CNM Birth Center Tour

I toured the nurse midwifery birth center today. Before I became pregnant, I was SURE I would birth here. It’s a brand new hospital-owned facility right next to the brand new hospital with nurse midwives and tubs and big beds, oh my! And I wish I was still in love with it because I know that no one would fight me about its safety (literally spitting distance from the hospital). But sadly, I am not.  It began with the extreme hassle in scheduling a tour and went downhill from there. They ONLY allow group tours and they “didn’t have any available tours” until today. Seriously. The last two things I want my birth venue to be are 1) bureaucratic and 2) busy.

So today I found myself in a room with 10 other pregnant women and their families watching a video from 1984 about the benefits of midwifery and birth centers. As if watching the permed and mustached families with bad teeth enjoying labor was supposed to instill confidence in the safety of birth. Yikes. I noticed that while the main narrator was female, all commentary about safety and health was narrated by a male OB.  Feminist Legal Theory has forever ruined educational videos for me. Because now I realize that “authority” in these videos is almost exclusively male (seriously–pay attention some time).  Thus it was that these hairy male 80s OBs with oversized specs assured us of the safety of most births in a clunky, poorly scripted fashion.

I was already annoyed that I had to tour the center with a group, but being forced to watch the promotional video was more than I could stand. I mean, I’m HERE. I’m SOLD.   Half way through it, my husband and I started making snarky MST3K-like commentary, just loud enough to annoy the couple next to us. I could go on about the video’s faults but here’s the biggest one: There are SO MANY wonderful things about birth center births. And this video highlighted like…none of them.  It’s main emphasis was that “birth center births are a family-oriented experience.” Which, to me, is the least appealing aspect. I don’t want the fam showing up while I’m squatting in a birth tub. Thanks, but no thanks. It’s other emphasis was (imagine a deep voice here, because only men can assure us of safety) “Don’t worry–It’s Safe!”

What about the low C-section rate? The hugely high rates of maternal satisfaction? The fact that you’re able to move and EAT during labor? The fact that the mother gets to direct the pace and tone of the labor? The fact that the baby is placed directly at your breast? The fact that you can labor and in whatever position is comfortable for you? Decreased chance of infection for mother and baby? Shorter recovery times for moms? A wealth of anecdotal evidence that babies are calmer? Sigh.

So after the tediously long, repetitious, entirely unhelpful video, we toured the center. Finally. The center is only a year old, so it’s nice and fresh. Great artwork, paint, furniture. Clean without being hospital-sterile. It’s a really nice facility. All except the tubs.  The tubs are deep, yes, but narrow. I tried to imagine how on Earth I would fit in the tub at 9.5 months pregnant. I cannot fathom why they built a center focused on water birth and FAILED TO BUY ADEQUATE TUBS! It’s truly stupid. They’re not awful. But they’re not great, either.

I want to like it. I really do, but I keep getting a weird vibe. My husband got it too.  Their C-Section rate is higher than I’d like (9%), they refuse to allow births after 41 weeks (Which seems waaaay over-cautious if there are no other factors of fetal or maternal distress. And makes me worry because no child in my family has ever been on time–so by choosing this birth center I might as well be choosing the hospital), you don’t get to pick your midwife, the tubs are inadequate, they seem to have a bit too much control over whether you will be shipped to the hospital, and they weren’t as straightforward with some of the women’s questions as I would have liked. Furthermore, it’s so dang busy. All 25 of us were stomping around the birth center like a herd of elephants while a family was in recovery in one of the birth rooms. I would be seriously peeved if I were them, but that’s the nature of this practice. Busy, busy, busy.

On the other hand, it’s close to the hospital if I need it. It’s a nice facility. The tubs are…there.  And no one will tell me I’m stupid or cavalier for birthing there. But when I think about where I would like to birth (rather than where I’m supposed to if I want to avoid judgment), my thoughts keep returning to the extremely hippie birth center down the road from my house.  The one with saris decorating the ceiling, an ENORMOUS tub, and a musty Oregon smell. Where appointments are an hour long instead of 15 minutes long. Where I can choose my midwife.

I’m still undecided.  Why doesn’t the perfect venue exist?




5 thoughts on “CNM Birth Center Tour

  1. Have you toured the other one? Maybe you’ll get a good gut feeling about that one? It doesn’t matter that it’s hippy and oregonian if it feels right. We’re starting with the more extreme birth center, and then if that doesn’t feel right, checking out the midwives at the hospital.

    • XTREME BIRTH CENTER! Do they have kayaking there?

      Just kidding, what do you mean by extreme? Like extreme Earthy hippie? Because that’s the other birth center near my house. We did tour it and I did get a good …vibe…for lack of a better word. Let’s just say it had a nice aura 🙂

      I seriously think it might be the best for me, but I am kinda worried about family back lash for not using a nurse midwife/delivering far (15 mins) from a hospital. Even though I know I really shouldn’t care. The midwives at the hippie center aren’t nurses but they’re educated, experienced, licensed in the state, and seemed really capable.

      We really grilled them about birth catastrophes and they were more straightforward than the nurse midwives, which I appreciated. And they seemed to deal with birth emergencies in the same way. So I’m not sure that one is ACTUALLY safer than the other. Just a perception thing.

  2. Haha, maybe extreme was the wrong word! But definitely closer to the place near you than the one you just toured. They are nurse midwives though, and have admitting priviledges to the hospital if need be, to stay with you and be your primary care, so that’s awesome. But it’s a little hippy, from the photos online the rooms don’t look anything like hospital rooms. I’ll get a better feel when we tour.
    What kind of questions about emergencies did you ask about birth catastrophes? That’s in the back of my mind…
    I think you should go with your gut. You definitely seem to know your stuff on birth issues- and have time to do more research – to stand up for your choices.

    • My SIL is an OB and her major concern is postpartum hemorrhaging. Both the CNMs and the Certified/Licensed DEMs (hippies) have their various ways of dealing with it. What I liked about the hippies is that if the bleeding is minor-intermediate, they can start with simple, natural techniques like initiating uterine contractions through breastfeeding or nipple stimulation. Then there’s also direct compression, herbal tinctures, and drugs if necessary (Oregon licensed DEMs are allowed to provide IVs, stitches, and some drugs. Their birth-attending abilities are nearly identical to the CNMs but without the nursing degree). Finally, if need be, they can transfer you to the hospital.

      Also, both the nearby hospitals have on-call docs to serve the home/birth center community. Last year there were about 75 planned homebirths in my city, so I guess they like to be prepared.

      And I’ve noticed that most birth centers look like bedrooms. They really go for that home-y feel.

  3. If the birth center is affiliated with the hospital and staffed with CNMs, it will have to adhere to physican’s protocols ultimately, even if they are carried out by nurse-midwives. These kinds of birth centers are often created to appeal to women wanting something other than the same old same old, but they often just get a slightly watered down version of it.

    I understand the dilemma. I’ve worked in many different kinds of centers. Ultimately your best experience will come from following your gut. Birth is, after all, the most instinctual thing you will ever do. I would explore all your options. Check out the hippy center. You never know where your instincts will lead you!

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