Homebirth Vs Baby Friendly Hospital Birth: My Experience
I had a baby at home and another at a birthing center in a baby friendly hospital. Here’s what I learned.
On call matters to me.
The two things that drove me to homebirth for my first child was mandatory use of the hospital nursery and fear of getting whichever doctor was on call. Some of those doctors I had no desire to see. I also did not want to be separated from my baby, so I searched for alternate care. A baby friendly hospital or birthing center like I desired was not available in my state, so we went with a homebirth. With my second, no homebirth midwives were available, but a baby friendly hospital was an option, so we went with it.
I have relatively quick, easy labors. With my first, my midwife could tell from talking to me that a baby was coming. After six months of meeting with me, she knew me well enough to know we didn’t have much time.
With my second, I figured I was likely close enough to having a baby to start the 42-mile drive to the hospital. I wasn’t thrilled to have to get in the car, but laboring in a car, while unpleasant, was not as bad as I worried it would be. I arrived relieved that I didn’t have a baby on the side of I-12.
Though I had seen the same hospital-based midwife throughout the pregnancy, she was not the midwife on call. When I said I thought I was having a baby, they took me back to the intake room to do monitoring to see if I should be admitted, and shortly thereafter with no medical staff in the room, I realized I was pushing a baby out. They quickly arrived when we paged them. It was chaotic. I was really unhappy with the position I pushed in due to the location and ended up with stitches. Though, I can’t put that on the hospital as I know many women who end up with stitches at home too.
I was admitted to the hospital after delivery then wheeled to my delivery room with my baby in my arms. To make it more fun, this all happened during a shift change, so the midwife who caught the baby was not the same one who saw me 30 minutes later.
What I really missed in the hospital birth was continuity of care.
I never saw those people before. If I saw them again, I wouldn’t recognize them. I did mourn that lack of connection.
Besides the hospital birth costing twice as much, the other big difference between the two was the interruptions. Compared to the quiet presence of my homebirth midwife, the hustle and bustle of a hospital were overwhelming. I am a light sleeper. There was a supply closet or something near my room that required a code to be punched in. Every button had a beep. It kept me up. Every door opening on the hall woke me up. The nurses checking on me and checking on the baby kept me up. The food delivery, the trash being taken out, all kept me up. I just wanted to go home which took longer than I liked.
At my homebirth, I was my midwife’s only concern.
She watched. She gave space. She directly supported when necessary. This was very peaceful for me though there were moments of concern such as some hemorrhaging post-birth. Even then, it took 3 full days of being at home from the hospital before I felt as rested I did the day after I had my first baby. A free-standing birth center with a smaller staff probably would have better met my needs, and to her credit, our nurse midwife did suggest this option.
The hospital did have some great perks.
It was nice that someone else did the prep and clean up. It was nice that had something gone wrong, we were right there with the advanced technology and the people who knew how to use it. It was great being at a baby friendly hospital where I didn’t have to fight for rooming in. It was nice to have access to the shots, screenings, and immunizations we wanted right then and not to have to go to a second location. Though they had all sorts of amenities in the birthing suite, I never got close to them because the baby came too quickly. Still, I was glad to have had the option to eat during labor and to use items such as birthing chairs.
We roomed in as a family.
Along with the new baby, my husband and older child were able to stay in our private room with me overnight. That was nice because we had worried about having to separate from our older child who has always been with at least one of us. It was also nice that my husband got meals too while we were there.
While I preferred my homebirth, I was relieved to have avoided the struggles I feared with a hospital birth.
Overall, the staff was pleasant, caring, and accommodating. The only thing I had to push for was leaving earlier than 36 hours. It wasn’t like being at home, but if I were someone who was worried about a traditional hospital but didn’t want to birth at home, I’d strongly consider a baby friendly hospital or a free-standing birthing center depending upon what exactly you’re looking for. For someone who loves homebirth though, a baby friendly hospital might be an underwhelming yet palatable option. In retrospect one and nearly 5 years later, I’m glad for exploring my options both times.