birth choices of the ‘off-the-deep-end’ variety

I’m telling you, one day I woke up and BOOM was in my third trimester with GummyBear. Suddenly it got real. Lots of stuff got real – the idea of parenting two, the physical strains of pregnancy, needing to finish the upstairs remodel – but mostly it became very real to me that I would actually be birthing this baby.

(Because apparently up until then my vision of this delivery involved a stork.)

When pregnant with OBaby I spent every free moment reading birth stories, researching local birth resources, reading natural birthing books, taking Bradley Method classes, and practicing my kegel exercises. This time?

Ha. Hahahaha. Ha. Haha. Ha.

This time I spend every free moment napping.

Aaaaanyway, so turns out I will actually have to give birth to this baby sooner or later (later. Imma go with later.) and if I am any sort of good crunchy natural birthing hippie, by that time I will have envisioned what I want for this birth, carefully created a birth plan, and been practicing my relaxation a management techniques. I haz some homework to do.

The thought first and foremost in my mind when I picture this birth is how wonderful OBaby’s birth was (part one of his birth, part two of his birth). It was absolutely, positively wonderful. How I slowly dilated for weeks before going into active labor, how the midwife on call at the hospital was fabulous with natural birthing techniques, how our doula was a quiet but strong source of support… how everything aligned and our birth experience was exactly what I wanted and hoped for.


{yes, I am laboring on ‘the potty’. no shame in that.}

And then there’s that little voice in the back of my head that says “but Allison, lightening doesn’t strike twice.”

Which is true. If this pregnancy has taught me anything it’s that just because you’ve done it once (and quite recently I might add) does not mean doing it again will be similar. (Me thinks that if I had still been throwing up an average of 1x a week at 28 weeks with OBaby, I would not have been so cavalier about getting pregnant again a year later. His pregnancy was a walk in the proverbial park by comparison. But I digress. And no one wants to hear a preggo whine.)

This birth is a totally different ballgame but I want the same result as last time, and knowing what I know now about my body and birth, I have been researching and thinking of ways to create the right environment for GummyBear’s delivery. Which led me…

to look into…

a birth center.

Right now you are either: 1) super stoked for me 2) worried that I’ve lost my marbles 3) wondering what a birth center is.

1) Cool your jets, friends. While it is awesome sauce that the option is available to us at all, let alone is relatively close to our house (and even closer to an excellent hospital), we haven’t toured it yet and DanO and I still have a lot of talking and research to do before we know if it’s a good fit for us. Lots of questions yet to be answered.

2) I assure you, just because it is not a big hospital with big operating rooms (and big overhead) does not mean that they are understaffed or under-equipped to care for and attend a low-risk birth. Nationally, about 10% of birth center births are transfered to hospitals, which may sound ‘scary’ to you, but when you consider that the national average of hospital births that end in cesarean section is near 30%, I’ll take it. (I’m sorry – that was math. Did I just make any sense? Cuz my hed herts.) However, as mentioned above, DanO and I have lots of questions about delivering somewhere independent of a hospital. How long is the average hospital transfer duration? What equipment do they have and what aren’t they prepared to handle? Who ultimately decides if the patient needs to be transferred and what is her philosophy regarding that decision? We even need to learn about insurance and how that works.

3) Since we are just diving into this area of natural birth, I don’t feel qualified to really explain what a birth center is and does beyond this: they are usually home-like settings where midwives attend births that are typically absent of the kind of intervention you would find in many hospital births. They usually aim to be a middle ground between actually birthing at home (which many people aren’t comfortable with) and birthing in a hospital (which many people also aren’t comfortable with). Here is more information from the American Association of Birth Centers.

Tonight we will be touring a birth center here in our area to get some answers to our questions and really begin to feel it out. I’m so excited to even have the option to consider for this birth – even if it is not what we ultimately decide. I’m mostly looking forward to just learning more (and of course, sharing about it with my friends and readers who are friends I just haven’t met yet)!

32 Responses to “birth choices of the ‘off-the-deep-end’ variety”

  1. Caroline @ The Feminist Housewife

    I hope the tour of the birth center goes well!! I can relate to doing things differently the second time around, even if the first time went pretty well. (We are having a home birth this time) So…I’m hardly the type to think you are crazy. Haha, I mean, I’m the one who wants to eat my own placenta (In pills, mind you!)

    Best of luck with the big decision! I hope for clarity for you guys as you are working through this!

    • AllisonO

      O, I am totally down with the placenta eating (in pill form) buuuuuut that’s a whole ‘nother blog post :).

