Embracing Mother Nature
These days, a lot of hospital maternity units call themselves birth centers, adding homey touches such as curtains and framed pictures to regular hospital rooms. But decor is only a small part of what separates a birth center from a hospital ward.
Some centers are, quite literally, not connected to a hospital at all. Their goal is to offer you an environment with all of the comforts of home -- a regular bed, soft lighting, privacy -- where you can give birth in whatever way works best for you. Most have cozy birthing rooms, kitchens, family areas, and whirlpool baths where laboring women and their families can relax.
But what truly sets birth centers apart is the philosophy of care. They're run by midwives, who believe that birth is a normal, natural event, and that women's bodies are perfectly equipped to handle childbirth. This philosophy also supports natural childbirth. Narcotic pain relief is an option, but an epidural isn't. If you need one, you must transfer to a nearby hospital.
This approach definitely appealed to me. My first birth was a maze of medical interventions; it took two weeks to recover from that one day of labor. My second was a big improvement -- only a little narcotic pain relief -- but it was still in a hospital. As a third-time mom, I knew I needed emotional help and reassurance, not drugs, to navigate the choppy waters of childbirth. And as a registered nurse, I understood the birth process, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of using such a center.
The new center sounded ideal, except for the fact that it was an hour's drive from our home. I e-mailed for information anyway, and I'm glad that I did.