falling off the dangerous birthing ball

So today I met with my doctor and talked with him about the fact that I would like to be able to labor in water. He said that he would be fine with me laboring in water, but doesn't feel comfortable doing an actual waterbirth, because he wouldn't know what he's doing.

This is a big disappointment to me. I would like the option of birthing in the water, but if I can't do that, I know that I MUST have water in which to labor until I am ready to give birth. he said this was fine.

We talked about the fact that the hospital where he delivers only has two bathtubs on the maternity floor, and if you happen to get there at a time when someone else is in one of those two rooms, you are out of luck.

So I suggested that I rent a birthing tub and bring it with me to the hospital, as my sister did with her birth at another (much more progressive) local hospital. My doctor said that sounded fine with him, but I would need to talk to the head of nursing at his hospital to get her okay.

So I called her today and talked with her about it. You would have thought I was suggesting that I give birth on the moon strapped upside down to a crane or something. Her tone was incredibly rude and dimissive. She explained about ten times that they "don't do waterbirths." I explained about ten times that I understood this - that I just wanted to be able to labor in the water - either in one of their rooms with a tub - or in a tub I would bring in myself.

Finally she said that they only allow women to labor in water "if their water hasn't broken and they aren't dilated."

Meaning, that if you are IN LABOR you cannot labor in the water at this hospital! It's insane!

I asked her if I could e-mail her some information about the benefits of laboring in water, and about how some hospitals without tubs are allowing patients to bring them in. She said okay, but added that she sincerely doubted that this would be allowed.

"We just can't have women doing things like that," she added. "Like, we don't allow those BIRTHING BALLS at our hospitals."

I was so stunned by this bizarre statement that I finally sort of lost my cool. I think I giggled a little as I asked why in the WORLD they wouldn't allow this very mainstream birthing helper-tool (birthing balls) in the hospital.

"It's a liability issue," she said. "You might fall off."

I SWEAR TO YOU that she told me they do not allow birthing balls in their hospital because WOMEN MIGHT FALL OFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

I then asked her what percentage of her patients give birth without an epidural. She told me they have an epidural rate of over 90%, but that they "want to support women who choose to not have one."

I asked her how they offer this support.

"We don't give you one unless you ask," she said in an irritated tone. "You have to ask for the epidural. We don't just hand them out without anyone asking."

Clearly, this hospital is a VERY, VERY bad fit for me.

I may want an epidural. I may not. But I know without question that I want to be able to labor in water and in whatever positions and places in my room that feel right to me. And I also know that nurses with this attitude are going to put me in a foul, combative mood, which will not be conducive to the peaceful, low-stress birth I am aiming for.



Katie S. said...

If you have to give birth at this hospital I would highly suggest getting a doula who can deal with the nurses so you won;t have to.

Rachel said...

Sorry this is so stressful. I wanted to let you know that I have had family members who really did not have good experiences at that hospital, in terms of attentiveness, appropriate and prompt care, safety, etc. They were not labor-related, but I wanted to pass that along. I cannot believe they don't allow birthing balls.

Stefaneener said...

So are you stuck with this? You know what choices you have -- remember the infertility docs in Knoxville wanted me to give birth in a fully-prepped OR, and I went on to have THREE more perfect homebirths, even with the same condition.

Maybe it's only okay in California, though. TN doesn't let women actually give birth. Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

Here's what seems weird to me. I had a baby in 1980 at Nashville's General Hospital. Those were supposed to be the nonprogressive dark ages of medicine, right?
Here's what happened: they gave some Demoral early on, I guess to chill me out some, but they never pushed an epidural on me. The labor went on for 24 hours, but there was no talk of a C-section. Since I had plenty of energy they just let me keep laboring. The only interventions were: the Demoral, the enema at the very beginning (this was the worst part of the whole thing) a sugar-water IV, the monitor,and an episiotomy (which i didn't know better than to ask about). Other than that, they let me and the dad have that baby ourselves. All in all, it was a good experience.

The natural childbirth classes at that hospital were great, too. They seemed to assume we were all going to WANT to do it without epidurals if we could. They took the line that epidurals could have unpleasant side effects. Has that changed? Are they better now?

I thought birth options were getting better. Seems they're getting worse. Is it the fear of lawsuits?

Anonymous said...

stay at home as long as you can

cathy said...

Don't tell them I took 3 baths after my water broke and before I finally agreed to go to the hospital. You are strong willed enough to just say no to Jurassic-era nurses. Easier to ask forgiveness than permission. Do your own thing. It's going to be fine. In the meantime, maybe you could use your connections to do a series on what hospitals in big cities offer women compared to what is offered here.

Anonymous said...

You should pick up the book "Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way" by susan mccutcheon. Great, easy read and may help you with the debate involving the hospital.

