Baby Got Back

The past few months have been a whirlwind. When I had my kids I worked full time. For the first, I was back five days post-delivery, for the second and third, blessedly, living in Israel, I had three months maternity leave. So nannies were on the scene right from the beginning.
Now the wheel has turned, karma is in play, and I am sitting two days a week for Lev as Yael goes back to work after a four month maternity leave (it helps to work for a human rights organization).

Baby Got Back

These days, I have babies on the brain. Has anyone else noticed the astonishing number of Brooklyn Baby Bumps? So when I heard that a new Birthing Center had opened in Buffalo just down the street from our house there, I called to ask to visit.

What a difference from my remembered hospital setting!

The Birthing Center of Buffalo was founded by Dr. Katherine Morrison. It took her five years to work through the bureaucratic entanglements standing in the way. For one thing, this is one of only two free-standing Birthing Centers in New York State. That means, it is not located inside the walls of a hospital (though a hospital is located less than five minutes away).

The setting is very attractive, a bit like an upscale extended-stay hotel.

You enter a waiting room, with a couch and comfortable chairs, the ubiquitous wall TV, and a small kitchen. Family or friends are welcome to wait there. Sliding opaque glass doors, which can be fully opened if desired, separate the living room from the bedroom.

BCB Kitchenette

And bedroom is the proper term. No slab hospital bed, instead a queen-sized real bed. Then there is a Jacuzzi across the room, a Swiss ball for bouncing on, and a swing contraption hanging from the ceiling for variety.

BCB Doors


BCB Birthing Tub

Beyond is a large, modern, private bathroom.

My two daughters were born in Israel with the aid of midwives and my husband. He was one of the first husbands to be at a birth there, and all the interns and residents came in to observe. I don’t think any doctors were invoked at all, since the births went according to the standard script.

It is astonishing to me that it has taken so long for midwifery and birthing centers to begin to enter the mainstream for birthing babies in the US. Brooklyn has one freestanding center, the Brooklyn Birthing Center, and another center is located in a hospital, at Mount Sinai-Roosevelt, at 59th and Tenth in Manhattan.

There is a strict vetting process preceding births in the centers. Various issues, such as your age at a first birth can exclude you, and if the pregnancy passes the 41st week, you can’t deliver there. Epidural anesthesia is not administered, but various non-drug techniques are available for pain relief, or at least attenuation.

For a woman who prefers not to be “there” during labor, a birthing center is not the place to be. But for women who want to be fully engaged, supported by a partner and friends, and truly “give” birth, midwives and birthing centers are finally providing the place and support for her.

Note: I wrote this piece months ago, before Lev’s birth. Since life does have a tendency to shape our opinions, I hesitated to publish it until now. The reason? While I am still thrilled by the possibilities offered by a Birthing Center, I am relieved that Yael’s plan to give birth in one ran into issues and she was on the hospital floor for Lev’s birth. I was there, and there were complications, and I am grateful that the full force of medical intervention was available instantaneously. But I still think that having the option for a different experience is valuable, with all the attendant caveats.