birth center.

The sign directed us downstairs to the first floor. As we waited for the elevator, another young couple came up behind us, then another. I looked at the other ladies and smiled to myself. As we all got into the elevator, one of the other men said, "I reckon we're all going to the same place." We laughed. Three visibly pregnant women and their men.

We were told to schedule a tour of the birth center at our very first appointment. We finally got around to it this week. Judging by the conditions of the other women, we weren't the only ones to wait. I came late, but prepared. Earlier that day, I'd done some research on what questions to ask at a hospital tour. I'd found lots of lists prepared by what I can only assume are the super-prepared, super-involved type. These sorts of questions varied from basic (Where do we park?) to the possibly-confrontational, patient advocate type (Can we refuse an IV?). Josh, confused by my calling it a "birth center," only wanted to know how far it was from the hospital. It's in the hospital.

We arrived at Classroom I, at the far end of the main dining hall. We were given a folder full of materials and directed inside, where more pregnant ladies and their companions waited. It was a diverse crowd; everybody has babies. It was nice being there with them all, with our individual lives and backgrounds, yet sharing these same feelings of shy nervousness and excitement.

The nurse at the front went through a powerpoint presentation, referencing various forms in our packets. As the questions on my sheet were answered, I checked them off. I'd been concerned by reading the question lists, which gave the impression that giving birth is basically like being on an assembly line - go here, put this on, take this, don't do that, wear this, here's your baby, go home. But a lot of the things that the websites implied that we would have to demand with angry fists were standard practice here, or at least a common enough request that it's stated up front in the orientation. They seemed to be about providing us with options rather than directions.

Next, we split up into two groups to go on a tour of the center itself. The rooms were all private and spacious. The decor was a bit dated, but everything looked clean and reasonably comfortable (the beds looked good, the recliner for the husband not so much). This part of the tour was conducted by a different nurse, one with a thick Southern accent who obviously loved babies. She mentioned that they'd had a lot of especially cute babies there recently. The ward was mostly empty, but behind a door bedecked with a blue ribbon came a wail.

By the end of the tour, all my questions had been answered. I'm not particularly looking forward to giving birth, but I feel pretty good about doing it there.

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