Within the last 2 weeks I have seen 3 posts on the local Helena facebook classifieds asking for the opinions and experiences of others regarding the Labor and Delivery unit at St. Peter's Hospital. As one can imagine, the news feeds filled up fast and furiously. Several commented that they loved their experience here. Others were adamant that they would never set foot in the place again because it was such an awful experience. They recommended going to another city in which they had an amazing experience. (I however, have witnessed a traumatic birth in one of those recommended hospitals). It would be interesting to chat with the original posters, asking them if the feedback they got was helpful or if it made them more confused and anxious as ever. I suspect the latter.
So what constitutes the perfect place to give birth? The answer is multifaceted. But first I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a perfect place. Here are my thoughts on the matter:
Personality - I don't care how skilled a person is, if your personalities don't click, your experience with them will be less than ideal. I needed major surgery many years ago. I loved my surgeon and had a great experience with her. However, I had 2 people tell me how awful she was. When I considered their personalities in relation to the surgeons, I could see it was very definitely about their personalities and not because the surgeon was terrible. My mother-in-law was an OR nurse who worked many hours with her and had nothing but good things to say about her. So its very important to choose a provider whose personality works with yours. Its a little harder to choose the nurse you get when you're admitted to the OB unit. However, if it is not going well, you can ALWAYS talk to the charge nurse to ask for a different nurse to be assigned to you. Usually they will accommodate you. Another thing to remember is to frame your birth plan in a friendly manner rather than an antagonistic way. It just goes over better with everyone and they are more likely to be respectful of it. If you need help writing a birth plan, I am more than happy to assist you.
Circumstances - The only thing about birth that is predictable is that it is unpredictable. You can have the best birth plan in the world but there are so many things that can change during the birth process that require modifications to your birth plan. If you are firmly attached to it, you will likely be disappointed. A birth plan really is to help you know what your options are and to start a dialog with your caregivers. Complications may arise mid journey. Those complications may be yours. I recommend taking my Childbirth Preparation Class to learn how to make informed decisions in these kind of scenarios. The complications may be down the hall with another woman who needs more attention than you right now. This may cause you to feel abandoned like the nurses don't care about you. It may be that someone else has more urgent needs than you at the moment. I highly recommend having a doula with you for your labor. That way, you will always have someone attending to you because you are the doula's only client and will be with you for the duration of your labor. A doula helps you be more comfortable and can help you to understand the process of birth and the medical terminology and possible interventions that goes with it.
Expectations - Some people just have unrealistic expectations. And are completely traumatized when their expectations are not met. Consider this when someone tells you about the awful experience they had. I highly recommend taking a tour of the maternity unit and ask lots of questions. That way you have some idea of what to expect. Also remember that we all experience things in different ways. What may seem traumatizing to one person is nothing at all to the next person.
Interview several providers until you find one that you are comfortable with and feel safe with.
Take a hospital tour. Talk to Amanda Osborne, Helena's only home birth midwife at Helena Birth Studio.
Educate yourself as to what expectations are reasonable.
Explore your own comfort levels and decide for you what the safest place to birth your precious baby is. It may not be the same as someone elses'.
Hire a doula.