Monday, February 15, 2010

Hospital Birth

I enjoy the blogoshphere. I spend a good bit of time reading blogs. Some of the blogs take a more scientific approach to their content, while others include personal stories of birth (good and bad). I sometimes find myself becoming frustrated and saddened though when I read about women's personal experiences when having a hospital birth.

I find it difficult to wrap my mind around some of the horrible birth experiences I have 'heard'. I didn't have wonderful birth experiences, but wouldn't describe them as horrible or bad either. But some of the stories I see on various blogs are almost unreal seeming. There are cases where legal entities were involved in the care of a woman's pregnancy, confining her to the hospital by court order and others where a woman had to travel 5-6 hours from home to have a VBAC (when she had one already at the very hospital that denied her!). Other cases are of hospital births where women were left feeling, at a minimum, dissatisfied but in some cases, traumatized.

I worked as a labor and delivery nurse for four years, in a tertiary center. This meant that we handled high-risk and low risk, shipping out only those whose babies would require immediate surgery after birth. I know bad stuff happens in the hospital. It can be factory-like, unpleasant, women made to feel powerless and not in control of bodies. I don't deny these things.

What I worry about is the focus on negativity around the hospital birth experience. Until homebirth and OOH birth centers are financially and geographically available to all low-risk women, hospital birth is it for some women. It's the only viable option for whatever reason. I make decent money and have health insurance. But I couldn't afford to pay for a homebirth out of pocket! So all the bad press surrounding hospital birth might be disheartening for those who are destined for the hospital as their birthing backdrop. You know how it goes - everyone's quick to share a bad story, but not a good story :p

There are hospitals....and Phoenix Baptist Hospital (PBH) can't be the only one. We midwives at Bethany Womens attend births at PBH and have been there for several years now. I have seen beautiful births - more than I can count. It is possible to have a wonderful, satisfying hospital birth. Look back at the archives for this blog and you will find a small portion of those stories. So this is why I get frustrated it can be good....even great, in the hospital. We do it all the time.

We encourage women to be a partner in their care. It's not our goal to be the dictator. Instead we want to establish a relationship with women and their families. This is the very first step in having a wonderful experience in the hospital. We truly care about our patients. We didn't become midwives because we wanted to be pulled away from our families and work long hours. No, it's about being with women, empowering women, changing their lives for the better. The five of us are very passionate about this. We RESPECT women. And at the end of the day, I think that makes a big difference. I will tell women when doing a consult for prenatal care. Find someone you trust....if it isn't us, I don't care.....find someone you trust, it's critical.

I hate to see women feel alienated by the very fact that they had a hospital birth. What happened to midwifery being about supporting women...all women... regardless of where they give birth? Who decied that it would be impossible to have a satisfying, enriching experience in the hospital? That this could only occur in the home environment? I think that time spent arguing which is better - hospital or home - is time wasted. Time needs to be spent improving options, educating women, improving hospital birth. The birth community needs to stick together. If we had nearly the coheisiveness of American Congress of OB/GYN (ACOG), we'd probably be a heckuva lot further along in our struggles for women's birth rights/rites.

This stuff with women being forced to abide by court mandates of hospital confinement, etc is outrageous and a slippery slope indeed. But it can be better.....and I see the proof of that all the time.

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