This past weekend I was talking to my sister back home in Illinois. It is a really exciting time in our family because both she and I are having little girls and are due within just a few weeks of each other. As we were talking, the usual topic of pregnancy and delivery came up and it made me realize how fortunate I am to live in an area that has so many resources for pregnant women and new moms. The town I come from back home has wonderful healthcare, but the network of doulas, midwives, and other birthing resources are really just starting to gain traction. Since becoming pregnant, I’ve had patients ask me many questions about my choices, plans, and options; so I thought a blog post would be a great way to give our patients some resources. It’s a bit long, so grab a glass of water and get comfy!
I grew up with the typical picture in my mind of what delivery looked like. You lie in a bed, get an epidural and then the baby comes out. After becoming more holistic and naturally-minded, I realized there is a whole other world out there. Led by the push from the Vanderbilt Midwives, Nashville has had at least one hospital that has offered laboring tubs for a few years now. In the last couple of years since I had our son, Vanderbilt is no longer the only hospital with that option. Women wanting a hospital birth with a natural approach, now have the option of midwives and laboring tubs at both Vanderbilt and St. Thomas Midtown (formerly Baptist). While you still can’t birth in the tubs at either hospital, I can say from experience the tubs help tremendously with pain regulation during labor. Even if you find yourself not able to get one of the tubs, the midwives staff is very open to letting you walk, move, take a warm shower, and try other means of pain management.
Up until 2013 women in this area had only two options if they didn’t want a home birth and didn’t want a hospital birth-and neither option was very close to home. The Farm in Summertown is a nationally- known resource for natural births and home to the famous Ina May Gaskin-she has a few books that I highly suggest reading if you want a natural birth! While this is a great and valuable option to have so near us, it is still about 65 miles from Cool Springs and this scared me off the first time around. The other option women had was to drive to the Infinity Birth Center in Cookeville-still over an hour away.
In 2013, Baby & Co opened their doors on West End. With their opening, women in our area now have a close option for a natural non-hospital/non- home birth. Women that choose to birth there can labor AND birth in the tubs, the rooms are very ‘home-y’, and your post-partum stay is only 6-12 hours. The center is staffed by Certified Nurse Midwives and one of my favorite midwives formerly on the Vanderbilt team -Lauren Drees - is there and she is so, so amazing. Baby & Co was a serious consideration for us this pregnancy, but because of the trust and relationships I built with the Vandy Midwives last time and the grace they gave to allow me to have the birth I wanted while in a hospital, we stuck with the Vandy Midwives again this time.
The other option women have is a home birth. This option can have the least interventions and the most peace for many mamas. You can truly assemble your birth ‘Dream Team’ and be in the comfort of your home the whole time. Labor tubs are also available for rent or purchase so you can literally birth anywhere you feel most at ease in your home. Women that choose this option most always have a midwife for prenatal, delivery, and postnatal care; a doula; and a support person. I have known friends to also utilize their chiropractors and practitioners of other healing mechanisms like acupuncture to help the ease of delivery, as well. If you know you want a natural birth, don’t want to leave the comfort of your home, and are fine not being in a hospital-this is a GREAT option for you!
With this pregnancy I am using a new resource I didn’t take advantage of the first time-a Doula! Vanderbilt Midwives offer free volunteer doula services during delivery on an on-call basis, so I was exposed to the benefits with the first pregnancy. For whatever reason, I just never hired one and figured we would just use the on-call doula when we got there. My labor wasn’t exactly textbook and didn’t go as planned-I don’t know why I thought it would- so I never got to take advantage of the on-call doula either. This time around I knew it was a must-have and we have teamed with Whitney Cantrell of Nashville Doula Services. We are blessed to have many doulas in the Nashville area. Some operate on their own and others are in a group. We chose Whitney because of a referral from our son’s pediatrician and I must say she is so great!
Doulas are a valuable asset during delivery to help you with different birthing positions, natural pain management options, and to be that voice of reason and knowledge when you and your partner are in the thick of things. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t remembering every birth wish and desire I had in our birth plan when we were in hour 20 of active labor. Nashville Doula Services also has other services they offer and packages to take advantage of on their website (I will list all resources at the end of this post). One thing I haven’t stopped bragging about to my sister is the Postpartum Care. With my first delivery, I was very blessed to have my husband home for a week, my mother-in- law stay with us for almost a week, and my mother stay with us as well. All were very helpful while I adjusted to this new life. My only hang-up was the lack of time alone and independence I had during that time. With Nashville Doula Services, I am using a package that offers postpartum care along with the family help. You can use it in chunks of time with a minimum of 4 hours each time. The doula comes over to help watch the baby while you shower, sleep, stare out the window, or… stuff your face with chocolate. She will also help with light household items like putting dinner together for you.
We’ve covered many of the prenatal and birthing options that are at our fingertips in the Nashville area. No matter what location you choose to birth in, make sure to write down a birth plan that you feel confident with. One that includes the atmosphere/vibe you want in the delivery room, your wishes for pain management, your wish for or against an episiotomy, and what you would like to happen immediately after the baby comes. There are many templates out there to work from. Just Google ‘Birth Plan’ and find one that flows well for you. Some ideas for your birth plan that I used are:
‘ability to eat light snacks and drink water when desired’
‘labor in the tub’
‘no one speak directly to me about epidurals, relay everything through my husband’
‘ability to push in any position I find comfortable’
‘skin to skin for at least 30 minutes with delayed cord-clamping after baby’s arrival’
Whatever location you choose is right for you, ask many questions and make sure you feel confident and comfortable with your choice. The biggest thing for me was to make sure I felt listened to and respected going into the delivery. I didn’t want to feel forced into anything. Thankfully I never felt that way and the Vandy Midwives supported me even when there was a push from an OB for a C-section almost 24 hours after arriving at the hospital. Most importantly, if your delivery doesn’t go as planned and you end up with an epidural or a c-section- DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP! You are still an incredible mother that carried your baby for 9 months, made positive choices for his/her care, and did what you could to birth as naturally as you wanted.
Stay tuned for the follow up post on birthing classes, lactation consultants, vaccines, and other postpartum choices!
Vanderbilt Nurse Midwives
Infinity Birth Center-Cookeville
Baby & Co
Nashville Doula Services