The birth of my first son in 2013 didn’t go exactly as planned. Even as a Type A scheduler, I felt pretty good about not being so consumed by the details and only had big picture “musts” in terms of childbirth. I wanted a non-medicated, hospital birth with my doctor. What I had was a pitocin-induced (thanks to my water breaking with zero contractions) drug and later epidural-filled labor, and two hours of pushing with a (not my) doctor who literally kept looking at her watch and reminding me that a C-section would be likely if I didn’t push the baby out soon. In terms of birth trauma, mine was low, but I knew if I ever had another child I would do things differently.
Fast forward to 2015 when I was pregnant with our second child – yay! Since I was fairly new to the Tampa Bay Area, I began to research my childbirth options. Again, I knew that I really wanted a non-medicated labor and birth process this time around, as well as a midwife who I thought would be more respectful of my needs, so I focused my search on midwives covered by my insurance (a must!) in Central Pinellas. One of the first places that came up was Breath of Life Women’s Health and Birth Center in Largo.
Breath of Life provides safe care (with certified nurse-midwives) in a home-like setting (the birth suites are very comfortable and private) and is the only nationally accredited birth center in the area. I met with the three midwives and their staff throughout my pregnancy and felt totally comfortable with any of them delivering my baby. I loved that they listened to my many questions and fears regarding the natural birth process.
My biggest fear for birth was the pain and the duration of the pain. Would I be able to handle the intensity of the contractions and pushing without medication? What really helped me was knowing I wouldn’t be able to get an epidural, no matter how much I demanded it, because it was not available on site. In my head, if it wasn’t an option, then I could mentally toughen up and ride out the process using relaxation techniques. For pain relief, they have nitrous oxide (laughing gas), but that’s it. They also have large birthing tubs in each suite, which I was told would relax me during labor. I didn’t entirely believe that was true, but I thought I’d give it a go (it definitely helped me.)
My second biggest fear, once I finally decided to go with a birth center birth, was what would happen if a complication occurred. Now that I knew how supportive they were of me, I was terrified I would have to birth my baby at a hospital where my wishes could be ignored. Birth centers in Florida are governed by state statute (law) as to who gets to give birth at them. For example, women with high-risk pregnancies who are likely to have complications are not allowed to deliver at a birth center. This includes, but is not limited to, women who have had a previous C-section, pregnancy with multiples, and pre-eclampsia in the current pregnancy. None of these applied to me, but I remained concerned that my baby would be born early (before 37 weeks), necessitating a hospital birth; births at a birth center must fall within the 37-42 week gestational window. My son was born at 38 weeks, 3 days, so that was an unnecessary fear.
I am so happy I decided to birth my second son at a birth center, specifically at Breath of Life. I was able to labor comfortably at home, deliver him at the center, and return home that same day without any issues (other than the fact I just birthed a child). I still feel like a champion, and I hope other mothers have the opportunity to do childbirth their way and have their own wishes respected by their birthing team.