Last night, after leaving our firstborn in the hands of a brilliant democratic campaign planner, Nate and I went to the hospital, where we were given a tour of the birthing facilities by the World's Most Exhausted Nurse (bloodshot eyes, stumbling through the halls). We made stops at the registration desk, emergency room, triage, labor and delivery rooms (L&D), and alternative birthing center (ABC).
Overall, the 30 minutes spent walking through the hospital corridors just reinforced my dream of having a homebirth. This dream will not be realized, however, because, in this country, such an option is only available to those with sufficient funds. Here in Chicago, the best known homebirth organization, Homefirst, accepts very few insurance plans. I called and requested that they send me a summary of costs if one wanted to pay out-of-pocket. They kindly and quickly complied. I received a 3 page list of figures, and stopped adding them up when I reached $6000. So I don't actually know how much it would cost, total. But it's a lot. Too much.
I also called The Farm to ask how much they charged. They used to invite women to come there to deliver for free, but with rising hospital costs, they've had to start charging $3000, to offset those rare instances when they do have to take a woman to the hospital.
Maybe because it was so much less than Homefirst, I thought $3000 sounded like a very manageable amount of money. I started scheming about how I could raise the money to have my Farm birth. I could get a job at Joann Fabric, now hiring! Or! I could solicit my church community to hire me to do odd jobs! I could charge $10/hour, and I would only have to find 300 hours of work, cleaning a house here, babysitting some rugrats there. And I was pretty much counting on people having pity on me, the round-bellied girl cooking their family dinner, and being moved to give donations above and beyond my hourly rate. Yes! I could raise this money! I was all set to send out a message on the Wellington listserv, drafting my plea in my head.
Then I cooked an unusually ambitious dinner while my mom was visiting. Salmon, rice pilaf, carrots, and Brussels sprouts. It took maybe an hour. By the time I was done (even with Nate doing half of the work), my feet and my back were aching something fierce, and I was rethinking my plan for working my way toward a homebirth.
So, it's the hospital for me! What is so wrong with the hospital? I don't know... it's just so.... institutional, huge, unfriendly, wirey, machine-filled, and hospitally. I wasn't surprised by much last night, but here were the most disappointing discoveries:
- No eating allowed for the mother, even in the ABC. This is one of the dumbest, most frustrating hospital policies, based on the minute chance that you end up having a c-section under general anesthesia, then end up vomiting and aspirating. Even the nurse who gave our tour admitted that the risk of this happening is very low, and she even added that the evidence behind the practice is "not very scientific." Still, they enforce this starvation policy for every laboring woman, even those having normal births in the birthing center.
-The "home-like" ABC rooms? Pretty much exactly like the L&D rooms, just with a few colorful pictures thrown on the wall. Oh, and a queen size bed instead of a twin. Still, a lot of machines and wires everywhere, cold hard floors, and the chaos of the hospital just beyond a thin door. Not quite as relaxing as home, in my opinion. Also, a bit disappointed by the lack of a pool or large tub. There is a tub, but it looked smaller than the one in our apartment. I'm not sure if I could fit in there now, let alone when I am huge with child.
-There seemed to be a million reasons why they might need to transfer you from the birthing center to a labor and delivery room. Laboring too long? L&D! Any hint of meconium in your fluid? L&D! Not walking around enough while in labor? L&D! Whining too much? L&D! I asked the nurse if she could give me a ballpark estimate of how many women who start their labor in the ABC end up delivering in L&D. After waffling for a few seconds about how it is on an individual basis, and she couldn't really say, and it's different for everyone, she finally spit out the figure 50/50. My heart sank.
On the drive home I felt defeated. This alternative birthing center business is the best option I have, unless we go the unassisted route, which, let's face it, is just for crazy people. I may be a hippie when it comes to birthing philosophies, but I'm no crazy hippie. Still, I struggle to see the ABC as a good option, when, to me, it could clearly be so much better.
I know I have to get over this. I have to do some mental weight lifting so that I can be strong and push through this disappointment. I know the scars from my last experience may be casting an unnecessarily harsh light upon another birth in the hospital. Also, I have reason to believe that my caregiver this time will be more compassionate and reasonable than my last doctor. And not everything about the tour was gloomy. The nurse did explicitly say that I could labor and push in any position I wanted to, as long as I was in the ABC. That's a good sign, I guess. In the end, it will be up to me to stay positive, hopeful, and confident throughout my pregnancy and my labor. It's important to keep the 'reward' in mind.
Because, while I certainly don't want to minimize the importance of the labor experience, and while I think our medical system does a bang up job of fucking with the beautiful and holy affair that birth should be, in the end, I just want another forehead to rub.
Last night before we put Simon to bed, the three of us crawled into our big bed. Simon by the wall, Nate in the middle reading Beautiful Bananas, and me on the edge. I lay on my side, left arm resting on Nate's chest, right arm stretched out past him, reaching to Simon. He let me rub his forehead and play with his hair the whole time we read. This is all I want. Another forehead to rub. Another miniature hand to hold as we cross the street. Another little person to know and behold in the most intimate ways. In that moment, as I touched his soft skin and golden hair, I knew that to have him in my life, I would go through my hellish labor, and worse, a hundred times. When this baby comes, I know I'll feel the same, regardless of what happens in the hospital.