I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous the first time I walked into the hospital to meet the team of doctors that were going to help me bring my twins into the world. I had a high-risk pregnancy, which meant things would be a little "different," and, well, I had heard a few too many horror stories about OB-GYNs and hospital birth experiences. Thankfully, it took no more than five minutes for me to recognize all the ways my OB-GYN made me feel empowered, and would continue to make me feel empowered throughout my pregnancy, labor and delivery. My research had paid off; I had found a group of individuals who were as capable as they were kind; I was going to get the birth I wanted.
Well, not exactly. My high-risk pregnancy was extremely difficult and, at 19 weeks, one of my twin sons died. It would be my OB-GYN holding me in her office as I sobbed, comforting me and telling me that nothing I did or could have done would have changed anything. It would be my OB-GYN that would help me deliver a baby that was alive, and a baby that was dead. The birth I wanted and envisioned and planned for had vanished, but I still had the team I wanted and, in the end, it was that team — lead by my OB-GYN — that would make me feel empowered when I was at my most vulnerable.
Of course, no two obstetricians are the same, and there are plenty healthcare professionals who do horribly wrong by their patients. I think it's important, above all else, to be proactive about your research and find someone who isn't only qualified, but someone who you truly bond with and who you feel comfortable with. In the end, it doesn't matter if that person is an OB (unless you have medical complications and/or emergencies) or a Midwife; just find someone who makes you feel the way my OB made me feel when I was bringing my son into the world.
My doctor not only kept me continuously informed as to my progress, my bevy of choices and just the operations that were run-of-the-mill to her, but completely foreign to me; she also constantly asked me how I was doing. Sure, she could have just looked at the monitor or checked to see how dilated I was, but she was just as concerned with my mental and emotional state as she was my physical state.
I always felt like I was part of the process and calling the shots and in the driver's seat of my own birthing experience. I felt like I could really and truly express any fears or concerns, and have them taken seriously (even if they were the normal fears and concerns the million of other women my doctor had treated also had and probably voiced). I felt like I was her first patient, even though I definitely, definitely wasn't.
Even when I didn't completely understand, my doctor stopped to ask for my opinion and explain a potential situation further until I felt educated enough (or at least comfortable enough) to give my opinion to her.
For example, after three hours of pushing, my son was refusing to enter the world. I was adamant about avoiding Pitocin throughout my labor, and my doctors and nurses agreed. Even after I was administered an epidural (after 10 hours of drug-free labor), I was never given Pitocin. However, after three hours of active pushing, I was told that if I wasn't given Pitocin (a small dose) to at least help my exhausted body push my son into the world, I would be in danger of having a c-section. I had been in labor for over a day and my son was showing signs of mild distress. While that distress was not enough to justify a trip to the operating room, it was giving my doctor a reason to pause and assess the situation. So, after multiple conversations, I agreed that a low dose of Pitocin could be administered, to assist my body in doing what it needed to do and in an attempt to avoid an emergency c-section.
With my doctor's guidance and breadth of knowledge, I felt empowered to make an informed decision. I didn't feel like my birth experience was being taken from me; I felt like I was being provided the best information to make an informed decision that would keep myself, and my son, safe. Thanks to her recommendation, I had the vaginal birth I wanted and my son was born healthy.
I was always given a list of options from which to choose, from the time I checked in to the time I left the hospital. I had planned on having birth sans drugs, so my doctor reminded me that I was free to try my hand at a birthing tub, a birthing ball, walking the halls, and anything else I needed. My nurses adjusted my bed so I could try to position myself in numerous ways in an attempt to ease the pain of my contractions and, when I was exhausted and continued to be in excrutiating pain, my nurses didn't bat an eye when I wanted to change my birth plan and asked for the epidural. I never felt coerced or cornered; I never felt like I didn't have choices that were mine, and mine alone, to make; I never felt like someone else was deciding how I was going to bring my son into the world.
In other words, it. Was. Awesome.
Pitocin was not part of my birth plan, so even when I changed said birth plan and asked (read: demanded) for an epidural, my doctor and my nurses respected the fact that in no way, shape or form did I want Pitocin to be administered as well.
There were no arguments. There were no lectures. There wasn't even some exacerbated sigh that's supposed to shame me in some subtle, annoying way. There was a simple, "OK, sounds good!" and that was that. Same can be said for the moment I checked into the hospital and said I didn't want any medications at all. In fact, I wasn't even encouraged to have an IV or told I couldn't eat. I was free to roam the hospital halls and labor as I pleased.
There is nothing more demoralizing than having someone in a position of power (or at least authority and, it can be argued, control) talk down to you as if you're an idiot or incapable or beneath them in some way.
Do I have years of medical training underneath my belt? Nope. Have I assisted another woman in bringing a human being into this world? That would also be a big fat nope. However, I was the woman who was going to be bringing this one specific baby into the world, and I'm the only woman who has ever been in my specific body. That made me the one and only authority of my body, and my doctor constantly reminded me of that. We were partners in the birthing process, and it made me feel so incredibly capable and powerful.
Nothing says, "I got your back while you do your thing," like kicking people out of a room and handling business. I was assigned a nurse I really didn't get along with, and my doctor saw to it that — after I voiced my concerns — she was reassigned. She also kicked out supportive-but-curious friends that I didn't necessarily want around when a slimy newborn was making his way out of my body.
I had a very difficult pregnancy, which is one of the many reasons why I felt so close to my doctor.
My doctor was the one who held me in her arms after she told me one of my twin sons had died. She was the one to remind me that it wasn't my fault and that, sadly, these things just sometimes happen. She was the one to tell me that there was a potential complication when my surviving twin son, and that I would need additional testing. She held my hand and explained every long-winded and complicated word and made me feel like no matter how bad it was or could be, I could handle it. She showed up for every weekly visit, even if it was just to say hello, and she checked in regularly (even making some phone calls to my home).
So, when I was near the tail end of a three hour pushing session, and I truly felt like I wouldn't be able to push my kid into the damn world, it was my doctor who reminded me that if I could get through a difficult pregnancy, I could get through this.
A pretty big pet peeve of mine is people talking about me, in front of me, but not directly to me. Doctors and nurses tend to do this regularly (I have had seven knee surgeries and I swear it happened far too frequently) and it drives me absolutely crazy. Like, "Hello, Very Important Person In The Fancy White Coat. I get that you're a 'big deal' but I am right here and you're talking about my health so maybe just talk to me about my health."
Yeah, my doctor never did that. Ever.
Sometimes, a small reminder is all you need.
I was exhausted and near the end of my physical and mental and emotional rope and started saying that I just couldn't do it anymore. My doctor quickly reminded me that yes, yes I could. I was powerful and capable and I could have a baby. So, you know. I did.
Was she really and truly as excited as I was to meet my son? Doubtful. However, when she said she couldn't wait to meet him and he was almost here and I saw her look at me and I heard her voice, I knew she was telling the truth. She really was invested in me and my soon-to-be new family member. She really wanted to meet my son and have him in the world. She had been there through every up and down and every complication and she wanted a happy ending for us.
She really wanted me to be able to say I had the birth experience I wanted, and that made all the difference in the world to me.