Pregnancy and childbirth can be really scary, especially if you're experiencing it for the first time, have unexpected symptoms, or health conditions. That's why it's so important to find an experienced provider you can trust, with whom you can have honest conversations and even ask seemingly stupid questions. When I was interviewing certified nurse midwives to help me manage my pregnancies and catch my babies, I asked all the questions. However, and even though I thought I made great choices, there were so many moments when my midwife made me feel scared.
There are some exceptional midwives and some lousy OB-GYNs and, of course, there are some incredible OB-GYNs and some pretty bad midwives. Unfortunately, you don't always know which kind you'll be working with, until something happens and you need extra support, information, or advice. Even the best providers have bad days or make bad calls because, you know, at the end of the day they're still human beings. The best provider can have a lousy bedside manner or seriously put their foot in their mouth about a negative test result or potential (and usually very scary) possibility. However, when things are scary or serious a pregnant mom-to-be deserves to know the truth (and have all the relevant information) so they can make informed decisions about their health and their pregnancy; which is why the mistakes any provider may or may not make, comes with some serious consequences.
I believe and sincerely hope that midwives (or anyone else that is caring for another human being) don't mean to be scary. There's just something about speculums, paper gowns, and envelopes with test results that cause me to break into a cold sweat and cause my heart rate to soar. So, with that in mind, here are some of the ways my midwives scared me, whether they meant to or not.
When She Took My Blood Pressure
It's called "white coat syndrome," and it's when you freak out at the clinic and your blood pressure rises. I was so worried about having a high blood pressure reading, that I freaked out every time my midwife got out the blood pressure cuff.
As it turns out, I developed hypertension during my first pregnancy and preeclampsia during my second, and it was super important for me to have my blood pressure checked regularly. I got over my fear and took one for the team.
When She Body Shamed Me
Despite having hyperemesis gravidarium during my second pregnancy, I eventually started to gain weight, which was super important for my and my baby's health. Unfortunately, one office visit, I got the on-call midwife and she had a lot to say about how big my baby bump was. She also commented about my breast size (too small) and her thoughts about whether or not I would be able to breastfeed. Not cool.
I told the head midwife at my next appointment, and she promised I would never have to see that provider again. Which was good, otherwise I would have switched practices in my third trimester.
When She Told Me She Wouldn't Support Me If I Needed An Abortion
During my second pregnancy, I had an awkward moment with my midwife when she scheduled my anatomy ultrasound. She told me that their practice could only schedule abortions for after 22 weeks gestation, because that was the cut-off for abortion in our state. I immediately started a diatribe about how ridiculous that was, expecting her to agree with me, only to realize she agreed with the policy.
I asked her, "Will you support me if I choose to terminate my pregnancy due to an incompatible-with-life diagnosis?" Her answer was, "No, but we have another midwife who can refer you." Scary.
When She Told Me My Baby Could Die
Also during my second pregnancy, I developed preeclampsia, and I will never forget the look my midwife's face when she took my blood pressure for the third time in an hour and got the urine protein test results back.
When the answer to the question, "How serious is this?" is, "Your baby could die," you can't help but feel absolutely terrified.
When She Referred Me To A Specialist
The Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist I had to see during my second pregnancy had the bedside manner of Dr. House. Every conversation with him was scary and, to make matters worse, he had disdain for midwives (and me, by extension). My midwife thought he was a tool.
When your health care providers can't communicate with each other, the patient loses. For example, when I was admitted for induction, my midwife didn't hear about it until 12 hours later. Argh.
When She Wouldn't Return My Calls
Pregnancy is scary, especially when you look up your symptoms on Dr. Google and discover it could be the worst thing imaginable. Then, when you try calling your midwife and you're forced to leave a message, the waiting can be unbearable and seriously scary.
When She Told Me To Go To The Hospital
As if pregnancy wasn't fun enough, there was the time that my midwife told me over the phone to drive to the hospital to be admitted. Immediately. We ended up being OK, but that moment was terrifying.
When She Left Me Alone During Labor
During my second labor, my midwife actually left to "run and errand," as I was getting my epidural. I found out from a chatty labor and delivery nurse that she left to get her hair done.
She got back back to the hospital just in time to watch me catch my own son.
When She Shamed Me For Being Induced And Choosing To Use Medication
When I had to be admitted for induction due to preeclampsia, the on-call midwife literally told me how terrible it was going to be. Then, as if that wasn't enough, she said, "I bet you'll get an epidural, too." Come on!
I responded, "If I do, will you support that choice because, if not, I want a different provider." Labor is scary enough without feeling shame, too, or fear that you won't get the pain relief you need because your provider has an agenda.
When She Wouldn't Tell Me What Was Happening
While in labor, after I finally got an epidural, my heart rate and blood pressure dropped dramatically. I was immediately surrounded by people in white coats and scrubs and the intercom announced a "code blue" for my room. I was so frightened, but my midwife was too busy to answer my frantic questions.
She Wouldn't Listen To My Concerns
I am not your average prenatal patient. I am a well-educated, well-researched former public health professional. I know about the latest studies and recommendations, and I am not afraid to ask questions or share concerns. There's no quicker way to lose me as a patient than to discount my concerns, symptoms, or questions, and it's scary and disconcerting when your midwife won't listen. If I am going to trust them and follow their advice, they'd better not blow me off.
All women deserve to be heard by their health care providers, especially when it's someone they trust to help bring their baby into the world safely.