This is probably too far for you, but I had a wonderful experience with the midwives at Delaware Valley OBGYN in Princeton. They were marvelous and I succeeded in delivering naturally at Princeton Hospital, where they have a great relationship with the midwives so I knew there would be no interference unless (truly) necessary.
Wherever you go, I highly recommend a midwife - it's a whole different methodology - that giving birth is a state of health. They believe in women. Furthermore, I had a fantastic doula and that made all the difference!
If you don't get much info on here, I would start really actively talking to people in your area and getting specifics. For example, I got rave reviews about the hospital closest to us in Newtown. But when we visited it was a different vibe. It was lovely and nice, but I could tell they weren't that excited about having to follow my birth plan. So some people would not be bothered by that. You should ask specific questions like how many people can be in the room. I would say if you're looking for a hospital that is really supportive of natural childbirth, then as rule disallowing a spouse and a mom and a doula would not really mesh with that. There are a lot of things that hospitals do as a matter of course that can make natural childbirth a challenge. Maybe you can get in touch with a breastfeeding group or any natural parenting group or something. This is not to assume that all natural parenting people are looking for the same thing, but you will find a range of people who have just given birth and some may have been looking for similar things. Likewise (not to push the doula thing) a doula in the area could tell you something about hospitals in that regard. A great doula will not get in the way of you doing whatever you want, including having your mom there. Likewise a midwife can probably talk with you about this. I actually started with a great OB but I was not comfortable with the hospital choices - at 25 weeks I switched to a midwife and I was nervous to switch but it was perfect. My doula is currently in Colombia until July but if you need thoughts on a doula, I could ask her for a recommendation in your area. Best of luck!
i go to the Valley Birthplace in Huntingdon Valley and, personally, i love it. i travel up there from Fishtown and it only takes about 25 minutes, depending on traffic (sometimes less). Sounds like you've heard about them so forgive if you know this info already... the midwives there are Barbara D'Amato, Melicia Escobar and Jade Groff (who i think generally get a lot of good feedback on these boards). I've seen all 3 so far and really enjoy my visits and am very much looking forward to birthing there. i like that it's a small practice (i've now met and see everyone who could potentially be at our birth) and abbie, who works the desk is very helpful and actually answers the phone! every time i call pennsy (i still have my ultrasounds there), i feel like i just keep going around in a circle or am put on hold.
the valley birthplace midwives have admitting privileges at montgomery hospital in norristown. you'll find opinions about the upsides and downsides to this, including location (to me, anyway, being in the city). my take is that valley was the best choice for us, and if we end up at montgomery we just do and hopefully the chances are small.
all that being said, i know two people who recently delivered at pennsy (december, my sister in law, and about 3 weeks ago, a neighborhood friend) and both had good experiences. i had an initial prenatal appointment there, at Valley and with a homebirth midwife, Kathy Hindle, who i also liked. are you familiar with the pennysmoms google group? if you're considering pennsylvania, you probably want to check it out.
good luck! i guess i'd be curious to hear what the mixed reviews are that you've heard about valley...it's tough, because if you ask 10 different people, you'll obviously get 10 different opinions, which sometimes makes the decision harder! i like the PP said, definitely visit and do consultations!
i'm colleen! edd 8.25.12
Colleen: I have a feeling I an going to end up at Valley or Pennsy. I am glad you're having a great experience. That really makes me consider it. The not so great reviews were more on those websites where people rate stuff. I am a firm believer that people who have to complain are more likely to fill that stuff out! Lol. I live very close to Valley; I'm in Somerton. I work in NoLibs so close to Pennsy also. Both are equidistant to Montgomery so that's okay too. I hear that's a nice hospital. Are you having a doula? Thanks so much for the input! Good point about the Pennsymoms group! I didn't know about them. So many things I don't know!
My girlfriends think I am nuts for wanting a natural experience. They don't know I an pregnant yet and wont for awhile. They delivered at either Abington or St. Mary's and from what I can tell midwives are unheard of there. So that's a no go for me.
not planning on having a doula at the moment...because jade is still "newish" to Valley, she's attending all the births this year with Barbara and Melicia. So considering that we'll probably have two midwives there, i'm leaning towards not having a doula. our birth class is starting next week (we're taking a 3 week class with Brittany McCollum from Blossoming Bellies) so i guess i hope to get some feedback there on that decision. On the other hand, we're not planning on having any family with us (just me and my husband) so it might be nice to have another support person.
i looked up about valley on here and found mostly comments from 2008/2009. i do think you're right about people who have negative things to say TEND to be more active about sharing them (that being said, there are lots of people on here who love Valley and the midwives there). for me, reviews and feedback are just one part of the decision-making process. we (my husband too) really connected with melicia when we visited there and that went a long way for us.
i'm colleen! edd 8.25.12
It sounds like you've already gotten some good info here, but I just wanted to add a bit, as I just had my baby (7 wks ago) at Pennsylvania Hospital. I was seeing the midwives there (at the Curtis Institute Building on 6th/Walnut), and had a terrific experience. I was planning an all-natural birth, and found them very easy going and low-key (not suggesting/pushing any unnecessary testing, etc.). I went on the hospital tour, and was really pleased with what I saw. In the last few weeks my blood pressure went way up & I developed pre-ecclampsia, at which point they told me I had to see an OB-GYN, but he was great too. He did have me go to the hospital to be induced bc of the Pre-Ecclampsia, which meant I couldn't use the midwife suite; I was disappointed, but even the non-midwife rooms are great -- each has a shower, birthing ball, couch, lots of room, etc.; the bed comes apart for the birth. They were great at the hospital -- they took hours and hours to stabilize me & the baby so we could avoid a C-section; they asked what I wanted to do about pain medication early on, but never suggested it again until I asked. It wasn't an ideal situation for me, bc of the issues that came up, but I felt under the circumstances, I really got the best birth experience possible, and given how things looked when I first went in, I thought they did extremely well.
It is true that they have some shared rooms for recovery, but they try not to double up unless they have to; in fact, when they kept my baby for jaundice but discharged me, they let me stay in the room (alone) another night, and I know at least one other woman was in the same situation. They are working on moving to all private rooms. I guess there is an element of luck of the draw there, though.
The best of luck to you!