Here at Birth Quest, a lot of people ask Beth and I where we most often support birthing clients for their deliveries! Here is the answer with some reflections on each from a doula’s perspective:
1.) Mercy Health Hackley: Over 1/3 of our birth doula work is at Hackley. Beth and I were both born at Hackley and we both live less than a mile from the hospital, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. It also makes sense because we strive to serve our community and this is our community hospital! Being located near downtown Muskegon means there are some good food options, like Ryke’s Bakery, near-by. Design aspects we like about the hospital include having separate bathrooms in the hallway for visitors, a waiting room with an ice machine and being able to enter and leave the floor without having to pass through a security door. We’re not crazy about the separate Labor, Delivery & Recovery and Postpartum floors. Hackley is the only hospital on the lakeshore where midwives still deliver and I like how the nurses treat me like an equal. We’re curious to see the new labor and delivery unit that opens in summer of 2019.
2.) Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial: Many of our lakeshore clients travel to Fremont to have their babies at Gerber because of their reputation for supporting natural and patient-centered births. This support is backed up by Certified Nurse Midwives and their Perinatal Nurse Educator and blogger, Samantha Kauffman, who is both Hypnobirthing and Evidence Based Birth certified! Their Director of Clinical Nursing, Beth Coulier, and I worked together on the FIMR Case Review Team when I worked for Public Health – Muskegon County. She brings a lot of experience and compassion to Gerber and this is reflected in the quality of care her staff provides. Gerber gained a national reputation under the leadership of Dr. Tami Michele, who was innovative in overcoming an official ban in order to support trial of labor after cesarean (ToLAC) and vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). Dr. Michele currently works at the Butterworth campus. We like that birthing people can labor, deliver, and recover postpartum all on the same floor. Negatives include being located in a small town with few food options, especially late at night, having to be buzzed in and out of the unit by staff and not having visitor bathrooms on the unit. Although the staff are accommodating, it would be nice to have coffee, ice water and a fridge available without having to ask. You know, like a doula station? A doula can dream!
3.) Spectrum Health Butterworth: Although I would love to assist someone in the Natural Birthing Suites, we have not yet had the opportunity. When women we serve plan to deliver at Butterworth, it’s usually because they are high risk or planning a VBAC, making them ineligible for this option. In these circumstances, all of West Michigan is fortunate to have access to the state-of-the-art care provided there. There are pluses and minuses to being in such a large hospital. On the one hand, most of my clients have no idea who is going to be there when they deliver with a practice. On the other hand, when a woman’s care is transferred, there is a good chance that the care she seeks is available. Some of my favorite birth memories as a doula at Butterworth involve supporting women who want to do something that is met with staff discomfort and do it anyway!
4.) Home: There is nothing like the flexibility and comfort of home, even someone else’s home! Whether small or large, the gathering is always intimate, peaceful and festive. When present, I love spending time with other family members, friends and pets. There is never a struggle to support a natural birth plan, especially when it pertains to newborn interventions, at a home. Cost is the biggest barrier to home birth for those who desire it and fit the criteria. I also hope for a future with more diversity among midwives, to help increase access for all women.