New options are opening up to pregnant women who want the best of both worlds: a natural, home-like delivery in the safety of a hospital. In her pregnancy, Krista Afumbom was searching for this unique combination, a water birth with a nurse midwife within a hospital setting.
“I wanted a natural, drug-free delivery, and I wanted to find someone who would support my decision,” she says.
She is a pediatric nurse herself, and she studied pregnancy information, spoke with other mothers about their birth experiences and interviewed obstetricians and midwives to decide where she would have her baby. At first, she considered a home birth because she craved a warm, comforting atmosphere. But, in the case of an emergency, she wanted a hospital’s resources to be close at hand.
It was a challenge. “There aren’t a lot of hospitals where there are midwives who do water births,” Afumbom says. “When I met with them, I told them, ‘I want to have a home birth in a hospital. Can you make that happen?’
Cleveland Clinic’s Lakewood Hospital was a good fit. It had the staff, facilities, and supportive environment she needed – and all a block and a half away from her home.
If you want to have your child in a home-like environment within a hospital, here are some tips for your search:
State your preferences to hospital staff. Be sure people involved with your labor and delivery understand your wishes. Choose a place where you feel they support your plan. No one tried to talk Afumbom out of her natural delivery plan or push medical intervention, even when she was told that her baby was going to be large. “There was never a talk about a C-section or anything but me pushing this baby out,” she says.
Tour facilities. Find out if facilities can support your plan. If you want to have a water birth, find out if they have birthing tubs. Ask for a tour. When Afumbom toured Lakewood Hospital, she saw the suites with birthing tubs, and she was especially interested in the midwifery program. “It was a setup I felt could be home-like. The place just has a warm feeling,” she says.
If you want to work with a midwife, get to know her. First ask if the hospital has a midwifery program. Then, meet with the midwives and find out what to expect. Getting to know them also helps build a feeling of trust. “The midwives themselves are stupendous,” Afumbom says. “They get to know what you, as an individual, are comfortable with. And when I have appointments with my midwives, it’s like visiting friends.”
Ask if the hospital supports “kangaroo care”. This encourages mothers and babies to stay together throughout their time in the hospital. “I gravitate toward the natural,” says Aufumbom. “What I chose was a good fit for me.”
For Afumbom, the birth of her first child happened just as she planned: Her daughter was born naturally, her first cry was healthy and robust, and she weighed 8 pounds, 10 ounces. A big advantage of giving birth in a hospital, however, is that if an emergency situation develops, a team of medical professionals is available.
“We like to tell our patients, ‘You’ll never lose your midwife, but you might gain a surgeon,’” says Cleveland Clinic certified nurse-midwife Joy Sedlock.
Afumbom loved her relationship with the midwives, but also found the hospital’s nursing staff and lactation consultants helpful. She and her husband also appreciated the natural childbirth classes offered. She was happy with her first labor and delivery experience and is now expecting her second. She advises expectant mothers to explore all the options to find what makes the most sense for them.