Monday, March 9, 2009

If I were to birth in my hometown

I recently started entertaining the thought of birthing my baby in my hometown of Stockton, CA. Many of my friends are still living there and beginning to have babies, so I've learned a little bit about the birth climate there. All of my friends there have had hospital births, which is not too surprising. I have been disappointed by the number of primary cesareans that my friends have experienced. I took that to be an indicator that the hospitals in Stockton aren't incredibly supportive of physiological birth.

A quick search showed me that there are no homebirth midwives working in the city of Stockton, and no out of hospital birthing centers. The nearest birthing center is 50 miles away in Fair Oaks, with two more in San Francisco and Oakland, respectively. The nearest homebirth midwives are 40 miles away in the Sacramento area.

I decided to look at the websites for the two main hospitals in the city of Stockton: Dameron (where I was born 24 years ago) and St. Joseph's. I was not encouraged with my options when I read this:
The baby's father or support person may visit from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Only two people, in addition to the support person, may visit at one time.
Children under age 12 are not allowed in the department. Exception - after delivery, brothers and sisters of the newborn, accompanied by an adult, are welcome during regular visiting hours. Short visits are best for your children.
Visitors must not have fever, cold, cold sores, diarrhea, vomiting, rash or skin sores. Those who have been exposed to illnesses such as chickenpox or measles may not visit.
Labor and Delivery:

One additional person, other than the support person, may be present during labor and delivery. We ask that all other visitors wait in the visitor's lounge, (not the hallway).
Only the support person may accompany the expectant mom for a Cesarean delivery.

For a more detailed description of their practices, see their PDF entitled "Welcome to Life--Guide to Pregnancy, Birth and Postpartum."

Dameron's information was a little more encouraging:
The Alex and Faye Spanos Start of Life Center
This holistic focus is reflected in our Start of Life Center. A generous gift from Alex and Faye Spanos, the Start of Life Center operates on the concept of "Family Centered Care," where birth is treated as a total family experience. From the time an expectant mother experiences her first labor symptoms and arrives at the hospital, through the actual delivery of her child, she receives total maternity care without ever having to leave the pleasant and comfortable environment of her home-style birthing room.

The Labor and Delivery Department is staffed by highly trained Registered Nurses sensitive to both the emotional and medical needs of pregnancies and birth situations.

Based on the experiences of my friends and my own interpretation of available materials, I'd probably choose Dameron over St. Joseph's if I needed a hospital, but I'm so opposed to a planned hospital birth that I'd be more likely (if I lived there) to find a homebirth midwife outside the city. This investigation has not encouraged me to change my plan in the slightest. I feel that the state of Washington provides me with more choices and access to better care than I could get in the Stockton area.

So the plan goes forward that both of our first children will be able to claim Washington as their state of birth. Once the new baby and I are fit to travel (no sooner than 1 week postpartum), we'll be driving down to spend the summer in Stockton while my husband does his summer research on the California coast.

More general information on birth choices in the Stockton area is that St. Joseph's has an all out ban on VBACs while Dameron does allow VBACS, although a statement refusing the C-section must be signed. That leads me to believe that women are strongly encouraged to consent to an elective repeat cesarean. It appears the hospital staff is rather persuasive since in the county, 96.5% of women have a repeat cesarean(source: March of Dimes Peristats for San Joaquin County, CA).

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