The only way to deal with my experience with the Jacksonville Naval Hospital is to split it into two different experiences, because that is essentially what I had. My prenatal experience was completely different from the birth and postpartum experience. So in this blog, I’ll tell you about my prenatal experience.
I really think the Naval Hospital is on the right track. They still have some kinks to work out (at least they did two and a half years ago), which we’ll discuss in the actual birth story. So here’s how it works at the Naval Hospital…you can choose to either go to the OB clinic where, unless you are high risk, you will be seen by a nurse midwife or you can choose to go to a Family Practice doctor. Generally, those who want a natural birth go to the OB clinic, and those who want a medicated birth go to Family Practice. I know this seems backwards to a lot of people in the natural childbirth community, but the OB clinic is where the nurse midwives are. Thankfully, they recognize that OBs are specialists and if you have a low-risk, normal pregnancy then you don’t need to see them.
One of the nice things about the Naval Hospital (and really the point of this part of the blog, I guess) is that they offer childbirth classes. Not the typical “we’re going to show you all your scary options for intervention” hospital classes (at least I’m assuming that’s what they’re like after seeing some of my friends reactions to them), but actual worthwhile classes for mamas wanting a natural birth (Heck, even if you don’t want a natural birth, it might be worth taking the class to find out that you have options, that childbirth is not as scary as everyone has told you it is, and that you can do it. But that’s just my opinion.).
So the options are Hypnobirthing or Bradley Method classes. I shied away from the Bradley Method because of the emphasis on husband-coached childbirth. I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but since my husband wasn’t home to take the classes, and we didn’t know whether he would actually be home for the birth, it just didn’t appeal. So I chose Hypnobirthing.
I absolutely loved the Hypnobirthing classes. They were so encouraging and informative. I will admit, when it came time to watch the birthing videos, I was nervous. All I could think of was the childbirth video they showed us in seventh grade. It turns out watching women who have prepared for a natural birth have a baby is a completely different thing than watching a crotch shot of a screaming woman meant to scare the sex drive out of thirteen year olds. (I know I’m stating the obvious here, right?) In fact, some of these women actually seemed to be experiencing some pleasure from birth. It was a real eye opener.
Everyone in the class, including the people who worked for the hospital, we’re supportive of home birth. Unfortunately, we had all resigned ourselves to the fact that our insurance (Tricare) doesn’t cover homebirth, so we would go ahead with the hospital birth. We were reassured that the nurses and doctors at the Naval Hospital were not only supportive of natural birth, they knew about Hypnobirthing and would allow you to have the birth you wanted (i.e. leave you alone to use the hypnosis and relaxation techniques that you’ve been practicing for months). The only thing on my birth plan that was a nonnegotiable was not wanting a heplock. The funny thing is that at the time it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. It was annoying that they were insisting I have something that I didn’t need, but whatever. Now that I’ve spent over twenty-four hours trying to hold and nurse a newborn with a needle sticking into my hand, I feel a little differently. But I’ll save that gripe for the postpartum story.
So at this point, I’m beginning to realize that a hospital birth is not what I want. A tour of the hospital was part of the class. It was the first time I felt any fear about what I was doing. I came home and my stomach was in knots the rest of the day. There’s just nothing they can do to cover up the fact that it’s a hospital. There was nothing in me that said, “Yes, this is a good and safe place to have a baby.” In fact, every instinct in my body was telling me the opposite.
But I felt that at this point it was too late. I know now that it really wasn’t. But I didn’t have the support group or the information that I have now. I didn’t even have a husband home to encourage me one way or the other. I was alone. And I didn’t think we could afford it. If the Naval Hospital was really as great as it seemed during my pregnancy, then what did I have to worry about? Sure, it wouldn’t be ideal, but it would be okay, and we were saving thousands of dollars. Plus, I liked the nurse midwife I was seeing. I felt comfortable with her. I felt bad thinking about transferring care. These are the only reasons I can come up with that I didn’t at least seek out a midwife for a consultation. It was for similar reasons that I didn’t hire a doula. It seemed like so much money. And my husband would be there. I had sent him books and copies of my birth plan. He would know the deal, right? Oh, ho. If I knew then, what I know now.
Join me next blog for the actual (yes, we’re finally there) birth story.