Home births and hospitals aren’t your only option when it comes to giving birth. This article explores why a birthing center might be the best birthplace choice for some.
No day is nobler for a woman than to claim and mark her “birthing territory”. Comfort, peace, and safety are required within the woman’s birthing space to keep this tribal event successful.
All women choose their place of birth for various reasons, but it’s essential to recognize that we all share one primary goal when marking our birthing territory; for our babies to come into this world in perfect health and safety.
Journalist Sebastian Junger says, “Childbirth for women equates to battlefield combat for men on the scale of risk and ultimate self-sacrifice.”
Essentially, he’s saying war and birth go hand in hand. I’d say he’s correct, but I’d expand his observations further.
The present fighting of the war and childbirth is only the first day of a long battle. Once that baby is born, the sacrifice of giving her child over to the world has just begun. Just like the feelings and memories that remain with a military veteran until the day he dies when you become a mother, you experience a lifetime fight of sacrificial reward and disappointment as a parent.
As I paint this agonizing yet revitalizing picture of motherhood, my heart screams for starting this lifelong journey of love and war as accessible and as empowering as possible, which is why I chose to win my first day of battle in a place where my mind, body, and spirit felt most at ease while feeling its strongest. X marks the spot: a birth center.
Author’s note: If you’re a mother reading this or a soon-to-be mother doing her research, you’ll soon find out that the place of birth is another pool of potential controversy and politics. But that’s only if you allow it to be and make it that way. We can have a preference while also having an open mind.
Before I bring you further into my experience here, I want to be clear that no one’s preference is wrong. Depending on their personalities and upbringings, different mothers bring their own needs and desires for risk, safety, naturality, reliance, and autonomy when exploring their birthing options.
There’s not one correct choice for the generalized public, but it’s generally good practice to consider other people’s reasons for their favorite.
What is a birthing center, anyway?
According to Wikipedia, “A birthing center is a healthcare facility, staffed by nurse midwives, midwives and/or obstetricians, for mothers in labor, who may be assisted by doulas and coaches. The midwives monitor the mother’s and baby’s labor and well-being during birth. Doulas can assist the midwives and make the birth easier.”
Some believe that a birthing center is a perfect compromise to receive professional care and a more natural, home-like environment.
One mom’s thoughts on birthing centers
I believe a birth center is a perfect happy medium for women who desire medical safety and mind, body, and spirit connection. Professional care and individual choice. Professional and beautifully natural. Medical guardrails while your body runs the show.
A birth center falls harmoniously in the middle of society’s polarized options. Home birth versus hospital birth. Medical versus unmedicated. Somehow the internet has found its way to politicize and polarize the most critical event of a woman’s life.
An evolutionary event that used to bond every woman together. It appears the opposite philosophy has taken over. So to preserve and demand back unity among pregnant mothers in ancient times, I think a birth center is the start of the way back.
Why? Well, a birthing center can foster authentic connections. Connection with you and your baby, feeling every aspect of the natural birthing process, thus connecting and bonding you and your baby.
Connecting you and your midwives as they treat you with gentleness and defer to your choice. Your body, your choice. And the connection with each other as mothers, being little to no room for judgment for those who pick a hospital or home setting.
Why? Because you’re choosing both at a birth center, which creates this non-judgmental understanding of other mothers’ choices, inviting empathy, unity, and love between women.
Isn’t this what we all long for? Health and safety for our baby, along with a strong connection with one another. We can’t have it all, but I genuinely believe we can.
I always feared the thought of birth because I only heard horror stories as a kid. But remember, we only hear horror stories. We’re humans; we eat up bad news. Growing up, my brain had been flooded with phrases like “Birth can be perilous” and “Lots of people die during birth.”
These tragedies happen occasionally but are far less likely than we think. I grew up thinking that birth was to be feared, not natural and normal.
But when I walked into my first appointment at the birth center, I was blown away by how pleasant, professional, and personable my midwife was. She was a person. Not a robot. She was excited to walk alongside me during my first pregnancy and birth.
She said, “There’s your baby! She’s growing at a perfect rate!” How could I not love her?! She loved her job, her place of work, she loved babies, and she adored her patients. Isn’t this what any new mother wants for care?
How this mom decided on a birthing center
Allow me to walk you through the thought process of my decision: I knew that giving birth in a hospital would stress me out, knowing I’d have to advocate for myself on top of, you know, giving birth to a tiny human.
But, giving birth at home didn’t resonate with what I wanted either, perhaps because the local midwife I called didn’t show the skill of professionalism. Professionality shows business. And baby business offers training, and training predicts a successful birth.
Also, the home birth option didn’t resonate with me; it didn’t feel quite like my nature. And finding something that aligned with who I am was important. I just wanted to leave my house during the most extreme event to return to my quiet, peaceful, and cozy home for recovery. I liked the separation. I needed it. Looking back, I’m glad I stayed in tune with that intuition.
Tips for finding your ideal birthing place
Research and visit your place of birth, tune into your intuition about the sites or midwives you’re touring with and go from there. If you ever feel like something is “off” about a birthplace, hospital, or midwife for homebirth, follow your intuition. Your intuition is always your trustworthy guide.
I believe the most giant telltale sign of how you will be treated the next eight months and during the day your baby is born is determined by your first visit at that eight-week appointment.
Upon leaving a tour, here are some questions you could ask yourself:
- Did I feel comfortable asking questions?
- Did the provider or midwife answer my questions?
- How did they pose themselves when I asked?
- Did they rush or take their time with me?
- Did they seem to love their job or appear stressed?
- How did my body react to the environment?
- Could I see myself giving birth here in 8 months?
- Did I feel like a special patient or a number to the provider or midwife?
Exploring and answering these questions will propel you toward the right place for you and your baby.
Use your intuition to guide your birth place decision
My first appointment (at eight weeks) at the Charleston Birth Place exceeded my expectations. My body relaxed, and a supernatural feeling of peace settled into my heart and toward my growing fetus.
The floor of the birth center looked similar to a typical Doctors office but sprinkled with a feeling of sweet solitude, vibrant light (literally sunlight), and lots of love.
No worker wore an intimidating lab coat, yet the midwives still dressed professionally. Nurses and phlebotomists were in scrubs. There are scales, stethoscopes, stirrups, and ultrasound machines, which you need to track your and your baby’s vitals.
The essentials, but the bare minimum of medical instruments.
Because it’s in its own wing, no sick people are being wheeled by your room: only good news, nothing but good news. The midwives carry equal training to Nurse Practitioners; educated, efficient, reliable, and knowledgeable.
Inside the lobby, before the smiling medical assistant ushers you into a private room, prenatal vitamins, and raspberry leaf tea bags sit on the shelves facing you. Not to mention a sheet of homeopathic remedies, like black licorice and dates, to naturally prepare your uterus for birth as you get closer to your due date.
The following eight months of clinical care were consistent, encouraging, and empowering. They normalized everything and flipped the trending fear-based approach onto its head. Not once did they make me feel like something was wrong, or my baby was in danger. Not once.
Because of this approach, their positive reinforcement about my pregnancy and birth began to eat away at the voice telling me I might die when I gave the world a new life. Not only were they caring for me physically, but they were rewiring my brain in the process, from a fearful brain to a fearless one.
Every mother deserves a victory on the first day of battle.
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Kelly Jett is a freelance writer and a podcaster of the "Diving Deeper Podcast". She is currently writing a non-fiction memoir about her journey out of the childhood and college bubble and into a wide-open world of endless freedom and into a life she didn't particular plan. Kelly is a traveling speaker in the southeast US. But, her main and favorite job is... being a mother to her 8 month old baby girl.