As a mama who has delivered four healthy babies under very different circumstances, I have come to appreciate the diversity of each woman’s unique pregnancies, labors and deliveries. I am also very thankful to have had the opportunity to experience natural, water birth in a birth center.
I was blessed with fast labor genes. My mother had very short births with my three siblings and me. In fact, the story goes that as her youngest, I came so fast she didn’t even make it to the delivery room, but gave birth to me in the hospital hallway!
My first experience with childbirth was an unplanned pregnancy that I ended up placing for adoption at twenty years old. Because I was unmarried and unaware of my options, I didn’t have any convictions or expectations of the doctors and hospital. As such, I basically just did what they told me in my eight, short hours of labor. An epidural less than two hours before I delivered? Sure! Episiotomy at the crowning of a nearly four-pound baby? Okay, if you say so! Baby too small to even attempt to nurse? Whatever you think is best!
Fast-forward six years later; I was married to an amazing husband, and expecting our first child together. We did everything by the book in this pregnancy, and investigated all our birthing options, took classes, and made the firm decision to have as natural of a birth as possible. I was intrigued with the idea of water birth, but wasn’t quite convinced that a birthing center was where I wanted to deliver our first baby. So we had a private practice midwife, and everything I researched told me that the hospital had to honor our extensive birth plan.
We were mistaken.
Eight days after my due date, and the day before Thanksgiving, I was making the stuffing for our family’s holiday potluck and chatting on the phone with my best friend when I felt my first contraction. Twelve hours later, in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning we were on our way to the hospital. Once there, I spent every second between painful contractions arguing with the hospital staff about our birth plan. Despite that stress, and only an hour after we arrived, I easily gave birth to our sweet baby daughter under the fluorescent lights and loud sounds of the busy delivery ward. When we went home two days later, we wished we hadn’t dismissed the birthing center so quickly.
Two years down the road we found out we were expecting again, and this time we met with Desiree, owner and licensed midwife at Bella Vie Gentle Birth Center. She gave us a tour of the beautiful country birth center in the shadow of the lush winery foothills just outside of Salem, and explained how they would do their best to honor all of my birthing wishes. I could even have my own choice of doula there, if I wanted. It was just what we had been looking for!
We traveled the country roads to Bella Vie for each prenatal visit, and months later, as my husband, toddler and I were leaving after my 40 week appointment, I felt my first contractions. Since I had experienced those familiar pains twice before, I knew what they meant, and given my history of fast labors, we made preparations to greet our new baby soon. Grandma picked up our two-year-old daughter that afternoon, and we headed back to the birth center in the evening.
We arrived to find our lovely birthing suite lit only with the soft glow of candles, and put a CD of choice in the music player. I wanted the birth to be as private as possible, so over the next few hours only Desiree and her two assistants came quietly in and out as I labored peacefully with my husband by my side. When my time was close, my midwives filled the birthing tub, and an hour and only two pushes later, I delivered our second daughter gently into the water where my husband’s strong arms caught her and passed her to me.
The next two days were spent bonding as a family. A private chef prepared delicious healthy meals for us; I got a postnatal massage, and invited as many visitors as we wanted. Aside from the pain of childbirth, it felt like a pampered vacation, as if we went to a bed and breakfast to deliver our baby! After we “checked out,” postpartum midwives came to our home for the first two weeks of baby and mama check-ups, so I didn’t even have to leave our home.
Our experience at a birth center was so impressive there was no discussion where we would go for the prenatal care and delivery of our third child, a son, two and a half years later. He, like his middle sister, was born into the water in the same birthing suite, with the same wonderful midwifery care as before.
Four births, but three very different circumstances. And while I am certainly thankful I had easy pregnancies, fast labors and uncomplicated (albeit painful) deliveries. The best choice for me, my body and my presence of mind was being able to deliver in a calm, relaxing environment, surrounded only by the people, sounds and lights I wished to be there.
I recognize that many women don’t have those luxuries, and I would never begrudge anyone for their labor and delivery choices, but I count myself blessed for the experience I had for my last two births, and would highly recommend a birth center to anyone and everyone.