Embracing the Hospital Birth Experience
Absent some real medical need, many natural parents don’t strive for a hospital birth. Natural childbirth is so often embraced as part of the natural parenting experience, and few things feel as unnatural as laboring and birthing in a strange, brightly lit place under the scrutiny of a team of medical professionals that you have little to no relationship with.
That’s why I almost feel like a natural parenting blasphemer when I confess that I truly enjoyed my hospital birth experience. I credit that experience to having a wonderful hospital with excellent policies, including respect for a woman’s ability to birth her child.
I will be the first to admit that I had a very special hospital birth experience. Even though labor was induced, I never felt pressured. I was never told that my labor wasn’t progressing fast enough. I wasn’t pressured to stay in bed. I wasn’t given a timeline or told that my body wasn’t working properly. I was simply given the opportunity to let my body do its work.
I was encouraged to walk around, labor in the jacuzzi tub, stand, sit, or do whatever was comfortable for me. I was given free reign of a television with DVD player, CD player, and I had my laptop with wireless Internet connection to keep me distracted in early labor. No one tethered me to my bed or even tried to keep me in my room. And my room? It was amazing. I gave birth in a large, private room that we remained in for our entire stay. We had control of the lighting, the temperature and the sound.
I did get an epidural, but it was at my own request, and I never felt pressured to request it. I was advised that it was available, and then the ball was in my court. The hospital and its staff gave me all the right things to make my birth experience truly my birth experience.
The birth itself was wonderful. My regular doctor was off (it was Christmas eve, after all) but another, wonderful doctor was there for the delivery. Immediately when he was born, my son was laid on my chest so we could bond. There was no whisking him away to be weighed out of my view. There was no separation. Even during the few moments that his vital stats were taken, they were done mere feet from me under his daddy’s watchful eye, and they were done only when I was ready to let him leave my arms for a moment.
Most encouragingly, the doctors and nurses assumed that I would be breastfeeding. There was no mention made of formula or bottles. Instead, lactation consultants were sent to my room three times during our brief hospital stay (and were available on-call at all other times). I was given literature on breastfeeding, I was told how I could reach the lactation consultants after we were sent home, and I was encouraged to participate in the wonderful breastfeeding mothers group that met at the hospital under the guidance of a lactation consultant. I was given all the right tools for the job.
I realize that my hospital birth experience is relatively unique (all birth experiences are unique though, aren’t they?), but I fully believe that my experience is just as legitimate and just as amazing as a birth experience that takes place in the home, or with a midwife, or at a birthing center. When the principles of natural parenting can work in harmony with the hospital birth experience, the outcome can be just as rewarding.
Unfortunately, the birthing experience does not come with a guarantee. I could have just as easily ended up with a nurse whose personality conflicted with mine, or an on-call doctor who wanted to pressure me to progress at a rate my body wasn’t prepared for. While I could never anticipate every possible issue, there were a number of things that I did to check out the hospital beforehand to ensure that it met my expectations and meshed with my values. First, I took a childbirth class sponsored by the hospital. That gave me some exposure to the hospital itself by allowing me to spend some time there, and by meeting the nurses who taught the class I was able to gauge their approaches to birth. Second, I asked questions about breastfeeding from early on, and I liked the answers I received about the resources that the hospital had available. Google was my friend, and I used it to the fullest to read other moms’ reviews of the hospital and their experiences there. In all, it all came together to be a wonderful, fulfilling birth experience.
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