When I was pregnant the first time, I didn’t even know women still had babies at home anywhere hospitals existed. It just didn’t occur to me. I’m not sure if knowing other women made that choice would have had any impact on my decision to go to a hospital. Maybe. But probably not.
I followed the rules. I was an inside the box kind of woman. I thought going to a hospital was the safest thing to do. I didn’t spend much time selecting my OB. It didn’t occur to me that I could interview and select for myself, not just get whoever was available. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t automatically an OB patient at my GYN’s office. No one ever expressed it any other way, so I went along.
I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.
I wanted a natural birth in a hospital setting. I wanted to move around. I asked in advance about using the hospital’s “special” squat bar during the pushing phase. I got “ok’s” for almost everything I asked for. I didn’t think what I was asking was too big a deal: no IV, limited fetal monitoring, freedom to move within the room, choice of pushing position, my husband and doula present. But apparently that’s not the standard at the hospital I chose.
So even though most things were “ok” no one was comfortable with my choices. The nurses got angry when I removed the EFM belt to get comfortable. I refused the IV 4 separate times before they decided I needed antibiotics- intravenously. I was offered an epidural at least 4 times. Finally the nurse had had enough and stopped coming into the room.
When I reached transition (and was vomiting into a small bedpan) she poked her head in, saw me vomit- and left my husband holding the plastic pan! (He still talks about this.)
And when I began to push before the doctor arrived, I was admonished. Then, I was criticized for not pushing right, for not pushing to a count, for not trying hard enough. At one point, the nurse said “Do you want to have this baby or not?” as I was not pushing, while waiting for a contraction.
At that moment, I angrily thought “No! If I could choose, I’d stop right now, walk out of here and never come back!”
It wasn’t until later that I realized the staff was unprepared for someone like me. They had procedures and protocols in place to do their daily work and I didn’t fit into the mold of their day. They had little or no experience with childbirth with no Pitocin and no epidural. They didn’t know what to do when I got out of bed and used the toilet, because the other women in labor couldn’t walk around because they didn’t feel their legs!
So I think, looking back, that I frightened them. Maybe I made them wonder why, when I pushed back against their idea of normal. (It probably didn’t help that my baby crowned at 3pm, just at the shift change for nursing staff.) I was different, unusual for this hospital. Even though the hospital tour touted the advances in equipment- like the squat bar, no one actually used this stuff. The doctors didn’t like it, so it was there mainly as part of the sales pitch.
When I look back, I realize that the staff wasn’t able to support me- not because they didn’t want to, because they didn’t know how. These were not evil hospital workers, intent on intervention at every turn. These were people, doing their jobs to standard, the way they were taught. They believed the IV was important, and that’s why they insisted on it. They were not trying to step on my rights as a patient, but they didn’t really understand why I was asserting myself. It was foreign to them.
They probably didn’t know (and maybe still don’t) that you can’t push when it doesn’t feel like pushing. And you can’t not-push during a pushing contraction. It might have been the very first time they saw a woman in labor without drugs. So how could they know what I really needed, when they had never seen this before?
I knew I had to try something new for my next time. I needed to find a care provider who would understand and respect my choices, and I needed to find a care provider that trusted my body as much as I did. That was the beginning of my transition out of hospital birth.