Michelle said...

"The only interventions were: the Demoral, the enema at the very beginning (this was the worst part of the whole thing) a sugar-water IV, the monitor,and an episiotomy (which i didn't know better than to ask about)." That statement is a very scary statement to me. "The only"??? Wowza. I do want to second the doula suggestion. They can be a great help and should have your back when you stand up for a "non-policy" decision. Oh and I can't wait to tell my doula peers about their asinine birthing ball policy! :O

nyjlm said...

wow, no birth balls? When I read this post earlier today (before the update) I wanted to post suggesting a birth ball. This rule shows that this hospital's main concern is revenue and liability, it is just insane. It makes my heart hurt just thinking about it.

I know your options are somewhat limited. If you can't find a different place to give birth, at the very least, please, please hire a doula.

Anonymous said...

Do not go to that hospital!! Even a doula who can navigate through those uninformed nurses and other hospital staff is not going to be of much assistance in a hospital with those archaic attitudes.

If it is really important to have your perinatologists involved in the birth, go to the birth center that they support. It really isn't that bad to get up and leave shortly after the birth - just think, the comfort of home vs. the comfort of the hospital from hell? No question there.

OR, switch to your former OB and deliver at the community hospital nearby that supports your choices.

Unless your condition specifically affects delivery itself, anyone can attend your birth and help you get that baby out, as well as deal with any difficulties that may arise.

Laura Linger said...

It is a liability issue, I am sure.

It doesn't matter HOW safe everything about it is. You have Rich White Men in suits deciding what goes and what doesn't, and this probably smacks of New Age-y Hippie Shit to them.

You're a victim of the establishment, plain and simple, and the closed minds that come with them. Coupled with our litigation-obsessed society, I guess.

Lynnster said...

Katie, if you don't have any choice but this hospital, I think you should e-mail or snailmail the CEO(s)/administrator(s) of the hospital this post. Possibly too, if you can find out who it is, whatever physician is the current director of OB/GYN at the hospital.

Because of the Director of Nursing's attitude, I think there's a good possibility that her obvious bias may be a large reason for the policies they have.

And even if there are others who are a large part of it, I kind of think the administration would not be pleased to know that someone of your status in local media is that unhappy with their policies to the point of wanting to go elsewhere - and if they read your post and the accompanying links, they might change their minds about the policies (or at least be willing to make an exception this once, especially since you are offering to bring your OWN stuff).

Worth a try anyway, all they can say is no again.

Suzette said...

I gave birth at that same hospital in 1991 & 1994. The first time I chose to have the epidural after 12 hours of intense pain with no relief from breathing etc. It was my decision and they even hesitated to make sure I was sure; after all I had told them at the beginning I didn't want it unless I had to get it. The second pregnancy was very similar, dimly lit room, quiet, my family there as I wanted. It was an acceptable birth experiece. The staff was kind and helpful, and they didn't "hover" over me which was a relief. I realize it's been a while since I gave birth there so maybe it's changed. But I have no problems. Of course back then I had no idea what a birth ball was!he hee. I have a different view of the birth experience though. (Please don't flame me bloggers)For me birth was mostly a way to finally meet my daughters. As long as it wasn't beyond painful, or loud, or obnoxious, I really just wanted to have those babies.

mamalife said...

Wow, her comments would be hilarious if only she'd not said them so seriously.

Naomi said...

They don't allow birth balls?

I don't think I could give birth at this hospital. Seriously. I think they would give me crap about my birth ball and I would strangle the nurse and then they'd haul me off to the county jail and I'd have to deliver there, instead.

uumomma said...

o katie, i will be praying for you least youstill have time to look look look.

Leslie said...

If you were to decide to go with the birthing center, and are bummed about leaving early, you could do what a friend of mine did. She and her husband rented a room at the Hyatt for two nights and stayed there with the new baby. It was more peaceful and comfortable than the house with her two toddlers.

I totally relate to not wanting to go home six hours after the birth. I love the hospital and they practically have to kick me out. The one good thing about C-sections is that you get an extra day at the hospital! That's how much I love St. Mary's.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is St Mary's St Mary's St Mary's. I loved them more than the local birth center ;)


Anonymous said...

I was unimpressed with the post-partem nursing care at St. Mary's. I suppose it just depends on which nurses you get.

Leslie said...

It does depend on the nurses you get, definitely. And I've had maybe two duds. But I've been there five times and have had long stays, so I've been able to see that they were aberrations. Most of the nurses are so wonderful that you would want to take them home with you.

I had one whose shift ended right when I was wheeled away for an emergency section. She called later to talk to me and see how I was doing! Another one stopped in to see me on her day off when I had been readmitted for blood loss. The one I had during labor last time was like a doula. The birthing ball was HER idea; she disobeyed the doctor's orders by turning up the pitocin drip half as fast as he wanted her to; I could go on and on about how wonderful the nurses are there, and they do make or break the experience.

karrie said...

