When I got the mind-blowing “pregnant” reading one snowy December morning, I had little doubt about what came next: call my gynecologist’s office and schedule a prenatal visit. I was much more into daydreaming about the microscopic bean floating around in my belly than worrying about things like picking a caregiver. I skipped the first chapter of every new pregnancy book I read. I was ready to get onto the fun stuff like when I was going to start showing!
For my first 19 weeks, things went pretty well. I decided early that I wanted my delivery to be what I imagined — no medication, no epidurals, and no pitocin. My instinct was telling me that centuries of women giving birth without epidurals were evidence enough that my body was equipped to host a strong and powerful birth. I shared this plan with Dr. R and she suggested I “keep an open mind.” Not necessarily an unmedicated childbirth battle cry, but she didn’t fight my wishes either. It would do, I decided.
At around 20 weeks, I started to think twice about my OB/GYN group. Although my ultrasound was a mind-buzzing high that we’ll never forget, we saw another doctor in Dr. R’s group. He was arrogant and defensive when I told him I was reading a book on the Bradley Method, and all I could think was “I could end up with him delivering my baby if he’s on-call when I go into labor…!” Despite the gentle reassurance from my doula, yoga teacher, and prenatal chiropractor that it’s perfectly acceptable to switch caregivers, and that 20 weeks was a great time to make that switch, I was hesitant. The three of them were my circle of pregnancy care that gave me energy. Dr. R was just a means to an end. The dichotomy would be fine.
My yoga teacher-doula-chiropractor triangle all gushed about a local hospital with a midwife program and a focus on supporting unmedicated childbirth if that was a person’s wish. Their cesarean rate was 12.7%. My hospital choices had rates hovering around 30%. When we toured the intended hospital, the whole place just felt wrong. But somehow I still wasn’t allowing myself to think about switching groups. I couldn’t possibly risk offending Dr. R.
The weeks marched on and my belly grew. Time piled yet another reason not to switch onto my list. There wasn’t nearly enough time to get to know a new caregiver before my birth. It would be like starting out from scratch and Dr. R and I had built something together. Hadn’t we? It was about the same time that I realized she never called me by my name. Did she even know I went by Katie and not Katherine? She would sweep in, answer my questions politely, and leave. It hit me in the face that I was just another chart to Dr. R.
Switching turned out to be so easy, it was a non-event. I called the midwife group and scheduled my 32 week appointment. I called Dr. R’s office and asked the receptionist to fax my records to the midwife group. Done. Relief.
My decision to switch to this midwife group turned out to be so essential to the beautiful success of my birth not because I got the unmedicalized birth, but because I ended up with a medicalized one. The ugly face of high blood pressure reared its unexpected head at my 40-week appointment. I made them switch cuffs twice and take my blood pressure by hand. None of it changed the fact that all signs pointed to pre-eclampsia.
It was the doctors who were telling me to stay for monitoring, to stay for induction, to just have my baby since I’m here and full term. But it was the midwife that sat down, looked me in the eye and said she would worry about my health and the health of my baby if I left (which she reminded me was my choice, not theirs). She explained why she felt okay about inducing labor for me and my baby. I agreed to the induction I had dreaded for nine months because I trusted the person I had chosen to guide me in my birth.
I feel comfortable with all of the medical twists and turns my labor took. At first I was sad for having missed out on the childbirth I had envisioned. But our midwife was as centered in our quest for unmedicated childbirth as I was, and that helped me let go of my anxieties when the cascade of interventions took over my labor. Had I stayed with the OB/GYN group, I might have fought harder at the difficult choices I had to make. But I trusted my instincts and my decision was the right one.