Raising Richmond: At home or the hospital?

As with most issues related to pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, the decision as to where you choose to have your child is a very personal one. Here two mothers share their very different stories. We hope you’ll share yours, too.

Editor’s note: Today’s feature is the newest installment of our parenting column written by two sets of Richmonders: Jorge and Patience Salgado (veteran parents of four gorgeous children), and Ross and Valerie Catrow (parenting rookies who have only been doing this “raising a child thing” for a little while). Check back fortnightly to watch them discuss/agree/disagree/throw down over all kinds of parenting issues, Richmond-related and beyond.

Today’s topic: As with most issues related to pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, the decision as to where you choose to have your child is a very personal one. Here two mothers share their very different stories. We hope you’ll share yours, too.

Patience Salgado

I had my first baby in under five hours flat. It was like the kind you see in the movies: dad driving like crazy and you wonder if the mom is gonna drop that baby in the backseat. Except in our case, we were foolishly calm. I spent half my labor wondering if I was actually in labor. After that experience, I figured I was some sort of natural birthing superstar. It was definitely an I-am-woman-hear-me-roar type of thing in my head.

Two years later, that cute boy knocked me up again. After lots of research, we decided to have a home birth that go around. I spent an hour each visit talking, learning, planning with my midwife. My prenatal care was so personal and thorough, it was like birthing for the stars or something. But I realized I didn’t have to be special to receive good care; it was just part of the deal with this midwife.

The little guy was due December 31st. The closer it got, I could feel my husband Jorge watching me like there was a dollar sign tattooed on my belly.

“Do you feel anything? I mean, it’s totally cool and all, but come on tax deduction baby!”

We laughed, knowing in our hearts we were already livin’ on love anyway, not to mention, this baby had lots of surprises for us instead.

Three days crept by and finally, late in the evening, the contractions started. Every five minutes they came, and I was convinced I would have a baby by sunlight. They weren’t very strong, so I sent Jorge to sleep a little and called my sister to come over. We lit about a million tiny votives and sat at the table to do some art. The contractions stalled around daylight, and I was starting to think this might be a whole different experience than the last time. My midwife came, checked me, and broke my water to move the process along. The baby dropped and I was instantly in hard labor.

I paced back and forth — everything was so much bigger, harder, longer than I remembered. The layers of my heart were starting to be peeled back. I was being humbled in a way I never expected. This baby was posterior (sunny side up) coming down in a way that is the hardest to deliver. I thought to myself, “This is why people want drugs, I get it, I get it.”

My midwife skillfully helped me labor in positions to help the baby turn and labor the baby down.

We moved constantly, and I secretly wondered how I ever would have ever been able to do it lying in a bed in the hospital. I knew I was riding on the wisdom of 25 years of knowledge and experience in her head and bones.

It took every once of energy to make it through each round of contractions. I started to weep. I was so broken. Jorge leaned over and whispered very gently in my ear. I still cry today thinking about what he said. It was all I could hear over and over in my head. I decided in that moment, I was the only one who could get that baby out and I was going to do it — I was hella determined.. With Jorge behind me on the birthing stool, over an hour later, Jack came out screaming. It was like he was the only other person on the planet who knew how hard it was. We were instantly bonded, we had just walked that rugged path together: major personal development for me, birth for him.

He never turned; I pushed out a posterior baby with no tearing in record time. It took me a long time to realize how powerful and amazing the experience was. I learned the beauty of vulnerability and that power can come from being completely undone. I now know that in the end, love is the only thing that gets us through and how each of us is truly born.

Valerie Catrow

Throughout my pregnancy, I made plans to get through the delivery with as little medical intervention as possible; epidurals and C-sections completely terrified me, and I just wanted to see if I could do it. I hoped to labor at home as long as possible, only to arrive at the hospital for my OB (who also happens to be the same doctor who delivered me) to do the actual baby-catching.

My due date came and went with no sign of the kid budging — no contractions, barely even a Braxton Hicks, nothing. I was convinced I was going to be pregnant until the end of time. Eventually, my doctor and I agreed on scheduling an induction.

My husband and I arrived at the hospital on a Sunday afternoon. While Ross was off dealing with paperwork, Linda, my (first) nurse, asked me if I had any specific preferences for the labor and delivery. I let her know right away that despite the induction, I really wanted to try and labor without pain medication as long as I could.

My doctor arrived shortly after we did. As soon as I saw him, the emotions bubbled over. He took such good care of me throughout my pregnancy, and I was so excited that he was actually going to be the one to deliver the baby, not a random doctor who happened to be on call that night.

We discussed the plan: first he’d administer a cervical gel to help with dilation (sorry, dudes), and we’d start Pitocin later that night.

The gel was all it took. I went from not being in labor at all to having hard contractions every five minutes just half an hour later. When the first drop of Pitocin went through my IV, I had four-minute contractions right on top of each other, and the baby’s heart rate plummeted to the point where alarms sounded. Linda and I opted to back off the Pitocin and just let things roll along at their own pace.

I labored throughout the night without medication. Although it was painful and not exactly what I planned, I remember that time as being very calm, quiet, and peaceful. Friends stopped by to visit with us, encourage us, and pray with us. Ross and I talked, posted updates on Twitter, and watched The Wizard of Oz which was playing on a loop on TBS. I was managing the pain well with hot showers, walks, and bouncing on an exercise ball. Because I was induced, I was supposed to spend 20 minutes of each hour in bed so the baby and I could be monitored. Being unable to get up and walk around was torture for me. Ross, sensing my frustration, asked our night nurse Christine (Linda had long since gone home) if we could ease up on the monitoring. She was great about it and let me do my thing.

My doctor arrived the next morning to find that, despite about 80,000 16 hours of intense labor, I was only dilated four out of the necessary 10 centimeters. We decided together to order the epidural because one of two things would likely happen: 1) I would be in labor MUCH longer and needed to get some rest for when it came time to push or 2) we would need to do a C-section — the fact that the baby wasn’t dropping and the heart rate kept falling indicated that things could get complicated quickly. The epidural would allow us to avoid a “crash” C-section that could have required me to be completely under for the birth.

A few hours (but absolutely no centimeters) later, my doctor and I agreed on doing a C-section. Nurse Linda (who was back on duty) wheeled us into the operating room within the hour. Fifteen minutes later, a 10-pound, 2 1/2-ounce baby boy was removed from my 5-foot, 3-inch, typically 115-pound body. He was sunny side up, his cord was wrapped securely around his neck, and the top of his head was bruised from his feeble attempts to make his way out “the conventional way.” He was in his daddy’s arms almost immediately after he was born and in mine, nursing away, just minutes after that.

I had hoped for a birth with as little medical intervention as possible, and ended up with pretty much every intervention available. But I don’t like to think about what could have happened if we hadn’t taken those steps, or if we didn’t have such attentive doctors and nurses caring for us. I firmly believe we were where we needed to be, with the people we needed to be with. My child came into the world safely, despite complications, and for that, I owe those people everything.

Now it’s your turn…

Where did you have your babies? What led to that decision and what was the experience like for you?

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Patience Salgado

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