Three hour into my labor with my fourth baby, I was still in my shower. As in, at home, in the master suite I share with my husband. I was hibernating, and trying to put off going to the hospital for as long as possible. Why? Because after giving birth twice and in a birthing center, I was really nervous about a hospital birth.
Like, really, really, nervous.
Labor and delivery in the hospital felt scary, and out of my control. I heard all the stories, and knew all the bad things that could happen. Nothing had convinced me that I'd be able to have the birth experience I wanted.
Note: Not all hospitals are the same. Experiences can widely vary, even at the same hospital. That's why I've included some things at the bottom of this post that I recommend EVERY mom who chooses a hospital birth do in preparation.
Why the Hospital?
When I found out I was pregnant with my fourth, I again began researching. Home birth was an option, but insurance wouldn't pay for it (though some do). My previous, much loved midwife had moved out of state. There weren't any birthing centers near me.
I liked my OB/GYN for annual check ups, but it was clear her expectations for my birth weren't like mine at all.
So I did another thing that scared me. I switched providers at 24 weeks pregnant. No one, and I do mean no one, recommends this. But, I was already stressed out about giving birth in the hospital, and I couldn't imagine doing it with a doctor that wasn't listening to my wishes, no matter how much I had previously liked her bedside manner.
I found a group of midwives practicing at another local hospital, and I had my first appointment there at 24 weeks.
So when the day came and labor started, I was still fretful, but I did feel reasonably assured that I would be heard and respected as I was laboring. This is critical, moms! No matter where you choose to give birth, find a practitioner that listens and hears you!
I finally made the decision to head to the hospital when contractions were about 4 minutes apart. My water broke as soon as I got in the car, proving that to be the right call!
Check In Procedures
When we arrived at the hospital 40 minutes later, contractions were still 4 minutes apart. I had to endure an hour of check-in procedures. They checked everything imaginable, including blood pressure (4 times!), my cervix, tested for amniotic fluid, checked my blood sugar, drew blood for antibody testing... it took for-dang-ever.
I was super annoyed and frustrated.
When they finally left me alone, I got in the shower to be alone and try to get labor moving again, as things had slowed during all the checking (very common). Within 45 minutes, I was ready to push!
I was very impressed with my midwife. She listened to me, let me push for a few minutes on the toilet, ready to deliver the baby there if I was comfortable. When I decided to move to the bed and get on hands and knees, she went with it.
She was there to provide support and advice if needed, but also let me follow my instincts. That's an amazing combination in a practitioner.
And Here Comes Baby
My baby girl was born just 3 hours after we arrived at the hospital. For about 90 seconds, she wasn't breathing. She needed a bit of forced oxygen and a few chest compressions, but then we heard her beautiful scream.
Once we were assured she was fine, the post delivery care began, and I will admit to feeling frustrated and annoyed again. It seemed like everything took forever, and compared to my other experiences, it all seemed very forced upon me.
Blood pressure checks, abdomen massages, bleeding checks, ibuprofen on their schedule (not when I needed it), a thermometer shoved in my mouth every hour... it was all done with my safety and my baby's safety in mind, of course. But we were completely unable to sleep, because the whole night was nothing but non-stop interruptions and interventions. I know from speaking to friends that not everyone has this hospital experience. Perhaps much of this lack of consideration and lenience was due to the fact that the nurse assigned to us as training a student nurse. I'm really not sure, but either way, it was frustrating.
They even woke my baby up several times to look in her diaper, and take her temperature, though I requested they not do so. I wasn't allowed to sleep while holding my baby, even lying down (I think many hospitals now have this policy for liability reasons). There was a nurse who peeked in the window every 30 minutes to make sure I didn't drift off while holding her! Since she cried when I laid her down, I ended up not sleeping at all.
The end result, however, was that we left the hospital with a healthy baby, and that, of course, is a wonderful outcome.
My advice (since you're asking, right?), is to make a list of questions to ask your doctor or midwife while you are at one of your prenatal visits. If you are an introvert and privacy and quiet are important, ask about hourly checks and what will be insisted upon. If you want the freedom to labor in any position you wish, ask what is allowed and what might prevent that. Ask, ask, ask! I also recommend writing a birth plan and making sure all of your nurses have a copy that your doctor signed off on.
Hospital Birth Pros
- Readily available pain meds (if an epidural is your priority, you're in the right place!)
- Maximum coverage by insurance
- Emergency services close by
- Specialists available quickly if needed
- Someone else cooks and cleans for you
- Support from experienced nurses, doctors, and midwives
Hospital Birth Cons
- Exposure to germs, bugs, and viruses from other patients
- Forced compliance with hospital procedures (your mileage may vary!)
- Difficulty resting well
- In some cases, your laboring options may be limited.
- Prolonged or stalled labors may be pushed into interventions or C-sections.
- You can't eat during labor