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On Hospital Transfers

By November 18, 2022News

When you are late in your pregnancy, every day can feel like an eternity, and so I was delighted when my water broke on my due date- no post-dates baby for me! I had been working as a labor and delivery nurse for years, and had been a birth assistant with Fika for more than a year, and I felt ready to have my own birth experience. As it turned out though, my son had his own plans, and my planned birth center birth turned into a three day labor saga. After days of on again, off again contractions without ever getting into a good labor pattern, my partner, doula, midwife and I were all in agreement that a hospital transfer was in everyone’s best interest. It was disappointing, but I was exhausted, and ready to meet my baby, and I wanted to do whatever it took to keep everyone safe. Hospital transfers can be really frustrating, and hard to accept, but they are also sometimes necessary. Based on my own experience, here are three tips for managing that emotional experience in the event of a transfer. 

  1. Pack a bag just in case. I was So Sure I would have a quick and easy delivery, and would be home in a couple of hours after having my baby that I didn’t bother with a hospital bag. Rookie move. Instead, I was stuck in the hospital for three days relying on a bag packed by someone else. It was less than ideal, and would’ve been so easy to avoid! Just pack a bag. Worst case, you never need it and unpack It at some point after your smooth and awesome delivery. 
  2. If it looks like a transfer might happen, think about what you hoped to get out of your out-of-hospital birth experience, and try to bring that to the hospital setting. This is tricky, because some things won’t be possible (like giving birth in the water), but you can still have a positive birth experience! Labor and delivery nurses genuinely care about their patients, and will do their best to help you have a good birth. Communicate with your team to make the best of the situation.
  3. It’s ok to feel sad and even grieve the birth you wanted and didn’t have. I will often tell people that birth is like a wedding- a good wedding doesn’t guarantee a good marriage, and vice versa, but people care a lot about their weddings! A bad wedding would be really disappointing! For a long time after my son was born I told everyone, myself included, that it was fine, I was fine, and my birth experience didn’t matter that much, when in fact I had very complicated feelings about everything. It can be tempting to try to stuff your emotions down, especially when you have a newborn, and are trying to cope with new parenthood, and  sleep deprivation, but it’s worth it to sit with your feelings and unpack your experience. Talking to someone, whether it’s your partner, a friend or family member, or a professional can really help. 

While most clients will not experience a hospital transfer, and it can feel jinx-y to think about, like most situations, it is better to be prepared. When you need a hospital it’s good that it’s available, and does not mean that you can’t have a beautiful, empowering birth experience.


Caroline Altreuter is a registered nurse and certified lactation consultant at The Coit House. You may meet her during your prenatal and postpartum care or for the birth of your baby.