LA GRANGE – Outfitted with a rocking chair, dining table, microwave, flat-screen TV, MP3 player charging station and queen-sized bed, the two suites at Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital’s new Natural Birthing Center are designed to feel like home.
On Aug. 29, one of the suites was home to the first birth at the new center, which was developed in response to an increased demand for a supervised spot for natural births, according to hospital officials. The Natural Birthing Center limits medical intervention and often offers a more intimate birth experience for the mother, baby and even the father, officials said.
“The baby comes out and they’re so awake and aware. You lock eyes immediately,” said Elizabeth Rys a day after giving birth to her fourth child, Dustin, who was born at 8:29 p.m. Thursday in the new center. “No one whisks him away and does something with him right away. They kind of let us decide when to take him.”
Rys, of Manhattan, had given birth to her first three children by water birth at Hinsdale Hospital, but not in a setting designed for natural births like the new center in La Grange.
“It’s comforting. It’s a very homelike atmosphere and it’s very calming,” she said. “The staff, especially being so new to it here, they have been phenomenal.”
The center was developed in part by Hinsdale-based Dr. Steven Daube of Natural Birth Midwives, a division of OMG Women’s Healthcare. Certified nurse midwives work with the hospital’s birth center nurses – who received training to assist natural births – along with OB-GYNs to run the new center.
Down the hall is the hospital’s general labor and delivery area, so if the to-be mom needs an epidural, she can be wheeled to a nearby room.
“This is kind of the bridge between the labor and delivery unit, which is traditional, and the home birth,” said Hannah Klamm, a nurse in the hospital’s labor unit.
The women giving birth in the center are usually already in labor when they arrive. They do, however, plan for the natural birth and must take a four-week class called Your Birth Your Way. Once in her room, a to-be mom receives support from a midwife, other staff and her partner, who all try to get her to focus and breathe.
A hydrotherapy tub in the suites can be used for a water birth, and the father or partner has the option to be in the tub as well, enabling him to massage and comfort the to-be mom. There’s also a rope hanging from the ceiling that a woman can hold on to if she wants to deliver her baby while squatting.
Women preparing for a natural birth are able to eat and drink and usually don’t need an IV or continuous monitoring.
“I think it kind of empowers women to be in control of their own birth experience, and it really helps them bond better with their baby,” Klamm said.
Recovery after birth typically lasts two hours, and moms will eventually be allowed to leave the hospital eight hours after giving birth, though many want to stay overnight and enjoy the intimate time with their newborns.
“You get to cuddle and the baby is able to hear the mom’s heartbeat,” Rys said.