You would think that I'd have all of this figured out by baby #5, but quite the opposite, it has been really difficult for me to make a decision regarding my prenatal care during this pregnancy. In an effort to help you understand my situation, it may be helpful for me to briefly explain the births of my other children.
Baby #1: May 1999, daughter, 6 pounds, 4 ounces. Total labor = 15 hours
I had my first-born at a local birth center. It was fairly textbook, everything progressed normally, albeit slowly. During the labor, I was allowed to go into the jacuzzi to help with contractions and the effect of the water on the contractions was AMAZING. The water acted as a pain-reliever and without the pull of gravity, the contractions were much less intense. I was actually able to fall asleep in between contractions and was so comfortable in the water that I asked if I could deliver in the jacuzzi. The midwife screeched, "NO!" and promptly made me exit the jacuzzi. (This was really annoying because I was no where NEAR ready to deliver -- I pushed for 1 hour and 17 minutes after exiting the tub!) In the back of my mind I thought that if I ever do this again (who knew I'd go on to have 4 more children?!), I wanted to try a waterbirth.
Baby #2: June 2001, daughter, 7 pounds, 4 ounces. Total labor = 9 hours
When I got pregnant the second time, I decided on a waterbirth, which was not so easy back in 2001. I could find only 2 birth centers who would facilitate a waterbirth. Both were about an hour away from my home and both offered waterbirth in a standard bathtub only. I really didn't want to give birth in a bathtub. I felt that the bathtub was too shallow and too narrow; I didn't think it would provide the range of movement that I wanted. So I opted for a homebirth attended by the birth center midwives (and nurses). We rented an inflatable tub; I got the range of movement that I wanted but there was not as much support (sides of the tub) as I would have liked. The second labor was faster and I only pushed 3 times for a total of about 2 minutes (or less) to give birth to my second daughter. (Who, by the way, was one whole pound heavier than my oldest daughter.)
Baby #3: June 2003, son, 7 pounds, 14 ounces. Total labor = 4.5 hours
Since everything went so swimmingly (no pun intended!) with baby #2, we planned the same birth scenario with baby #3. HOWEVER, he was late, late, late and I had to be induced at 42 weeks. Induction took place in the hospital but after they observed me for a couple hours, they let me go home so that I could proceed with my homebirth plan. As I left the hospital, I said to the midwife, "I will call you when I get into pain." What I did not realize is that this baby would come MUCH FASTER than the previous babies. My painful contractions started at 11:40PM and I gave birth 40 minutes later around 12:20AM. The midwife was still driving to our home (remember that the birth center was about an hour away) so my husband had to deliver baby #3!! My husband, who is squeamish, was completely cool and calm and delivered our son with ease. YES, it was scary and intense and the most relieved moment of my life was when my son was born and was breathing on his own. The whole experience was completely surreal and not something I want to repeat. (The midwife arrived about 10-15 minutes after my son was born, in time to deliver the placenta.)
Baby #4: May 2005, son, 7 pounds, 13 ounces. Total labor = 4.5 hours
I was planning another homebirth/waterbirth for baby #4. However, I had to be induced again. This time it was because I had gestational diabetes, thus I was induced on my due date. Again, induction took place at the hospital and after an hour or so, I was released so I could go home to labor and deliver. However, once I got home, I found that I just couldn't concentrate: too many kids, too many dogs, too much noise. So we packed up and headed for the birth center. Although I was able to labor in the tub and planned a waterbirth, once again I had to exit the tub to give birth. It turns out that my son was posterior, meaning he was born face-up instead of face-down (most babies are born face-down). Posterior labors are longer and more difficult than regular labors and it was very difficult to push him out. Thus, I had to exit the tub in order to birth baby #4.
So to sum it up, my oldest and youngest were traditional births that took place in birthing centers. My middle two children were born at home and in water.
So here we are with baby #5. My first choice was to have another waterbirth. However, I did not want to travel an hour to give birth in the water. Nor did I want to wait an hour for the midwife to come to me to attend a homebirth/waterbirth. So I decided to opt for a hospital birth: the hospital is close to home and I get to stay for 48 hours after giving birth. I know I will have lots of interruptions with staff checking my temp, my blood pressure, the baby, etc. but at least in the hospital no one is going to tell me that their sister is pulling their hair or ask for help with their homework or ask me to pack extra chips in their lunchbox. I was actually looking forward to 48 hours alone in the hospital with the baby.
Except that the closer it gets, the more my hospital anxiety kicks in. I've never birthed in a hospital and cannot even visualize doing so. I am terribly afraid of someone sticking a needle in my back for an epidural but I think it might be difficult to have a baby in the hospital without access to a tub for laboring.
So I started rethinking my birthing situation. And guess what???? There is a birth center 30 minutes away that JUST STARTED offering waterbirth! I remember checking their website when I got pregnant but they didn't offer waterbirth at that time -- but they do now! So I went to visit and they have a brand-new waterbirthing suite. The bathroom is like a spa bathroom and the tub is a real waterbirthing tub: it is wide and deep and has jets and is the one recommended by Waterbirth International.
So I am officially changing my prenatal care to the birth center and am looking forward to a waterbirth in a proper tub. Assuming I get to the birth center in time to birth in the tub!