Okay, I've been deeply neglecting the chat threads because I've just felt like crap so much, but I did want to update about my birth center tours while not currently feeling like crap!
The first birth center we visited was much like the one I'd been to before - it's a little house that's not very big with a couple of nice, sunny, homey birthing rooms and a couple of exam rooms. I like that only one of the exam rooms is set up with a regular doctor's table. The other just has a nice twin bed and chairs. We spent quite awhile visiting with one of the midwives. It was extra good because, from the website, this was the midwife I'd been most concerned about liking, and I liked her just fine! We also met one of the other midwives in passing and she seemed very nice. On the down side, I felt nauseated practically the whole time, but they were very nice and brought me some water and I nibbled on some crackers I had, so I survived. I also found out the dh didn't have any idea you couldn't have an epidural at a birth center, nor did he know I was adamantly opposed to having one! I thought we had discussed this, but I guess not. He also had no idea that birth centers were so small - I think he was really envisioning something like a small hospital, but just for having babies. So he was kind of in shock. He did agree that it seemed like a nicer, more comfy place to have a baby than a hospital. (He hates hospitals and doctors, but never knew babies were born anywhere else till he met me!) All the midwives at this birth center are originally homebirth midwives, and, in fact, also do homebirths as well as birth center births. Two are CNMs and two are CPMs, and there are always two midwives there while you're in labor. Those were all things I liked. What I didn't like was that both the back up hospitals they use are not the greatest, and both their back up OBs are men. Also, they don't have hospital privileges, so if I have to go to the hospital, they can't continue to manage my case. It's also a little far from where we currently live, and not particularly close to anywhere we'd like to live, but I think there is an area we can move to that isn't far from our current location that will put us closer to dh's family and the birth center, about the same distance to dh's work, and not much further from my family - but we'll be able to take freeways instead of surface roads.
The second birth center was a completely different feel. It's actually located in a medical office complex, which I feel like would be strange if I'm laboring during a week day. I think the birthing rooms don't share any walls with other offices, but it still seems a little strange to me. It's very nicely decorated, very up-scale and professional feeling. dh was definitely more comfortable there, and said it was a little more like what he was expecting. It definitely had more of a doctor's office feel to it. The midwives there were both L&D nurses together for a long time before going to midwifery school together, and they both practiced with OB/hospital-based practices before opening the birthing center. Because of that, they do have privileges at the local hospital, and their back-up OBs are actually doctors one of them used to work with. So if we had to transfer, the midwife would go with us, and as long as it wasn't a c-section, would still be the one to attend the birth. That was probably the biggest point they had in their favor in my book, along with nicer hospitals and lower prices. dh definitely liked this place a lot better. Oh, and they had bigger tubs that used air jets instead of water jets, which is easier to sanitize. They are much closer to our current apartment, too.
So logistically, the second birth center was the better choice, and definitely dh's preference. Philosophically, the first birth center was really what I was looking for, and my partial preference. If a hospital transfer is necessary, I definitely think the second birth center is better, but I feel like I'm less likely to need a transfer if I use the first birth center. I really wish this weren't my first baby, because I'd like to have some idea of how my body and mind might act in labor, and the fact of the matter is I have no clue. I may completely lose it after 3 contractions and start crying for an epidural. Obviously, I plan on taking birthing classes and discussing my concerns with my midwife and preparing alternative pain relief methods, but I just really don't know what will happen. But I finally called and made a prenatal appointment with the first birth center today. I hope I don't regret it, but so far I feel good about the decision. I just feel like I'm more on the same page with the midwives there, and I think that is important. So first appointment is this Thursday!!