I've been looking at birth centers. I plan to deliver this baby at a free-standing birth center, and have been looking at my options so that I will have a little time to make my choice. If we do end up in Juneau (which is possible, although not as likely) then there is only one there, but if we do get up to Anchorage as we've planned, then I will have FOUR to choose from!! I've been talking with other women from the area and have already ruled out one of them, but the others look very appealing. I've also learned that several DEMs (direct-entry midwives--meaning they were not nurses first, but went straight to midwifery) are allowed to deliver at the birth centers. Ahh, the laws of Alaska are SO much better than the ones in Utah!
So, why a birth center? Well, I don't really believe that birth belongs in a hospital unless something has gone pretty wrong. Hospitals are for fixing problems, and birth is not typically a problem. Hospitals are also full of sick people, and I don't care what their handwashing rules are or that the really sick people are on another floor or wing, I don't think it's a very bright idea to bring a baby into the world in the middle of one of the dirtiest environments known to modern society. Yes, I did have my last baby in a hospital--there were reasons for that--but my ideal was and is a birth center, and now that we're in a place where my insurance will pay for it, that's what I am going for!
Delivering at a birth center is a lot more like delivering at home--if you have a jetted tub and someone to do all your cleanup and laundry for you at home. ☺ So why not deliver at home? Well, for one thing being at home makes my Hubby a little nervous. I was raised with it (all of my younger siblings were born at home), but if he's uncomfortable that's going to affect my emotional state too, and that's never good for labor. I confess that I really like the idea of somebody else handling all the cleanup. Also, since birth centers are designed to facilitate birth, they have the tubs and beds situated in such a way that the midwives can access the mother easily, no matter where she decides to be. (Most home bathtubs I've seen would get pretty cramped if 2 or 3 people were trying to get at them at the same time!) Many birth centers also have birth balls, birthing stools, squat bars, and other convenient tools for the laboring mother to use if she chooses. Midwives, being accustomed to undrugged mothers, also tend to have more experience with helping mothers work through labor via things like position changes, counter-pressure, and massage.
Since a birth center is all about birth, there are no sick people and I feel that makes it much safer than a hospital. On the other hand, the midwives are under an OBs supervision, and are able to administer some medications and other things which the average homebirth midwife might not. Also they have good relationships with the local hospitals and OBs, so if there were an emergency, the transfer process would likely be smoother than with a homebirth.
Honestly, as I look at these websites I keep thinking to myself "why would anyone not choose a birth center?!" I know, some people prefer home--and I do understand that. And some people prefer hospitals and their drugs...but nope, I really truly don't understand that.
(the photos are from the website of the MatSu Birth Center, which is one of the ones I'm considering)