  2. Liz

    Good luck. As someone who had a totally not-planned for, pretty traumatic and scary first birth I caution you about trying to control it too much because no matter what you decide things are always in the air. That being said, the ending with the baby is the important part anyway and that is and will always be good, no matter how the birth went.

    • Saz

      What is kind of ironic is that out of hospital births believe in less control/management of labor and birth. It’s about trusting your body and giving yourself space to let it happen without too much intervention. The key is having a midwife who knows when the birth has turned a corner from being healthy and low risk to being something that requires an intervention, and at that point a transfer will occur.

  3. Saz

    I can’t wait to hear what you think after the tour. I loved our birth center experience and had a few friends that were transferred from the birth center during labor. The MWs there are very cautious about knowing when they need to transfer and finding a provider who has your same philosophy about when a transfer is necessary is so important if you are having an out of hospital birth. I think your list of questions will be a great starting point for a discussion with the birth center people about if it is the right fit for you. Whatever you decide, you will be great and have the added confidence of knowing you have done it before!

  4. Sara

    As a mom of 4, who had #1 in the tub at a birth center here: http://www.andaluzwaterbirth.com/ and the other 3 at home (1 in the water, 2 on the bed), I certainly don’t think you’re crazy. In fact, your post seems to lean toward the “don’t think I’m crazy for thinking about natural birthing options…” and I find it frustrating that others would judge those mommas for making the right choices FOR them about birthing their babies. You have my support – NO MATTER WHAT you choose – because as moms, we should always be supporting one another. Hope you have fun learning tonight!

  5. Tiffany @ MomNom

    I’m so excited for you too! DO TELL us everything you learn! If I ever (and man, do I mean EVER) decide to do this baby thing again, I’d totally look into birth centers!

  6. Sarah

    I have loved all three of my low intervention, non-medicated hospital births but would totally love finding a birthing center for number four!

  7. Vanessa

    Definitely not off the deep end!
    I had both of my boys at home and while they were both AMAZING they were both so totally different.
    I had no clear birth plan other than I wanted to do it at home and then I wanted to have them however felt comfortable at the time.
    It’s good to have an idea of what you want but not a plan as in “this is how it’s going to go”. But you know all about that. You’ve been there before.
    Noah’s birth story:http://iamstricklyspeaking.blogspot.com/2010/10/three-years-later-birth-story.html
    Jude’s birth story: http://judesjournals.blogspot.com/2009/08/birth-story.html
    Looking forward to hearing about the Birthing Center. :)

  8. Amanda

    I love Dan’s concerned face for you in the picture. And I’m also so excited for you! :) I am curious to hear what you learn, cuz I would love to use a birth center next time around.

  9. brittney

    I hope the tour answers lots of your questions and helps you come to a decision about what is best for you this time around! Can’t wait to hear how it goes. :)

  10. kim

    I SO wanted to do a birth center! But my husband could not get his head around it – at all. So we took the most amazing birth classes at our local birth center, then gave birth at the hospital. My first birth was w/ an epi that had horrible side effects, so we knew that was out of the question. My second labor was AMAZING, as was my third. Allison, the key is preperation and education. You are well versed in both. I’m sure you’ve read Ina May. I found another book, Adventures in Natural Childbirth, to be helpful as well. But you KNOW you can do this. Plus, statistics say #2 is faster. (and boy, was that right on target for me!) Something tells me you are guys are going to do just fine — awesome with a side of awesome sauce!

  11. Sarah-Anne

    i’m looking forward to re-reading this post and seeing what you have to say about it all once you’ve had the tour.
    you go, mama allison!

  12. Kacia @ Coconut Robot

    Hey love!! We actually decided to do a birth center too!! At first, we were thinking that we’d do Midwife [from our birth center] assisted, at the hospital…but after reading more and praying a whole lot more: we’re doing the birth center! with a hospital 5 minutes away – and a conservative team of midwives, we could not be more excited!

    Excited to see what you decide!! xoxo

  13. Kacia @ Coconut Robot

    PS: i would LOVE my little lifey if our babes were born on the same day….or uber close to each other. so go for “a little later” and i’ll try for “just a hair earlier” :o)

    miss yoU!

  14. Jessica

    I had my first son at a birth center in San Diego and I loved, loved, loved my experience! It was, like your first, as perfect as could be. With the second, I had a midwife at a hospital, because there are no birth centers in our area (we’ve moved) and we weren’t yet ready to take the plunge of an at home birth.

    I loved the homey environment, the midwives, and just the–in general–non-hospital like environment. It was natural rather than impersonal or sterile. Not that my recent experience was, but there was definitely a marked difference between the two.

    I hope you find the best option for you and your family!

