Is It Possible To Have A Hospital Birth That Feels Like A Home Birth?
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I guess you could say that I've had my fair share of different birthing experiences over the years. Not only have I had the privilege of working in labor and delivery for almost five years (first as a nurse technician and then as a labor and delivery nurse) and seeing hundreds of birth, but I've also done the birth spectrum.
From a semi-natural birth to an all-natural birth to a fully medicated birth, to being cared for by a midwife and then a doctor, I feel I have the run the birth gamut — and I'm glad for it.
What's the big deal about birth?
Birth is an interesting experience these days. Gone are the days when women just gave birth and in are the days when women expecting a new baby have 1,001 decisions to make about what kind of birth they want. Do they want an all-natural birth or do they want IV meds? Epidural or no epidural? Will they be giving birth at home or in a hospital or in a hybrid birth center where their other kids can watch?
And birth is just the start of the madness: After the baby is out, modern parenting is an onslaught of choices that we have to make about what we think is best for our kids (circumcision, vaccination, sleep training) and often, we feel the need to justify our reasons to the rest of the world too.
Frankly, it's exhausting. Birth is no longer necessarily about just bringing a baby into the world; it's also about the experience.
Choosing your birth experience
So how do you choose what type of birth experience is right for you? Home birth has actually been on the rise, and women who have chosen it describe it as life-changing, empowering or even, as one blogger described, "rad."
There are some valid arguments for home birth: namely, that most births to healthy women are fairly uncomplicated and that a low-stress, more comfortable environment is better for both Mom and Baby and oh, the fact that worldwide, midwives handle the majority of births without hospitals, thank you very much.
But in the U.S., fear is a more predominant factor for pregnant women, and with the very real presence of complications, more high-risk pregnancies and women who want to do things "right," hospital birth is by far the most popular option.
As one of those women who want the best of both worlds — the empowering beauty of a home birth and the safety and convenience of a hospital birth — I say that it is possible to combine the two, with a few simple tweaks.
A home birth in a hospital
I've never really desired to have an actual home birth. I mean, sure, I've thought about it and how nice it would be to skip the IV and stay in my own jammies and have the picture-perfect family moment in our own bed right after delivery, but when it comes right down to it, I'm a little bit too lazy for home birth.
The truth is, I've cleaned up a lot of deliveries in my day, and birth is a messy, primal experience, one that I prefer to leave in the capable hands of, well, someone else. With most hospital stays being a mere 24 hours after delivery, it's really not that big of a deal in my mind to pop in and pop out to have the baby, recover a bit and then head home with a baby and a wish for clothes to fit me again in tow.
That being said, however, there are a lot of aspects of home birth that are appealing to me, which is why I've done my best to reclaim birth as I hope it will go, with suggestions such as:
- Be comfortable. I've actually never given birth in a place where I haven't worked, so having that comfort level of my environment is huge to me. Just knowing where I can send my husband out for a snack or nabbing an extra pillow from the secret stash has made all the difference in my ability to relax. If you can't give birth in your workplace (probably unadvisable unless you are also a nurse), be sure to sign up for the childbirth education classes and take a tour (or two) of the delivery ward — ask lots of questions, visit a room and get acquainted with where you need to go when it's your time. It may sound silly, but getting rid of the anxiety factor associated with a new place can go a long way to helping you have a more relaxed birthing experience.
- Bring elements of home to the hospital. You are completely within your rights to bring any and all things that you think will help you give birth with you to the hospital. A music playlist, your favorite scented candle (just don't light it), pajamas or even your own sheets — haul 'em all in, if you want. Just be forewarned that in the event of things moving along quickly, you do run the risk of some stains. Birth is messy, remember?
- Request no IV. Believe it or not, an IV is not a given in a hospital birth. Granted, every hospital is different and some may be less willing to work with you, but I've talked to plenty of doctors who want to do their best to give their patients the experience they want. And providing that there are no complications or medications needed during labor (like antibiotics if you are GBS positive), you may be able to completely skip the IV.
- Ask about family members. Is it important to you to have the whole family involved in your birth? Ask the manager if they will make an exception for you. While many delivery wards have a "no children" policy, if your care provider is willing to work with you, exceptions can be made. Just be sure to arrange for another adult to watch over them and be willing to whisk them away, just in case.
- Blow up that tub. Does your hospital lack the amenities of a pool for labor and birth? Ask if you can bring your own in. It will probably take some time and special arranging, but it can't hurt to ask. Providing your support person can do the set-up and clean-up and you can get it all approved by the hospital, you may be able to labor in your own pool within the safety of all the medical expertise you could ever need.
- Ask for an early discharge. Again, this one may be tricky and will especially depend on your relationship with your care provider, but it might be possible to arrange an earlier-than-normal discharge after your baby's birth. Keep in mind, however, that pediatricians have different policies for the baby's stay as well, so you will have to get permission for both of you to be discharged together.