10 October 2011

Birth Story: The Choice

37 weeks pregnant and looking for a midwife – that was me this spring. This is the story of how we ended up having a planned home birth in Chicago. A home birth was never part of the master plan. My prenatal care was at a university hospital with a fine OB/GYN. We lived close by (perhaps even laboring walking distance). Insurance would cover a hospital birth. But it gradually became clear that a hospital birth wasn't going to work for me.

I arrived in Chicago early in my pregnancy and went to all my prenatal appointments at the hospital. It was my second pregnancy. My first pregnancy and the birth of Peanut all took place in the Netherlands under the care of a midwife – except for the last 15 minutes, but that's another story. The appointments in the Netherlands were friendly and decidedly non-invasive.

The hospital approach was more medical (no surprise there), but that was OK. Sometimes it made me giggle. Before every appointment, I had to fill out a form that included two questions (1) are you pregnant? (2) what was the date of your last period. I had to pee in a cup every time. Except the one time I went to the toilet and forgot to fill the cup. Oops.

As my due date neared, I began asking questions about the birth. Questions like, will I be allowed to eat? How do you feel about me laboring in the bathroom? Will I be able to move around? The answers were not encouraging. Popsicles were fine, I would have to ask permission, and only if I happened to be in one of the two rooms with a cordless monitor.

It also became apparent that some policies were not up for negotiation at all. A fetal monitor was mandatory. Intermittent or cordless monitoring might be an option, but that would all have to be discussed on the day of delivery. Triage would take up to an hour and a half, during which time I would be expected to stay on a monitor. A heplock (an IV starter in my hand) was mandatory. They also expected me and required the baby to stay in the hospital for 48 hours.

Where I had hoped we would be able to negotiate the circumstances surrounding the birth, it became clear that it wasn't going to work out the way I hoped. So I did what I always do – I went on-line. I googled midwives in Chicago. I checked in on a couple of forum, posted questions and got really lovely, caring responses.

In the end, I met with a midwife and liked her. She was patient, curious, flexible, and didn't mind any of my questions. That's something, considering my first question was something like, “who cleans up?” When I walked out the door, it was with a good feeling. When I got in the car with Peanut and pulled out, I knew for sure. I wanted this home birth. It was important. It was right.

Tomorrow: the birth story.

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