Why Give Birth in a Hospital?

Today’s post is the second in the series: HDYDI, Choose the Right Birth Plan; click here to read about non-medicated, natural births and home births. Help me welcome Lisa Schmidt, blogger at The Practicing Catholic. Lisa and I first *met* via Twitter over our shared love of the Cyclones, Men’s Basketball Coach Hoiberg and Catholicism. I had the honor of  *really* meeting Lisa last August at the Catholic New Media Conference. She is such a beautiful, joyful, faithful, funny woman. I consider her a great friend and fellow sister in Christ. Lisa has two beautiful children and is due in October with a new life. I hope you enjoy her post today as much as I did!

Lucy's BirthIt’s been said that if you don’t know your options, you don’t have any. Upon discovering I was pregnant with my first child, there was no question I would give birth at the hospital. The thought of having my child outside a hospital environment never even crossed my mind. It was the only option I was aware of at the time. Nine months later, after laboring at home for several hours before making the trek to Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, my husband and I welcomed a beautiful 8.8-pound baby girl into this world. I labored on Labor Day (go me!), and given it was a slow day at the office, I had nearly the entire maternity unit and staff at my beck and call. All in all, the labor, delivery, and recovery process at the hospital was comfortable, accommodating, respectful, professional, and well, just downright phenomenal. The experience earned 5-stars from me, and my husband and I both dubbed the hospital “The Mercy Hilton” from then on.

While my second pregnancy and delivery wasn’t as easy — a Cesarean section resulting in a bouncing 10.8-pound boy who slipped right into a 6-month onesie — the hospital delivery provided the same positive experience. Now I’m expecting my third on October 22, and when the time comes, the plan is to once again check in to The Mercy Hilton, and God-willing, attempt a VBAC.

Since laboring my first, I’ve come to discover that I have other birthing options beyond the hospital experience. I am now surrounded by a slew of friends, in real life and virtually, who strongly advocate for birthing centers with a midwife and/or home birth. I’m not judging those other options here; I truly admire them and I’m not of the opinion that hospital birth is THE ONLY option to pursue anymore. Maybe one day I’ll find myself delivering a fourth child outside of a hospital. Maybe.

One thing I’ve discovered is that for several friends, the “alternative” birthing decision came in response to a negative experience at a hospital. Case in point, I serve as a moderator for the CatholicMom.com Facebook page, and I recently posed the following question: What was the main driver for your birthing decisions? A flurry of responses came in; here are just a few.

  • We knew from speaking with friends that our local hospital was in general not very supportive of natural birth.
  • Frustrating experience with the hospital staff and treatment we received.
  • I learned everything I could about homebirths, midwives and waterbirths… because every time I delivered in a hospital it was worse and worse…
  • I didn’t like how I felt like I was just a #, and not a patient.
  • We had our first in a hospital. The doctor induced, the labor still took over 20 hours, the doctor showed for about five minutes and was horribly impersonal … We’ve done home births ever since with a midwife.

Indeed, hospital birthing can have its drawbacks, but it can also have advantages, as has been my experience. In my own small way, I feel called to take this opportunity to simply share my top five.

  1. Hospitals are the place sick people go to die so why would you want to birth a baby there? It’s a question I’ve been asked. No denying, hospitals are for the sick, but they’re also places where very healthy women in labor go, too. In my scenario, the maternity unit is completely set apart from the “infirmed” with a separate entrance and check-in. It feels more birthing center than emergency room.
  2. I had a private birthing suite that created a warm, relaxing, and homey environment. Included in my suite were amenities that I don’t have at home such as a modern birthing bed, jacuzzi tub for water therapy, and oh yeah, a 27” flatscreen TV with oh, about 100 channels.
  3. My maternal instincts needed a jumpstart after delivering my first. Breastfeeding, bathing, soothing, swaddling — I needed help with all of it and having nurses and lactation consultants at my call 24-7 was a blessing. The Mercy nurses truly are a gifted team of professionals who specialize in intimate, personal treatment. I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite because there wasn’t a bad apple in the bunch.
  4. While birthing a baby ought to be a natural perhaps even organic process, I know that all pregnancies and births are not created equal. Sometimes things go wrong. When umbilical cords get wrapped in places they shouldn’t, when shoulders get lodged, sometimes the ability to take lifesaving measures is a matter of minutes if not seconds. Knowing that I’m in the place that is best equipped to deal with those contingencies eases me greatly.
  5. I love my devoutly Catholic doctor. In the last couple years, he walked away from a comfortable group practice to start his own family practice. From the magazines in the waiting room, to the art on the walls, to the prayers during each appointment, it’s a pro-life, natural family planning-only clinic. I feel compelled to support him for putting his entire career, financial security, professional reputation, and ability to practice medicine on the line. He did all this simply to give women and families a faith-filled, pro-life option, one we didn’t previously have in Des Moines. I go where he goes. He delivers at Mercy. Done deal.

