Due to a variety of very odd geopolitical realities and bureaucratic idiocies I chose to have my baby delivered by an obstetrician in a hospital. I knew going into it that my choice of birth setting and birth attendant meant that my chances of having a natural birth were significantly lowered. But I was committed to ensuring that in the absence of any significant medical problems that I would be able to deliver my baby naturally.
For me that meant reading a lot of the right books and developing a strong birth plan. It also meant having a doula to support me and ensure that my needs were met during the birth and that I was as comfortable as possible at all stages. In the later stages of my pregnancy, I prepared my birth plan and reviewed it at the hospital with the obstetrician to ensure that all of my wishes would be respected within the framework of their model of care. In the end, I had a quick, uneventful, dare I say easy, natural birth and was able to start breastfeeding within a minute or so of delivering. The hospital was respectful of my needs and my doula ensured I had the support and assistance I needed.
In the past few days, I've seen Sara (lil_gruntlings) of Custom-Made Milk tweeting a lot about the need to ensure that your hospital is truly supportive of natural birth (if that is your preference). She ended up changing hospitals at the last minute when she discovered that she was not going to get the support she wanted for her choices. I thought that was a really great point and when I saw a great new article up on Mothering called 10 Maternity Center Questions, it seemed like a perfect complement to that conversation and her recommendation.
The 10 questions the Mothering article recommends you ask are:
- Are there any restrictions on who is allowed in the room?
- Can I eat and drink during labor?
- Can I walk and move around during labor?
- What are the rooms like?
- Will I have to change rooms during my stay?
- Are there rules about what I can wear and what I can bring?
- Do I have to deliver lying flat on my back?
- Can I nurse my baby immediately?
- Can my partner stay with me after the baby is born? What accommodations are available?
- How does the hospital support breastfeeding?
The 10 Maternity Center Questions article has more details on the importance of each of those questions and why you might want to ask them. I'd encourage you to check it out!
In the event that you cannot have the perfect birth environment or that something goes differently than planned, you should also consider what you are willing to compromise on and what you would dig your heels in about. The hospital staff is there to work with you and if you are confrontational the first time there is a disagreement about something, it could set the tone for a difficult birth. But if you are willing to bend on something that is not that big of a deal, then they might be more accommodating of other wishes too. For example, I wanted to wear my own clothes and the obstetrician had said I would be able to. In the end, the nurse insisted that I wear the hospital gown. It wasn't what I wanted, but it wasn't a big deal either. However, when the nurse suggested that I might want to get up on the bed and put my feet in the stirrups when I really didn't want to do that, I put my foot down and said that I wanted to continue labouring standing up at that point in time.
Did you have a natural birth in a hospital setting? What did you do to ensure your wishes were respected? How did you prepare? Did you run into any obstacles?