around while in labor. There are birthing balls, birthing stools, and an adaptable bed so that you I may squat, sit, kneel, or stand as I labor — while some hospitals do make similar concessions, such freedom is usually restricted.  
  • You may bring your own things for the baby: I plan on bringing cloth diapers, and soft, organic cotton clothing and blankets for my little one. I may also request (and be granted) that she be given directly to me after her birth for a few minutes of bonding (and maybe breastfeeding) before she’s whisked away to be cleaned up and tested.

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