A woman in Murphy, North Carolina, called today and asked me to help her convince the local hospital to allow her to labor in water. Not an easy task considering the hospital administrative supervisor has already misrepresented the midwife and physician and flat out told the pregnant mother to "take her business elsewhere!" That manager was terse, but it is not advisable to respond with that same energy. What you want is the tacit (silent, but acknowledging) approval of your birth nurses and managers.
I did discuss whether is was feasible for this family to hire a midwife and stay at home, with a realistic look at what options would be available to her. No home birth midwives within a 3 hour radius. The hospital is clearly being discriminatory. The mother is on Medicaid and could never afford a home birth, even if she wanted one and there was a midwife available. So, we took a different tack and discussed the power of numbers.
"Go to the local grocery store on Saturday morning and talk about your desires for a water assisted labor with every single woman you know and even those you don't," I advised her. Find out what women think in her area and if there are more than a few women who would want this option, ask them to sign a petition. The hospital will find it much harder to turn down 10 or 20 women. The other advice was to find out where the nurse manager attends church and start a petition in that church after the service. Ask women what they think of water assisted labor and if they would consider going to a hospital close to their home if that hospital offered this service and the other one didn't. Talk to mothers about the value of keeping labor drug-free and how water assists them the most of all pain management modalities. And work with the local hospital midwives and family practice doctors to get their support.
I hope to get a report back from our experienced pregnant mother in a few weeks after circulating through her small town and speaking to women about birth. This is an example of "being BOLD" and speaking up for what you want and know will be good for you in your labor and birth experience.