Not many mothers describe labor as a “dream,” but Amber Walters of Clinton Township says her childbirth at the Alternative Birth Center at St. John Providence in Southfield was something she had always hoped for.
From the moment she called in to tell the Alternative Birth Center midwife that she was in labor, she received helpful, natural advice.
“My water broke and I called the Alternative Birth Center to tell them I was coming in. My midwife called me back and suggested natural things to get my labor going and they worked,” Walters says.
She arrived at the Alternative Birth Center in full, active labor and once in a room, she was free to do whatever she needed to get through the birth process.
“My midwife supported me in a natural, drug-free birth. She was just amazing. It was about me and she was there to support me,” Walters says.
Paula Fishbaugh is an obstetrician at Beaumont Health and delivers babies at the Karmanos Center for Natural Birth at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. She says there are women who want to labor their own way. The childbirth center can provide all the comforts of home, including a tub for laboring, essential oils, aromatherapy, calming music and indoor and outdoor pathways where mothers can walk to help progress labor.
Fishbaugh says the goal of the Karmanos Center for Natural Birth is to provide a home-like setting within the hospital so help is immediately available if complications arise for mother or baby.
Carol Fuller, director of Women and Children Services at St. John Providence Health Center, says in order to get the type of births they want, women are opting to have their babies at home.
“Should something go wrong, you are with us and we are here for you,” Fuller says. The nurses in the Alternative Birth Center can resuscitate a newborn baby. There are pediatricians nearby and obstetricians who can perform C-sections as well.
“The problem with a home birth, as always, is that you are a long ways away and you have to call us to come get you. That takes a long time and time is of the essence.”
Tareeshia Sapp of Clinton Township also used the Alternative Birth Center at St. John Providence. She wanted to have a home birth, but felt that if something went wrong, she needed to be in a hospital.
“A lot of women experience the fear of our culture propagates. There is no propagation of the truth. Most childbirths are completely normal. There are emergencies, but they are rare. The more interventions we have, the more the emergencies come up,” says Sapp.
Sapp was able to labor on her own with the help of a midwife at the Alternative Birth Center. While she says each of her deliveries were different, she used the resources available to her, including the tub, subdued lighting and music. After delivering the baby, mothers stay in the room, which is designed for families.
“You all stay in one room. There is a queen-size bed so you can sleep with your husband if he stays with you,” says Sapp.
Babies stay in the room with their mothers the entire time. There are facilities for caring for the baby and all the comforts of home for the mother. Sapp says within about 24 hours she went home – with the security of knowing she could call the center with any questions in the weeks following her birth.
While natural birth centers are not for women who need constant monitoring, Pitocin or epidurals or have medical conditions, they do provide a unique birth experience for eligible moms.
“The Alternative Birth Center is available for any woman who wants a delivery where she has a lot of say in the process and in a more natural environment,” says Fuller.
This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for 2016.