My birth was my mother’s third c-section. The doctor told her when he touched the scalpel to her scar, she split open.
“It’s a good thing you didn’t bump into any tables, ” he said, alluding her belly would have ruptured.
I grew up hearing that story and believing that childbirth was dangerous medical event. I watched TLC’s “A Baby Story” and felt bad for the women who didn’t have c-sections. There was lots of screaming and beeping machines and people in scrubs rushing around and yelling to push! It seemed so chaotic compared to the quiet and security of the operating room.
I believed I’d have c-sections like my mother and sister. I believed my body was incapable because my hips were too narrow and the women in my family just couldn’t have babies any other way.
So I was pretty shocked myself when I found myself considering not using a doctor but having a midwife if and when I became pregnant.
My experiences with the doctors at the women’s clinic before and during my pregnancy were spotty at best. I hated how long appointments took. I hated how many different nurses I had to see and rooms I had to go to. One to wait in until it was my turn to pee. Another to wait in to get my BP and weight. Finally, I’d be put in a room, a doctor would breeze in and out, and 2 hours after I arrived, I’d be done.
They weren’t terrible. They just weren’t good either. They did things like tell me I was strange for wanting and IUD and that it was impossible for birth control pills to be contributing to my depression.
When I became pregnant, they prescribed me iron pills and DHA supplements for $57/month without looking at my blood work which would have told them that I have never had low iron in my life.
I know that every single iron test I’ve had including those four while I was pregnant showed my levels were high, yet I got an RX for iron pills and DHA pills say for women with intermediate to high risk pregnancies, when I was definitely low risk.
I was upset that the doctor never discussed why she thought I needed additional iron and never suggested I increase the amount of iron in my diet first. Everyone knows it’s best to get nutrients in their natural form as much as possible because the body can more readily use iron found in food than it can in an artificial supplement form. Moreover, I was upset because iron supplements are notorious for causing constipation and can have other side effects that would have been terrible during a pregnancy.
To make matters more confusing, I had friends also attending the clinic who were told just to buy whatever prenatals they wanted from whatever store and written no prescriptions for DHA or iron. Between the nurse telling me that I’d have to start walking (uh, I had just run a half marathon) and lecturing me on what food to avoid at the deli counter in Walmart, I worried that the clinic was profiling me as a high risk mom even though I was incredibly healthy.
Having learned about the cascade of interventions I was wary of providers who ignored evidence and leaned toward overmedicating just to be safe without considering the potential side effects.
To protect myself and my baby, I had come up with some basic needs from my provider for a low-risk pregnancy:
1. To have an established relationship with a healthcare provider and for that provider to be consistent.
2. To have our provider practice and support a healthy, active lifestyle that recognizes the importance of diet and exercise.
3. To have decisions and recommendations be both evidence-based.
4. To have our wishes respected as much were medically safe and to have a provider who trusted us enough to talk to us, not at us.
5. To avoid unnecessary exposure to drugs, stress, negativity, and anything else that might hinder breastfeeding and recovery.
The provider we found who could help us with these things turned out to be a midwife. She came highly recommended through mutual friends. We interviewed her and she us. We had long conversations. She learned about our lifestyles, interests, and goals, and this was all well before she ever examined me.
She had references, amazing rates of healthy babies and mothers, and a birth philosophy that aligned with our own.
She only took low-risk healthy clients who had been seen by medical doctors at least through their first trimester. She offered detailed and personalized realistic natural childbirth classes and expected anyone attending the birth to come to learn how to support a laboring woman and what normal non-medical, healthy birth looks like.
My prenatal appointments were at my house. I could work them in on my lunch break and have plenty of time to be back in the office. She had me keeping a food journal at various points and made diet recommendations. Just like at the doctor’s office, she did urinalysis and iron level blood checks. We listened to the baby’s heartbeat and had plenty of time for questions and answers.
My care from my midwife exceeded my expectations. My labor was fast and easy. I was comfortable in my own home. I had access to a birthing pool, a clean, comfortable shower, and other tools that research has shown improves labor and reduces pain and stress. I could control who saw me at this time, the noise, the temperature, the food I was offered.
My support team wasn’t working on shifts, and the people I had prepared to birth with were the exact same people who were there at the birth. It was what we had practiced, where we had met. Everyone knew everyone, and everyone had a pre-determined role. This facilitated a smooth, reassuring atmosphere that really helped me relax.
Throughout the pregnancy and postpartum period, she was always a text or phone call away. After the birth, she called and visited to check on me and the baby.I was thrilled that my insurance even paid for her care services.
Now I tell all women to be as picky about your doctor as you are when you’re car shopping.
You research. You test drive. You go to multiple dealers. You know what Kelly’s Blue Book says and if someone says something that doesn’t hold up, you don’t sit there saying, “Well he’s the professional so I’ll just go along with what he says.” If someone gives you bad vibes, you move on and look for someone you can work with comfortably. Just as there is multiple models of cars and dealerships, there are many different doctors, caregivers, and places to give birth.
There is no one model of care that works well for every woman. Every pregnancy is unique. I am extremely glad we have medical doctors with all their expertise especially for complications. I’m also glad for providers who recognize that not all births are high risk medical events and act accordingly.
I love my midwife and everything she’s done for my family. She is an amazing strong, compassionate, educated, and dedicated professional. I just wish everyone could have as positive an experience with their chosen provider as I had with mine.
Bonus footage: My midwife checking out Ennis’ strong heart tones and kicks!
Alicia is currently living her plan C or maybe D or F in a small college town where she divides her time between family, travel, work, and the internet.