Friday, April 24, 2009

heartbeats and drive throughs

I had my first prenatal check up today. It was a very bizarre experience--I had used midwives with my first two pregnancies, but because of my age and because of some concerns based on my previous birth experiences, I (despite my truest inclinations) thought I might need to be more medically monitored this time around. My family doctor, who I trust, suggested a local woman OB, and told me that patients he has sent to her love her.

I did not love her.

When she came into the room, after Michael and I had been waiting for over half an hour in the exam room--me in the broad-shouldered paper get-up they had given me that looked like some sort of Star Wars Empress costume--she shook my hand, but didn't even acknowledge Michael's presence. Her whole visit was curt and impersonal; Michael called it a "drive through exam". She did an ultrasound without telling me that's what she was about to do--I was open to it, even though I've never had one before, but it would have been nice to have been informed first; it took her awhile to find the baby--so nerve wracking--but eventually, she said "There's the heartbeat." This was a huge relief, of course, but she didn't turn up the sound so I could hear it and she was standing between me and the monitor, so I couldn't see anything. When I tried to sit up to get a look at the screen, she said "You can't see it" and turned the machine off. I imagine she meant I wouldn't be able to identify the images, but it sounded as if she meant I wasn't allowed to look.

Another frustrating thing--she told us that the two local hospitals where she has privileges wouldn't let me have a VBAC, even though my second birth was a VBAC (my son was born by emergency C-section). If I want to try for a VBAC, she'd have to refer me to a doctor in Loma Linda. It makes me so upset to think that women have no choice regarding VBACs in local hospitals; I'm not sure who to talk to about this, but I am definitely going to find out.

I'm glad that we went this morning--it was good to know the baby's heart is beating and to hear that the doctor isn't concerned about my spotting--but it was discouraging to know that this is the current standard of care. Michael said that the experience was even worse than the time when he went to an urgent care center with a bad respiratory infection not that long ago, and they gave him a brochure titled "I Have a Cold Just Like Mommy and Daddy"! Today's appointment definitely helped me realize that even though I have concerns, I don't want to medicalize this pregnancy and birth unless it proves to be absolutely necessary. Of course this something I knew intuitively, but I had been listening to my fears instead of that deeper place. I guess this is where the trust I talked about in the last post comes in!

After we got home, I called a local midwife and made an appointment for this coming Thursday. She talked to me over the phone for almost half an hour, and as she spoke about her practice and encouraged me to ask questions, I felt my whole body relax. This is the kind of care I was hoping for--personal, patient, the kind of care that honors a woman's journey toward birth and doesn't just treat her like part of an assembly line. Of course if there are complications, I will turn toward whatever help is needed, but for now, I feel like the right decision is to stay as far away from hospitals as possible.

My midwife sister is coming into town tomorrow (YAY!) and will be returning just about every other month through this pregnancy for various family functions (and hopefully for the birth!), so I know that I'll have the best adjunct care imaginable. I am a lucky mama indeed.


  1. Don't even get me started on the state of birth in this country. Luckily, there are many books and blogs that offer information and resources for VBACs, but I'm sure your sister and your midwife will provide the support you need.

    I was lucky enough to have the first child in the UK. He was 5 weeks early, and I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to deliver the way I wanted (and did) over here.

    So happy you're following your instincts!

  2. Wow. I always forget that the crappy medical care isn't limited to Alabama...

    I had a CNM backup for my homebirth b/c of the legal situation here in AL (if we'd had to transfer, our MW could not have come with us, or would have had to pretend she was our doula -- our CNM allowed us to have that last option, which thankfully wasn't needed!) and even the CNM was more medically minded than I would have liked!

    Glad you got to see the heartbeat, tho :D


  3. What a beautiful post, Gayle! The concerns you write about are worries I've always harbored -- one of the (many) reasons I am still not a mother. We women are so fortunate that you're writing about this. I certainly feel less alone as I read your posts.

  4. Thanks so much, Deborah and Alexis and Dominique! I'm so glad to have you along for the ride. :)