I had the privilege (and pain!) of experiencing three births of three beautiful babies and in three different ways. I didn’t choose to experience all differently just for the sake of it (duh). One just sort of happened, and the others were choices brought about by the journey itself. But, since I have not two birth experiences that are the same, I can compare and contrast them.
My first was a premature, Cesarean birth. The second was a VBAC water birth, and the third is a VBAC hospital dry birth.
I’ll start with my first born.
I didn’t really feel I had a choice here. Though we planned to have a normal delivery because it was such an easy and uneventful pregnancy (no morning sickness or heartburn), the turn of events was so fast that whatever plans we had were quickly thrown out the window. All we cared about was to have our baby out safely and to thrive out of the womb, as he was only 1.8 kilos when born.
My amniotic sac leaked prematurely at 29 weeks. Though that was my first pregnancy, I knew how dangerous that was. I was hospitalized right away and was put on bedrest. But by day five, my amniotic fluid level had gone so low, I had to deliver my baby. They pumped steroids into his underdeveloped lungs and got me ready for the CS operation.
In the operating room, I remember I was asked to bend my knees in front of me and they inserted a huge needle on my back. Then, soon after, I felt numb from the waist down. They covered the lower part of my body and in minutes, I felt a tugging and soon after, a strong little cry as they pulled my very small baby. I don’t remember any pain and the whole operating room staff was professional and supportive. I do remember very vividly what came after. They shot me up with Morphine and left me in the recovery room for what seemed like hours. I kept on asking how my baby was and nobody could give me an answer so I fought the Morphine. I wanted to be awake for the answers that nobody seemed to be able to give me. Morphine with anxiety is terrible together. After they wheeled me to the hospital room, I slept for a few hours and I woke up feeling no pain, just tired and still very worried. So I sat up—too abruptly—and I felt a shot of extreme pain from the cut on my lower abdomen then suddenly, all the blood drained from my head. I went white and I bled. But I insisted on going to the NICU to see my baby. I don’t know how I was allowed to, but I was basically dripping blood in a wheelchair as I was wheeled towards my baby. The hospital was Cardinal Santos Medical Center, a private hospital in the Philippines which was relatively expensive. I received great care from the doctors and nurses, had a fairly graceful CS operation and I felt like they were taking care of my baby well. Though he was eventually transferred to a different, more specialized NICU hospital, I could remember my CS procedure and hospital stay to be good…except during the last day. That was a Sunday and I was supposed to be discharged already. But banks were closed and we didn’t have a credit card then. I requested if we could issue a check for the balance which would clear the next day. An accounting personnel went up to us and threatened to pull our baby’s breathing support if we don’t produce the money that very day. Needless to say, as soon as we’ve paid this hospital, we never went back again. Private hospitals may offer great care, but for some, it’s all about the revenue. Patients come second. It was sad because my OB-Gyne and anesthesiologist were really amazing and even allowed us to pay in installment, understanding that a premature birth meant an extended stay in the NICU, which was very, very expensive. So, while that ugly incident with the bill collections tainted our view of the hospital, I will never forget our doctors who took very good care of us.
Pros of a hospital, CS birth:
- Professional medical care
- A lot of staff to assist you and baby in every stage of birth
- CS healing is faster because the wound is on the belly, which is a dry area of the body and as long as you keep it clean, it can heal fast. I remember moving about by my second week, though I wouldn’t recommend this. My situation was different as I had to pump milk round the clock every two hours and deliver milk to the NICU twice a day. I felt like my body was rushed into healing as my premature baby needed me. If you just had CS operation and your baby is healthy, walk as needed but rest as much and as often as you can.
- CS birth is relatively painless while it’s happening because of the anesthesia. It’s the after that’s the “con”.
- Expensive medical care. Everything, even the cotton balls or bandage, were expensive. The cost is really burdensome for any family.
- This particular private hospital was all about the money.
- The pain of the CS cut, after the anesthesia wears off. Oh, man! The cut is deep and every movement, especially requiring any bit of force or even laughter, hurt.
- Ugly scar after. Urgh!
VBAC, WATER BIRTH, BIRTHING HOME
After experiencing an almost traumatic pregnancy with my first, I was terrified when I was pregnant with my second. What if our baby would be born prematurely again? So I sought a well-rounded, compassionate care (that includes a non-exorbitant fee for the family) that aimed to care for me physically but emotionally as well. I found that in this VBAC, water birth in a birthing home. What really pushed me to go for a birthing home was the perinatologist whom I sought as soon as I found out I was pregnant again. A perinatologist is an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies. This doctor armed me with three sheets of possible risks, do’s and don’ts and warnings in our first check-up. She would poke me, was invasive in almost all her check-ups and always had a doom and gloom set of diagnosis and warnings for me. This doctor worsened my feelings of fear so much that I dreaded my pregnancy. I felt like I was going to lose my baby anytime. Finally, I got tired of being afraid. I felt peace beckoning me-like a soft invitation to rest. I knew God was the one who gave me my baby. I knew He will care for her. His will is where I rested my head. So I sought medical care that matched that, that would support me and overall well-being so that I can better care for my baby inside. I found that in Shiphrah Birthing Home.