Having a baby is a miraculous experience. The story I share here is in no way intended to be a comprehensive guide to birthing in a hospital. Instead, I hope it serves as a springboard for expectant moms, to motivate them to research their birthing options and select the one that best meets their needs. Again, if you don’t know your options, you don’t have any. Kudos to Kathryn for facilitating the discussion and allowing three options to be highlighted here.

Guest Blogger: Lisa Schmidt, The Practicing Catholic
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  1. Claire on August 7, 2013 at 7:57 am

    I have really enjoyed yesterday’s and today’s post, and appreciate the balanced (and nonjudgmental) approach that this blog has used for this topic.

    • Kathryn on August 7, 2013 at 10:03 am

      Claire, you made my heart smile this morning. That is exactly what I intended when I asked these three awesome women to share their hearts. Childbirth is different for all of us and it’s been an honor to hear so many different perspectives.

      • Claire on August 7, 2013 at 10:05 am

        Well, you deserve a smile after all you went through last week! I pray that Luke’s recovery continues to go well.

    • Lisa Schmidt on August 7, 2013 at 10:13 am

      Thank you, Claire! I echo your thoughts – Kathryn’s idea for this series was an excellent one.

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  4. Pamela A. on August 7, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Great post! I am pregnant with #4 (due November) and he will be my 4th c-section, so another hospital birth for me. After a grueling15 hour first labor, my Dr discovered I was just too small to naturally birth my 6 pound, 17 inch girl – she was in fetal distress with a heart rate of 11 and had to be delivered via emergency c-section. The doctors literally ran with my bed down to the OR and delivered her safely. I can’t imagine the outcome had I been anywhere but at a hospital. With my subsequent pregnancies, the hospital was our only option because the c-sections were planned but we also had the experience of needing the NICU facilities. Again, it was such a relief to be right there where my boys could be immediately taken to the specialists they needed and given the best care possible. While many women are blessed to experience healthy pregnancies and normal births that allow them to deliver virtually anywhere, I am grateful for the positive hospital births I experienced – and as much as I dread recovering from another c-section, I know this sweet little guy is totally worth it!!

    • Lisa Schmidt on August 7, 2013 at 10:16 am

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience, Pamela. I will pray for your upcoming delivery and recovery (I understand totally what you mean on that regard!). Pray for mine, too?

      • Pamela A. on August 7, 2013 at 10:19 am

        I’ll definitely keep you and your sweet family in my prayers. I love following your blog, too!

  5. Bonnie on August 7, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Wow, Lisa! I must say that your list is fantastic. I don’t think most of those are even an option for me at our local hospitals – #4 is covered though. You are very blessed! 🙂

    • Lisa Schmidt on August 7, 2013 at 10:20 am

      Thanks, Bonnie! I’m begin to understand how blessed we are here in Des Moines by hearing others’ not-so-positive stories. Looking forward to learning from you tomorrow.

  6. […] Positive hospital birth stories DO exist. I thrived from mine. So go give me some love, huh? Click here to read the […]

  7. Sarah on August 7, 2013 at 10:40 am

    You had me at pro-life NFP doctor. I would follow him whoever he goes as well. Heck I’d move across the country to Des Moines for that!

  8. Krafty Momma on August 7, 2013 at 11:24 am

    I agree with many of Lisa’s points – especially the possibility of intervention at the hospital if necessary.

    Our first (born just a year ago yesterday) had his cord wrapped around his neck twice. Thanks to the quickness of the hospital staff, it is a great story instead of a great tragedy.

    The absolute smartest decision we made in our birthing process was choosing to hire a doula. Since the only hospital in a 50 mile radius isn’t known for being “baby-friendly” it helped considerably to have someone who knew what was going on to encourage me through a 12 hour labor with pitocin with no pain meds. 🙂

    • Lisa Schmidt on August 7, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      I’m at the Abbey for the week — I may need that doula recommendation should I go into early labor! 😉 Congrats on celebrating your son’s first birthday. Such a fun time for your family. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

  9. Maria on August 7, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    I am with you sister. I have often felt like my choice to give birth in a hospital(the Mercy Hilton in fact!) was less than that of my friends who had home births. Each time though our perfectly normal deliveries could have turned really bad had we not been within seconds of the amazing NICU teams that swarmed in to help our babies. One with meconium in the fluid and one with a cord around her neck at delivery who came out blue and not breathing. I shudder to think of what could have been if we had been at home.

    I would also add one more to your list: Make the mess at the hospital and someone else will clean it up! 😉

    I have to add major props to the Mercy Perinatal Hospice team as well. Amazing people to be surrounded by when facing a loss before, during, or soon after birth.

