Saturday, December 8, 2018

Getting started

"Hey," I grabbed Caleb's hand across the center console, interrupting his story. "I need you to know that I am feeling really scared."

"Scared about what?" Caleb asked, naming a few specific possibilities.

My eyes filled with tears, "I don't know. All of it. I am just scared."

We were driving to our first prenatal appointment for our new baby. Not only was it this baby's first appointment, it was our first prenatal appointment ever in a medical office, seeing an OB.

[Start here if you don't know the story of our first baby's birth.]

Something like 8 weeks pregnant and already none of my pants fit
I had started thinking through this decision of who to see for prenatal care, just months after Sammy was born. I knew I did not want to have a home birth. It seemed early, so early, to be thinking about this, but I knew that I had to start thinking about it now or I would not be ready. With the guidance of my favorite article about birth of all time, I made what I loosely call my birth plan. Instead of a specific play-by-play, this is a list of what is important to me in birth:
  • I want to feel safe. 
  • I want to do skin to skin immediately. 
  • I want to remember. 
  • I want all the options. 
  • [Added later] I want straight answers only: yes, no, I don't know. "We'll see" or "Maybe" are not options.
I didn't pull the article up on my phone during the drive, but I thought about it and remembered it and that gave me strength. The OB we were going to see had been described by others as "a midwife in an OB's body." If the midwife who was there for Samuel's birth could have offered us the option of a hospital birth, I would have taken it. But she only does home births. 

So many things drew me to the midwifery model, like the time spent with each client ("clients" in a midwifery world because pregnancy is not an illness). The focus on wellness and holistic nutrition. The through review of each test or procedure with pros and cons and the genuine lack of pressure as you decided what you wanted to do. 

But I also wanted all the options, with no judgement of my choices. And I didn't think I could handle having a midwife like the one I left halfway through my first pregnancy. 

I haven't talked much about that experience on here or at all, probably because the birth itself ended up overshadowing it. But as we drove to our appointment, I remembered driving to that first appointment for Sammy. The office where this midwife took appointments was located nearly an hour from our house. We'd interviewed her early on and been impressed with her for a variety of reasons, all of which fell apart as we began to see her regularly. I was nervous, but often did not feel much better after our visits. The drive was stressful to me, and the best way I can describe her was somewhat cold. Despite what she said, I did not feel like my questions were welcomed, and I had a lot of questions, having never been pregnant before. She constantly compared herself to being better than a traditional OB in terms of flexibility, time, etc. Sometimes she did not listen to what I said, but assumed she understood. Finally it all became too much and I told her I was going to switch. She instantly became difficult to get ahold of, and when I finally did get in touch with her, she spoke harshly and critically about my new midwife, recommending that due to my nervousness and anxiety, I just go ahead and find an OB who would deliver in a hospital. Looking back on it, I don't think I had any more anxiety than the average first-time mother. 

So. Here we were driving to my first prenatal appointment with a new doctor. I held Caleb's hand tightly. I bit my lip to keep from crying as the nurse made small talk as she took my blood pressure and placed an unwelcome hand on my belly for a fleeting second to comment about how I was showing already. Finally, it was all too much, and I burst into tears as I described our first birth.

The nurse seemed shocked, and didn't really know what to say. "Eleven pounds? You should probably just have a c-section this time," she suggested unhelpfully.

Instantly, I was aware that I no longer wanted to share my story with this person. "We'll see," I said, intentionally folding my arms across myself as a way to close myself off.

She turned to Caleb and acted as if she was telling him a secret, cupping both hands around her mouth and saying "C-section".

I was ready to get off the table and leave. I did not feel like a human or at all respected. She wouldn't let me sit next to my husband, whose hand I needed. After she left, I quickly moved back into the second chair. It was a small move, but it reminded me of my dignity as a human. I was not there to just be examined on a table. I was there to receive care - and also I was there to interview them. They were professional adults - but so was I. Maintaining my own sense of agency by posturing my body in the chair instead of on the table became my act of rebellion for the next few visits to that office. It reminded me that I have choices and that I have a voice. Even when I was weeping.

In the end, I loved the OB, but made the decision to transfer based on her staff. Until one September day when she told me she was leaving to start her own practice. And that is where I landed, thankfully. 

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