Holy shit! You might fall off the birth ball? LOL!

I really hope you're able to find an alternative. Or just ignore her. If you lay low for a few months, maybe she'll forget your "crazy" requests and you can bring whatever you want with you. Like an inflatable kiddie pool. :)

Hilary said...

I posted on Women's Health news about the birth balls and doulas, but I had one more comment once I read the original post and the comments.

The only reason you are not going to a local birth center is that you would go home in 6 hours? Having been through a birth at a hospital (with a 2 day stay) and a birth in a birth center, I couldn't WAIT to go home either time, although I wouldn't have expected so before hand.

It is totally up to you what your priorities are, and of course you should have your birth your way. Just where is that going to be more possible? In a hospital, you will have a mother baby nurse who splits you with 4 or 6 other women and children and changes shifts, and only responds to you if you buzz except to bring you food. You will have a single hospital bed to sleep in, and you will be required to keep your baby in a separate plastic bassinet. Where I birthed and where I have been a doula, (nothing has made me think this hospital will be more progressive) the babies are routinely taken away for hours and given extra interventions. I was yelled at for carrying a one day old baby in my arms instead of pushing it in one of those plastic carts. I wouldn't want to stay there one more second than I had to.

Again, totally your choice. Just weigh what you are giving up for what you are getting. Your entire labor and birth will be far more dramatic than the days after, and what happens then will affect your birth experience much more than what happens the day or two after will affect your parenting experience. Yes, your baby will cry and not let you sleep. It will cry for weeks and months, not two days. Yes, you may have trouble breastfeeding (if you choose to breastfeed). I would hope the birth center would have follow up care at your home or in the center with lactation consulting, and your milk won't even come in for 3 days, probably, anyway.

Anyway, don't mean to come off heavy, but as someone intimate with birth and follow up care at birth centers and hospitals, I think that the trade off is worth it.

Anonymous said...

That seems very bizarre. In the link for the hospital it states that women can labor in the jacuzzis that are provided! So I guess the link is lying?!

Very weird...

katie allison granju said...

There are actually only two jacuzzis out of a total of 12 rooms. The hospital doesn't mention that unless you ask. And yes, in speaking to the head nurse, she told me women canonly get in the water if theyaren't actually in active labor.

Leslie said...

"In a hospital, you will have a mother baby nurse who splits you with 4 or 6 other women and children and changes shifts, and only responds to you if you buzz except to bring you food. You will have a single hospital bed to sleep in, and you will be required to keep your baby in a separate plastic bassinet. Where I birthed and where I have been a doula, (nothing has made me think this hospital will be more progressive) the babies are routinely taken away for hours and given extra interventions."

Not true in the hospital that some of us are trying to convince Katie to switch to. :-) The nurses are ultra-responsive, my baby was bathed right in the room and never left for more than a few minutes, and my babies ALWAYS slept with me if I wished.

Anonymous said...

I delivered my son at this hospital in 2005 using the same group you're talking about. I chose them because while my first choice was the birthing center, my pregnancy was complicated enough (and followed my miscarriage closely enough) that I was afraid to go that route. I believed that since these perinatologists were associated with the birth center they would have similar philosophies. That turned out NOT to be the case. Despite having discussed my wishes for a minimal intervention birth I was hooked to IV's, started on a very aggressive pitocin drip, had my water broken WITHOUT discussing it with me (!), ultimately had an epidural and an episiotomy (which then tore). The majority of the nursing staff seemed freaked out by my intention to labor naturally. I will not deliver at that hospital again unless there is absolutely no other option! Next time I'm heading to the community hospital you discussed.

Furrow said...

Wow. This freakity-freaking me out. I have my first Nurse-Midwife appt on Monday in Nashville, an I'm hoping that the hospital experience will be better than this. With a CNM, you'd think so, but...

I wish you the best of luck with the choices you have to make.

Anonymous said...


One solution, as I think someone mentioned: Just stay home as long as you can. You can labor in your own bathtub at your leisure. Believe me, it's much nicer to stay at home and do most of the hard work than to do it at the hospital. Unless you have complications or are high-risk, there's no reason to get to the hospital in any big hurry. If you stay home, you can also eat and drink whatever you want. Most people, especially with first baby, go too soon and then you just have to hang out in the room for hours. It's much much nicer to be home. And if you have a doula at your house, you can better evaluate when you ought to race to the car, too.

I live in DC and a doctor I saw here for for my second child (while midwives were not available) told me that there wasn't a doctor in the city who would deliver a baby in any positon other than mother on her back (which is how I had my first). So they're not exactly the most flexible bunch.