    (Oh…and those relaxing/pushing techniques from Bradley…don’t forget to practice them again. I kinda took advantage that I already had done this once…wish I had refreshed myself a bit more. )

  15. Hannah

    It’s great you have that option! I’ll be in the hospital with this one, but I really like the idea of a birth center, and there is one nearby here. I’m interested to know what you think of it!

  16. KTG

    I’m a pediatric RN.Ihad my first baby at home and my second in the hospital, both attended by just midwives. I loved both scenarios! (birth center seems to be the best of both those worlds. )

  17. jen

    i so get this …
    i had a scary first birth, a fast second birth and a crazy third birth.
    all wonderful. all natural. all exactly how they should have been.
    i think that’s the key. they were how they were going to be.

    and if you ever want to talk about babies being born … i loved having babies … (yes. that’s totally a crazy thought because it hurts like nobody’s business … but there is a certain strength in that.) i can message you my phone number …

    you can totally do it. again. and making sure that you have the support that you need is the other key. (must be one of those stupid doors with two keyholes. gah.) there were no birth centers in my area when stellers was born and then i ended up with the MOST AMAZING MIDWIFE on the planet … and she births at northmemorial … so i went there. because i wouldn’t have had anyone else help me with my babies. (except for my husband … though he wasn’t essential. she was.)

  18. Mo

    Birthing centres are just starting to take off in my area in Ontario, though many of our hospitals call their maternity wards/wings “birthing centres”, they are still in a hospital. The closest I can get is having a midwife in the hospital or a home birth. My first birthing experience was awful with doctors and nurses that wouldn’t listen to me, and tried to pressure me to get an epidural even though I wanted to go natural, and did, no thanks to them though. Next time around, I will lay my trust in a devoted midwife, in a hospital setting, where I can have access to a nice big tub, and other birthing centre type amenities.
    I can’t wait to hear about the birth centre!

  19. Suzy

    Birth center is awesome! My first two were in the hospital with epidurals, second 2 in a birthing center with awesome nurses. I also loved that I got to go home same day. Some people might think that’s crazy but my hubby and I love being at home with our own stuff and our own BATHROOM!!! lol My inlaws live just down the road so they helped with the other kiddo’s for a few days before everyone came home to be together.

  20. Michelle

    I don’t think you’re crazy or off the deep end at all. I absolutely love how non-judgemental you always are in your posts. You have your opinions and you are never afraid to share them but you don’t think that everyone should necessarily do what you do. I had a WONDERFUL birth experience in a hospital, with an epidural, with an incredibly supportive doctor and nursing staff and for me, that was wonderful and i loved giving birth to my son. But while i wouldn’t choose to have my baby in a birthing center, I think everyone should have the right to do what is best for them without being judged. So I hope you enjoy your tour and that together with your husband, you can make the decision that is right for you, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

  21. Terri

    Birth centers are a wonderful option for expectant parents. We had our first baby in May 2009 in a hospital, and we are planning a homebirth for our second baby (due this August). We had wonderful birth in the hospital, but I really disliked physically being in the hospital. I wanted to be discharged ASAP to get back to the comfort of my own home (total time in hospital, including delivery, was 12 hours). The beauty of having options of home, hospital, or birth center is that each family can do what feels most comfortable for them. Labor is proven to progress more quickly and with less interventions when the laboring mother feels at ease! Enjoy your tour and good luck!

    • Terri

      P.S. If you ever decide to go the home birth route, our midwives are in St. Paul, and they are fabulous! I’d be happy to give you their info.

  22. Elaine

    I’m sure you’ll make the decision that you feel is right for all of you. Hope the tour goes well and that it’s an easier decision than you may think. :)

  23. The Whimsical Sweet

    I am loving your blogs!! Just found you on twitter, so glad I did! Go for it at the birth center! I wish there was one in our area. Has to be second best to a homebirth, but if you’re not 100% on board for a hb, definitely go for a birth center :) Good luck in your quest, I look forward to reading future posts!

    You can check out my blog http://thewhimsicalsweet.com

    Would love to see what you think! Thanks!

  24. Kristina

    Hi! Funny, I was just now watching “The Business of Being Born.” I didn’t finish it as I was going to go to bed, but then the computer waylaid me! Ha! Isn’t it crazy how fast the second pregnancy goes compared to the first? :)

  25. LeAnna

    I had my second with a midwife in a birthing center (within a hospital, kind of a neat program) – even though I ended up being induced, and getting an epidural 20 minutes before giving birth (wasn’t expecting her to come THAT fast!) it was still the BEST experience ever. Ever. Ever. Ever.

  26. Denese

    I came across your site on imom and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that you call your baby “Gummybear”. When I was pregnant with my little one, I called him Gummy, and everyone thought I was crazy. So I was pleased to see this.


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