I had my midwife, Ate Lornie whose prenatal and birthing care were very maternal. She is like a mom–warm, perceptive, strong and very patient. She took care of checking me physically every time I came for my check-up, and she answered every worry I had. I’ll never forget what Shiphrah told me in response to my fears, “Every pregnancy is different, every birth is different. God gave you your baby. Don’t worry.”
Before my actual birth, I had a false alarm one day before which required my birthing team, comprised of my midwife and birth photographer who also assisted in the birth, to receive me twice including the day of my birth. There were no extra charges nor were there any complaints. Just assurance that the birth will naturally progress so just rest as much as I can. Then, when actual birth time came, they were like two gentle but strong forces that helped anchor me as I rode the waves of labor. In the birthing home, I was free to move around, walk, eat and listen to my body to take on position it wanted in order to help progress the baby’s move downward. I was so impressed with Ate Lornie when the time came for me to push. Even before I knew it, she took one look at me and asked me to get into the pool so I can give birth there. The pool helped ease my back pain though I pushed for what seemed like an eternity (a whole hour!). I didn’t feel the pain of crowning, thanks to the water. But still, I tore. And this is where I feel that I should have gotten additional care. I had a second-degree tear and I needed medical care. Post-delivery stitching is a medical procedure that, I believe, requires an OB-Gyne since that is their specialty. In Shiphrah, I was stitched up, but not given much instructions on what to do and what not to do so I ended up popping a stitch because of all the movements I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to do. I had to come back for a restitch (huhu!) and it was awful. Thankfully, I didn’t have an infection though by the fourth week that my stitches weren’t healing, I had consulted a different OB-Gyn already and was cleaned and treated well. While I loved the birthing home’s atmosphere and support, I wished I had consulted medical care in tandem especially since I had a wound that needed to be treated.
- Wholistic, compassionate, empowering care that manages the natural progression of pregnancy–from the physical to the emotional aspects of it.
- Freedom to walk around and birth as you feel your body should. I walked around, sat on pregnancy ball, ate and drank as much as I wanted, and gave birth while on my knees, because that was what felt right.
- Inexpensive. The birthing home that I used in the Philippines offers free prenatal care and my water birth cost PhP 5,000 ($100)!
- The birthing home that I gave birth at wasn’t air-conditioned so if you’re giving birth in the summer, it’s not very comfortable. Not all birthing homes are like this, however, especially in the US. Most offer the warm, cozy, comfortable feeling of home, complete with all the comfort and conveniences, which is a definite pro for anyone who might want a home birth versus a hospital birth.
- In this particular birthing home that I gave birth at, as I mentioned, the after-care for mothers who experienced tearing needs to be improved. I had given birth here three years ago, so a lot may have changed already since then. There is an amazing team behind this birthing home which is why I trusted them and I’m confident they would listen to and address such concerns. If you are going for a birthing home, ask about their post-natal care and their protocols for treatment. Some actually partner with an OB-Gyn too for such cases. After all, that is well within the OB-Gyn’s specialty.
My third birth was a VBAC, all-natural birth in a hospital. I gave birth in a well-recognized, non-profit hospital in the US and was very impressed with the care and support I received. I had a doula with me, who was such an invaluable source of support and loving care that I feel grateful to have her my life even after birth. What I loved about a hospital birth is, how professional the entire procedure is conducted. Though this may seem “cold” and “impersonal” to some, I personally don’t mind how everything is “like clockwork”, SO LONG as my needs as a birthing mom is respected. Early on, I was upfront with my nurse that I want an all-natural birth, that I would like to move around as much as I can and I want very minimal IEs. They complied with my request, putting a cordless monitor on my belly and letting me labor as I please, checking periodically only and giving me an IE only when I asked for one. My nurse was a good listener and respectful, firm but gentle. She and my doula together made for a good team to support me, together with my husband. I started labor at 12 midnight, started pushing at 6am and baby was out within two pushes. I tore again and was stitched right away while I held and breastfed my baby.
I appreciate that after birth, all my and baby’s personal effects were all ready for us–post-partum pads, sprays and diapers for my baby. I was a bit surprised though that post-delivery, there wasn’t much support in baby caregiving. After birth, my baby was in my arms or in the bassinet and I was pretty much expected to change and attend to her 24/7 right away while I’m in post-delivery pain. I guess they wanted to ease us in baby caregiving right away.
After birth, I just followed doctor’s instructions on how to care for my wound and within days, I could feel myself healing. By my sixth week check-up, I was pretty much healed and good to go.
- Very professional, experienced care.
- Giving birth in the same comfortable hospital room that I labored in. No cumbersome transfer to a separate delivery room.
- Access to labor progress and baby monitors. Though I know that may be distracting to some mothers, I personally didn’t mind that. I appreciated knowing the peaks and valleys of labor so I can anticipate and manage pain, and also knowing how baby is doing.
- Post-delivery stitching was done well and I healed fast.
- Couldn’t think of any. I think I may have found the balance that I have sought for in terms of prenatal and birthing care. I want it respectful, caring, compassionate and professional both to me and my baby. This hospital, which showed me all that, proved to me that all can be achieved in one place.