Last night I had the most horrible dream. I was pregnant again, which was a good thing, but my doctor was HOUSE. That’s right, from the TV show. In the dream, I had to go to the hospital since we had suspected that something was wrong with the baby but in treating me he refused to talk with me about what he was doing and why. I was an anxious and on high alert. He even INJECTED something into my foot and then refused to tell me what it was! Or even what it was for! I wasn’t really in a good, hard labor yet, probably from all the stress of the situation. So it was me and the infamous Dr. House and I was all kinds of up in his face about what he was doing to me and why.
It was epic.
For anyone who knows me personally they know I’m not one of those people who is eager for confrontation. But when it comes to having my babies I will lay down all kinds of boundaries and be as aggressive as I need to be if it is necessary. That’s why I get so choosy at the BEGINNING so that I can relax and just let go and just labor and have the baby, knowing that the team that I’ve built has my best interest at heart, is competent and SAFE. In my dream, I felt anything but safe. And mama bear was coming out ready and very willing to do anything it took to make sure that we were getting the best care possible.
Earlier this week I was talking with a friend who is rounding 36 weeks in her pregnancy and she told me she doesn’t really like her doctor. She said they wanted to do a vaginal exam at her last prenatal and she was able to decline but why on Earth are they checking a low-risk healthy mom that early? This is not in line with evidenced-based medicine and certainly doesn’t make us women feel comfortable! Plus, with every exam, no matter how sterile that glove is, you are introducing an added level of risk of infection. So many red flags with her situation and I told her I was going to write a blog post about this very thing.
With each baby I’ve become even more picky about who will be the one attending my birth. When I had my first son, I had a giant OB practice that rotated about 50 doctors between several offices. It was massive and impersonal. There was little to no chance that I would even have ever met the doctor that I would have in labor before the actual labor. This caused a great deal of anxiety in me leading up to the birth since I knew whoever your doctor, and nurses, are can have a large impact on the outcome and satisfaction of your birth.
But the type of medical insurance that I had at the time covered that system or nothing. Period. I could not choose to go to a small practice here or a specific doctor there. I felt stuck. I considered the idea of a homebirth for about a week but my husband at the time (now ex, but not for this reason) dismissed the idea. I didn’t want to have to convince him of why a home birth was better when I wasn’t even sure myself.
Turns out, I was assigned one of the most amazing resident doctors I could ever imagine, and I truly believe he was an angel sent to my birthing suite to help protect the space for me to have a wonderful and intervention-free birthing experience. And I did! 29 hours of labor and no drugs, not even an IV! I felt completely amazing and that moment changed my life.
With my second son, we planned a homebirth. I carefully chose my midwifes and I was so thrilled. They were wonderful and attentive and took very good care of me. They were even able to spot that I had a rare and potentially very serious liver condition called Cholestasis, that I likely also had with my first but went undiagnosed. Under their care we treated it effectively and I was able to birth at home at 42 weeks and 3 days and everything went perfect.
My third, I hired a midwife that I was so excited about but at 28 weeks I actually decided not to continue care because I realized I didn’t feel safe enough with her. Safety and trust between everyone that will be in the birth room is absolutely paramount. Any lack of trust, especially between the care provider and mom introduces a level of unneeded danger. If the expectant mom doesn’t feel completely and entirely safe to tell him or her anything and everything then when in labor she may hold back and not communicate, not call, or any number of things that could be important to the safety of mom and baby. These things happen subtly and often without realizing the root cause, but fear and distrust are not welcome in the birth room.
I didn’t have anyone for about two weeks and felt very vulnerable and open. As so many times in my life, though, everything came together perfectly as though it was always supposed to be that way. I was able to find an amazing midwife that I felt safer with than any previous care provider. I finally knew how it felt to be completely and 100% at ease with my doctor or midwife. I was EXCITED to see her when I had my prenatals and always left feeling more rejuvenated for being around her. I could cry and laugh and tell her exactly what was thinking and feeling without reservation or wondering how she would perceive it or if she would judge me. And the birth was perfect.
I wish so much that every woman could feel this way with her doctor or midwife. Because it feels incredible! The two biggest things that you have control over in how your labor and birth go are how you take care of yourself throughout your pregnancy, mostly what you eat and how active you are, and who you choose as your doctor or midwife.
Since I moved to another state after my third son, I was on the hunt again with my most recent pregnancy. I was also able to choose a midwife that I felt just as safe, comfortable and excited to see. And having lost that sweet baby boy at 22 weeks this made an even bigger difference than I could have anticipated. You can read those details here.
Ladies, please be picky with your birth team. Do not stand for anything less. You not only deserve to have someone that you feel completely safe with but it is important for the utmost safety of your birth!
Know your options. Know you can choose who you have there. Interview people. Realize that it is a privilege to be invited to attend someone’s birth, even if you’re a doctor. Don’t hand out that invitation without thought. Heaven only KNOWS how a doctor like House would ever end up at a birth of mine! Good thing it was only a dream.
What experiences have you had about feeling safe or unsafe with a care provider?