Even before I became pregnant, I knew I did not want a typical hospital birth with typical hospital interventions and germs. My search for a natural birth alternative led me to a local freestanding licensed birth center with midwives as the caregivers. My birth team involves three women: the supervising midwife, who is a licensed direct-entry and certified professional midwife; an intern midwife; and an apprentice midwife.
One thing that is advantageous about this birth center is that my husband and I have the final say over what tests and procedures I or our newborn will undergo. For example, we chose not to have an ultrasound, and I also opted out of a glucose test for gestational diabetes, because I did not have any of the risk factors. We are in the process of researching newborn screening tests and Vitamin K administration.
The birth center is in a three-story house with two nicely-decorated birth rooms. The idea is for it to be a home away from home. I would have liked to have a home birth, but our current apartment is so tiny and not-soundproof that we felt, for this baby at least, a birth center would be a better option. Both of the birth rooms are equipped with huge birthing tubs, which can be used for relaxation during labor or for the actual birth. I plan to at least labor in water, if not actually give birth in the water.
A typical appointment with my midwives involves a urine test which I do myself with a test strip; questions from the midwives about how I am feeling and what I have been eating; checking my pulse and blood pressure; listening to the baby’s heartbeat with a Doppler and calculating fetal heart rate; measuring my fundal height (from the pubic bone to top of the uterus); and checking what position Baby is in. That’s about it. I did have one internal exam toward the beginning of pregnancy so that the midwives could tell the position of my uterus and size of my pelvis.
Mainly my midwives just emphasize good nutrition, including 60-80 grams of protein during the first and second trimesters, and 80-100 in the third trimester. I eat a lot of yogurt, cheese (cottage cheese especially is great for protein), and meat, and I have two eggs every day. They also stress the importance of light exercise. I walk for about thirty minutes five or six days a week. I was taking a regular multi-vitamin before I knew I was pregnant, but when I found out, I researched prenatal vitamins and ended up going with Promise Stages, which have a slightly different formulation for each trimester of pregnancy and are very reasonably priced. Within a week after I started taking them, I noticed my fingernails were much stronger, so they must be doing something!
When I was searching for a birth place, I knew I wanted to be able to labor not flat on my back, but in any position I chose. The birth center encourages squatting or just about any position that is comfortable. There are also birth balls to sit or lay on. I will be allowed to eat and drink during labor; in fact, one of the mandatory items on my birth supply list is six bottles of Recharge, an all-natural sports drink. I am also supposed to bring an unopened bottle of olive or almond oil, which the midwives will rub on my perineum if I give birth out of water, instead of an episiotomy. The cord will not be cut until it stops pulsing, and I will be able to immediately hold and breastfeed my baby. We will stay at the birth center for at least three hours for monitoring, and then home we will go with our newborn!
I have read dozens of books about labor and birth, but to be honest, I still don’t have a clear idea of what to expect. I guess I’ll have to just experience the process this first time, and then I will have a better idea for future pregnancies. I have a wonderful, supportive husband, knowledgeable midwives, and most importantly, a God who loves me and is in control.