    • Lisa Schmidt on August 7, 2013 at 2:49 pm

      Regarding your additional suggestion … my city manager mind has always wondered about the homebirth clean-up issue. What, if anything, goes down the sanitary/sewer system? Or does the midwife team clean all of that up so nothing is disposed of from a residential home? Because I know enough (too much?) about sewer systems to be curious about this … 🙂

      And thank you kindly for sharing about your perinatal hospice experience. They indeed are amazing and deserve recognition here, too!

  10. Nicole on August 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    I didn’t really have the desire to give birth in a location other than a hospital. For my son, one driving reason was my doctor, since I had to start the infertility process, and SO very supportive my desire to deliver without pain meds. She delivered in two hospitals, and I chose the one of the two that felt right to me.

    Again, with my daughter, my doctor was a driving force in my decision. I think she is a fantastic advocate for birthing mothers and so supportive of doing a natural birth. Unfortunately, I didn’t get as wonderful of a hospital experience delivering on a holiday weekend… redirected to a different hospital, doctor on vacation, her back-up not getting there in time, and having the baby delivered by an intern who had never delivered a baby before. HOWEVER, one thing is certain. The nursing staff at this hospital was so absolutely amazing, caring, and kind. They made up for all the rest.

    So a long story longer? I say that the nursing staff is just as important of a deciding factor as anything when picking a hospital.

    Congrats on your 3rd baby, and thank you for sharing your story with us.

    • Lisa Schmidt on August 7, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      Excellent point – “the nursing staff is just as important of a deciding factor as anything when picking a hospital.” Very well stated and true for me as well.

  11. Amanda on August 7, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Thanks for this post, Lisa and Kathryn. As much as I prayed for and desired a natural birth, I ended up in a cesarean with my first 9 lb 6oz son after laboring for two and half days. I was pretty devastated and desired a VBAC with my 2nd. Ultimately, my Pro-Life/NFP/non-birth control prescribing/awesome Catholic Obgyn wasn’t comfortable waiting a few days past my due date, which in turn lead to my scheduled cesarean. I cried when I scheduled my son’s birthday and still feel twinges of pain in that I won’t ever be able to experience a vaginal delivery, but I find it is my little cross to bear. And, through the little cross there have been so many blessings which I do try to rejoice in and be grateful for. The nursing staff, doctors, LCs were all such amazing servants with both of my boys. My coming home is majorly a family event since I am so limited post-cesarean. Although the recovery is extremely humbling, I know that it has made me a better person (because, lets be honest, I am always in need of a good humble).

    So, for me, the hospital was a blessing. God only knows what could have happened had I not been birthing at the hospital. But, at the very least, Birth Plans can go a long way even with scheduled cesareans. Which meds are you okay with/not okay with? Do you want skin to skin once they are born? umbilical cord cutting? Picture taking? Will you be breastfeeding? Once my little one was cleaned off, they brought him to me and he never left my chest or sight. Not once. For that I am forever grateful. And we nursed within the hour he was born. (Mind you I have had trouble with nursing each boy – we don’t get well or over a bought of thrush until about month 2…both times)! SO, thank you LCs for their constant presence and support too!

    Ok, I’m rambling now.

    Prayers for your pregnancy journey and prayers for His Peace along with a beautiful VBAC experience.

    • Lisa Schmidt on August 7, 2013 at 2:56 pm

      Good point – just because you birth via cesarean doesn’t mean you throw out the birth plan. Thank you for reminding us of that and we still have options and some control in the birthing process.

  12. Hannah on August 7, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Dream Doctor!

  13. Catherine on August 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    I enjoyed reading your post! I also have had really good experiences in the hospital, better than my homebirth. Now that I have a number of children in my home, I really want to get away to have my baby. The couple days my husband and I spent in the very comfortable, family bonding friendly hospital I last birthed in were such a special, peaceful time. Had I been home with my wonderful but very active passel of kiddos, I don’t think I would have had such a good postpartum transition.

    • Lisa Schmidt on August 10, 2013 at 9:02 pm

      Thanks, Catherine. Great point. I have two active kiddos and a black lab dog who on most days is just as “needy” as the humans in this house. I’m sure that would create some interesting moments if I were homebirthing. Your comment also reminded me of something I had thought of for the post but forgot to include … it’s time for a new water heater at Das Schmidt Haus, and we race through showers so not to deplete the hot water for the next shower-er. At the hospital, when I really want to enjoy a long, hot shower, I can get one! Thank goodness the bathrooms/showers are truly spa-like!

  14. […] facility is the new pro-life clinic in town. My doctor there has delivery privileges at the hospital where I’ll labor. He doesn’t, however, have privileges for patients who’ve had c-sections so he […]

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