The Scariest Part of a Hospital Birth? The Hospital…

Over a year ago I gave birth to my second baby at home.  Almost 3 years ago I gave birth to my first baby in a hospital.  Both experiences were valuable and the results were phenomenal because I have two amazing sons.

Lately I have been going over each birth and the anticipation leading up to them.  As a first time mother who was living in a new state, far away from family, I was relying on acquaintances to help pick the OB/GYN that would eventually deliver my son.  We chose the OB based on the hospital he delivered at.  I never considered a homebirth but I was planning on a natural delivery.

Image credit Pavel Tcholakov via Flickr

The desire to get pregnant was strong for me.  I always wanted to be a mother.  The scariest thing to me, prior to getting pregnant, was the idea of being in a hospital.  I had never been admitted to one in my life before giving birth. Other than the occasional ER visit (including one for swallowing the bar on my tongue ring in college!) I never spent much time in the hospital as a patient, only as a volunteer.  The idea terrified me.  Hospitals are cold, depressing places in my mind.  There are sick people there, dying people, people in pain.  Then me: going to give birth on what would become one of the happiest days of my life.

I was afraid of getting lost in that gigantic hospital and never finding the labor and delivery ward.  I was pertrified of having any IV’s put into my veins.  I worried about how the unwelcoming environment would affect my labor and my overall comfort level.  I was even afraid of sleeping there overnight and the possibility that my husband wouldn’t be allowed to stay with me.

With all of these concerns a homebirth still never came to mind.

I ended up with a very intervened birth.  I was induced, I had IV’s in my  veins, I had a heartrate monitor on during the entire 20+ hour labor, I wore a hideous hospital gown, I received an epidural, I had to have a catheter inserted, and I received stitches.  I am still amazed that I still had a vaginal birth.  The odds were against me.

Now it is very easy for me to look back and scream into the past “Have a homebirth!”  It is even easier for me to wonder why, after having experienced both, hospitals are the norm.  Hospitals are for the sick and injured.

Labor is not a disease or a broken bone. Pregnant women are not sick.  Birth is a part of life that every mother is intended to experience.  On rare occasions complications make hospital births safer for mothers who are high risk or for babies who are known to have problems that will need medical attention after delivery.  Thank goodness these options are there.

It saddens me to think of the women who are in my shoes, or will be.  Afraid of the hospital but unaware of the alternative of a homebirth.  The more we talk about it the more the idea won’t sound so crazy.

I’m incredibly thankful for all of the women who make homebirth a topic of conversation, who normalize it, and who live it.  Ina May Gaskinand Ricki Lakeare my homebirth heros and women whose work and passion played a huge role in giving me the courage to homebirth.  I also admire Gina of The Feminist Breeder who writes about homebirth and feminist issues.  She also gave birth at home, live.  I’m honored to have witnessed it as well.

I don’t know if there are more children in my future.  If there are I will plan for another homebirth.  I can’t imagine ever going back to a hospital.  If I had to choose between a Hospital and Homebirth I would choose a Birth Center (which is cheating, I didn’t give that option).  The next time I’m admitted to a hospital it should be for a real emergency or illness.  Eventually my lucky streak has to run out, right?

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  • lindsay

    this is exactly how I felt and why I gave birth to my first child, my beautiful baby girl, at home – unassisted because I could not find a midwife in the entire state of arizona that would or could attend a home birth. everything went just as I imagined and I am so, so thankful that I never once stepped foot in that hospital. like you, they freak me out and are there for a purpose but birthing babies natually isn’t one of them! thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks so much for sharing your story. I’m sorry your first experience wasn’t what you had hoped. I have had three babies in the hospital and had a great experience each time. We are fortunate enough to have a natural birthing center within our hospital where I felt very at-home. I was induced for my second but still managed to have a relatively “natural” birth with no epidural, etc. (although in a regular room, not birthing center).
     I think it all comes down to the Dr. (or Midwife) and women really advocating for themselves. I did feel a little pressured with my third to take antibiotics, pitocin, but I just kept saying “No,” and my baby was delivered happy and healthy 20-some hours later! I do like the security that comes with being IN a hospital if, God forbid, something were to go wrong. 
    Homebirth is a great option and I have considered it for our next child, but hospitals get a bad rap, too, I think. We, as women and mothers, just need to remember to speak up for ourselves (and our husbands can help!) because when it comes down to it, WE HAVE THE FINAL SAY! <3

  • It seems everyone is afraid of homebirth. I used to be, too. My first birth was in a hospital and I was assured by my doctor that she had saved me from fetal distress. However, I knew that she had created the situation that ended in fetal distress. I had every intervention possible apart from foreceps and I somehow managed to deliver vaginally.

    About one year ago, I was against homebirth. I saw it as a selfish choice for women who want a fun experience. Then I had a friend who did homebirth and I began to respect it, though I was uncomfortable with it. Then I got pregnant. The doctors here in Thailand are great…too great. Lots and lots of intervention and 90% c-sections. They are not willing to work with me for what I want. My doctor dismissed me and referred me to someone else “more natural” who prefers to induce BEFORE 40 weeks! At this point I decided to have a homebirth.

    It’s a shame I didn’t begin to research interventions and their risks until two-thirds into my pregnancy. At 35 weeks I decided to have a homebirth. The risks are, surprisingly, LESS at homebirth than a hospital. If there is a complication, that’s what hospitals are for – emergencies. Not normal things. Do you wait at the hospital all the time just incase something goes wrong for the rest of your life? A well-trained midwife knows when to transfer to the hospital.

    I wish I were more educated the first time around. I thought I was, but I was reading such useless books as What to Expect and other books that prime you to do as you’re told at the hospital. Many people are saying you should stand up for yourself in the hosptial. That’s a great idea, but it doesn’t work. What do you say when the doctor says “c-section or your baby will die”? You do what you’re told. Unfortunately, the doctors are trained to look for emergencies not for normal labor. But like Kim said, it is great that these interventions are available for when they are needed.

    Sorry, I had to write that somewhere! Thanks Kim for sharing your life with us. It has taken me 2 years since hearing your story to get used to the idea. Doctors aren’t God. We have to accept what happens no matter where it occurs. That’s why my doctor quit, he doesn’t want a bad reputation. I appreciate your honest story and all your reviews. They have helped me so much and I always refer people to your site.