Every hospital, doctor, and midwife vary a bit in their work from one to another, but here is a general, semi-quick, comparison of a hospital birth vs. a home and/or maternity center birth (ha, I bet you thought I was gonna say a comparison of a hippie vs. you):
Food and Drink at Hospital -- You will probably not be able to eat until your baby is born. If you are lucky, you may be allowed to have water, or juice, or even a popsicle, but there are some hospitals that don't allow you to have anything but ice chips; not even a breath mint or piece of gum. The background for this is the fear of potential aspiration.
Food and Drink at Home/Maternity Center -- You are very encouraged to eat and drink lightly throughout your labor. You must keep up your energy and stamina. As a matter of fact, if you bring in a plate of brownies to the birth center, or have your doula or partner bake a huge lasagna for the birth team after your baby is born, everyone will love you!
IVs at Hospital -- IVs are administered upon entrance to every patient. One of the most common IV fluids used is Lactated Ringer's Solution, which will keep you from getting dehydrated if you are not drinking. If you are receiving Pitocin, this will be hooked up to your IV as well. So, you will have at least two bags of liquid constantly dripping into your arm/hand.
IVs at Home/Maternity Center -- These are only administered if you become dehydrated or are hemorrhaging postpartum. In few instances, some women are Rh-negative, so an IV with antibiotics would be given periodically, but only every 4 hours or so.
Doctors & Nurses at Hospital -- You will see many nurses upon your stay at the hospital. Shift changes bring new people, and if you have a longer labor, you may get two or even three different nurses attending you at different times. The doctors change shifts too. One OB or midwife may come in to see you, and yet someone completely different, someone you have never met, may walk in to deliver your baby. You may not get your regular doctor. It all depends on the shift changes and who's on call at any given time.
Midwives & Birth Assistants at Home/Maternity Center -- One midwife will be with you the whole time. She will either be one of a small group of ladies on call at the time you go into labor, or she may be the same woman you have met with your whole pregnancy. But you know her, and she is with you from the beginning to the end. There are very rarely any shift changes. The same goes for her assistant. One or two constant assistants, that you may even develop a relationship with, will be at your labor.
Interventions at Hospital -- In the past few years, hospitals have been using less interventions during the labor and birth process. This is great! There is, however, a large chance that some interventions will be used during some point in your labor and delivery. This is true especially if you ask for pain medication. There are so many drugs you can use to help you cope with, and even git rid of, labor pain. Pitocin, epidurals, Nubain, stripping membranes, breaking water, episiotomies, and cesareans, are just some of the interventions that have been commonly used in hospitals.
Interventions at Home/Maternity Center -- Very few, if any interventions, are used at home or at a center. Every now and then, with your permission, the midwife may offer to break your water, or offer some homeopathic means of inducing labor. In rare cases, such as postpartum hemorrhage or severe dehydration, an IV may be used. As far as pain medication, there is no option for an epidural or other medications, but you are encouraged to use natural management (massage, soaking in the tub, visualization, etc.) or homeopathic therapy. In the case of severe back labor, some midwives offer sterile water injections which are placed in your lower back. I have only seen this once, but it seemed to really help!
Heading Home from Hospital -- You typically stay 24-48 hours after you have your baby in a hospital.
Heading Home from Maternity Center -- You may stay 3-6 hours after the birth is born at a center.
Home Birth -- The midwife will leave your home about 2-4 hours after your baby's birth.
Remember, you should have your baby where you feel the most able and the most comfortable. Weigh your options and choose which aspects are most important to you. Just because you choose to have your baby in a hospital, this does not make you a worry wort or a wimp. And just because you choose to give birth at home or in a center, this does not make you a hippie.