Why I Will Always Be in Favor of a Hospital Birth
Just before I gave birth to Bridget, the topic of homebirths was in the news yet again as a new study showed the practice is on the rise.
Although I have always been perfectly happy with hospital births, I can appreciate that this is not everyone’s experience. During this pregnancy I had been thinking more and more about why women choose to give birth in non-traditional places and with the help of midwives and doulas in addition to their doctors, or without doctors in the case of home births. While I knew I was not going to be sparking up my birthing tub and planning to labor in my living room anytime soon, I have known plenty of women that have made that choice or chosen another alternative to the traditional setting of the delivery room (such as a birthing center, for example). Believe me, I can understand why, for some women, this may seem like an attractive idea. I don’t know anyone who wants to spend time in a hospital, no matter how lovely the accommodations.
Despite understanding, I am still a staunch advocate for working to bring the home to the hospital as the hospital quite simply cannot come to you. However many comforts a home delivery may offer, choosing to deliver at home opens you and your baby up to certain risks that I, for one, am not willing to take.
In the weeks leading up to her birth, we found out that Bridget was in breech position. Many years ago, this would have been a devastating problem that would have complicated the delivery immensely if they were unable to manually turn her. However, our doctors knew about the situation in advance and were able to turn her successfully. Twelve hours after turning, I had a perfectly normal vaginal birth and a beautifully healthy baby girl. As I was in labor, I kept thinking about how incredibly serious labor and delivery are, even when there are no remarkable circumstances. Because of the availability of medical intervention, my doctors were able to take a quite remarkable situation and treat it so effectively that it was not an issue at all and if it had become an issue I was in the right place to deal with it.
We quickly forget that labor was a common killer of women. While beautiful and natural and nothing short of a miracle, it doesn’t mean it always went so beautifully. Thankfully we have a medical system that has developed safe and effective solutions to situations like mine (a baby in breech position) as well as a million other situations that used to kill women and children regularly, from tests for Strep B to developments in c sections, so that the maternal death rate has plummeted since the 1900’s when birth was a common killer of women. Having just gone through the process, I can attest that even stool softener seems like a miracle after hours of labor and delivery have had their impact on your ladytown!
I don’t want you to think I find hospitals perfect – there are certainly areas in which they can improve and of course areas in which they will make mistakes. This is why I wish so much of the movement for alternate birth options would spend some of that energy on making hospitals better places with more choices for women, rather than focusing almost exclusively on the idea of a home delivery where, quite frankly, any event outside of the ordinary can have a much more devastating outcome. I reiterate that there is no doctor at a home birth in the United States and so should one of these unforeseen events happen you are banking on the fact that you can get to a hospital and treated on time – not a risk I think most parents would take. Critics quiet rightly point out that “most” of the time things are okay. However, this is not how my brain works as a parent. Most of the time cars don’t crash, yet I will always use a car seat.
So, while I still believe that women should do their best to bring the home to the hospital, the ultimate goal of keeping both mother and baby safe should be the most important thing to keep in mind and we should work with our doctors to achieve this goal. We should respect and value our doctors and hospitals and medical systems that have done, and are doing, so much to keep women and children safe, and not see them as opponents to battle against to get the labor and delivery you want. After all, a baby doesn’t care where or how it’s born; it just cares that it comes out alive and safe. As mothers, we should be focused primarily on that fact working to bring our homes to the hospital and not the other way around.