A Decision I’d Do Differently

Q. Jordan,

I just found out I’m expecting my first child! My partner and I are so excited…but also a bit clueless as to how to find the right doctor/midwife. How did you find yours? What did you like/didn’t you like about him or her? When the big day came, was the doctor more like a minor detail, or did he or she make or break the experience? I am the first of my close girlfriends to get pregnant, so I don’t have many ladies to ask these questions to.

– Anonymous

(More birth pictures here, if you’d like to check them out.)

A. Congratulations!!! I’m so excited for you.

And I’ve been meaning to write about this on RG for awhile now, so I’m glad you asked.

Here’s the thing: I’m pretty easygoing when it comes to healthcare – easygoing in the manner of those who have never had anything (knock on wood) go grievously wrong, and are thus generally trusting of the world of medicine. So when it came to choosing an OB-GYN, I basically just took my gynecologist’s recommendation and went on my merry way. This, as it turned out, wasn’t a great decision.

When Kendrick and I had our initial “interview” with our doctor, we loved him: we thought he was funny, easygoing, and just about perfect for us. But over the course of my first few appointments, I started to notice that I felt uncomfortable asking questions; he seemed to dismiss my concerns and talk over me whenever I opened my mouth. Even more frustratingly, there was some question with regards to my due date (a totally boring and complicated issue)…but I had to explain the situation and how we had ultimately resolved it in exhaustive detail each and every time I spoke with my doctor. And every time, he was so taken aback by the issue and confused it was as if he had never met me before. It made me feel like he didn’t even know who I was; forget about being invested in my well-being.

Now, I know that doctors are busy people, but I really wasn’t even getting my most basic questions answered. I should have switched doctors at this point, but (see: aforementioned easygoingness with regards to healthcare) figured hey, I’m sure he knows what he’s doing when it comes to labor, and that’s really what matters. And he did. Or, at least, you know: my son is here, and healthy, and all is well. But as it turns out, I am the kind of person who cares how the doctor handles the delivery on an emotional level as well as a physical one.

I didn’t have the hardest labor in the world (you can read about it here), but when it was all over you better believe that I was exhausted, emotional, and kind of a disaster. And just FYI, for those of you about to go through this: it’s important to know that the pain does not stop when the baby comes out; if you don’t have an epidural (or if it very sadly wore off about thirty seconds in, as mine did), you’ve still got a ways to go. By then I was done, and sort of whimpering about on the table, and so I tried to make what in my mind was a joke, and said “OK…Please stop hurting me now.” Which, I’m aware, is not very funny, but cut a girl a break: I had just given birth about two seconds earlier. And in response, my doctor literally held his blood-covered hands in my face and yelled (yelled!) at me something to the effect of, “Do you want me to stop doing this? You need to let me do my job.”

Now. I get it. Birth is emotional and tough for everyone – doctors included – and being kind of indelicate isn’t a crime, but I can’t imagine a situation in which it makes sense to yell at a woman who has just given birth. Or maybe I can imagine such a situation…but I don’t think that this was it.

I’m not boo-hooing about this: welcoming my son into the world was an extraordinary thing; a wonderful thing. Nothing can take away from that. The nurses and the on-call resident who assisted were absolutely wonderful, and just thinking about how caring they were through the whole process makes me smile. But the truth is that what my doctor added to a moment that could have been very special was a sense of embarrassment and fear that has really stuck with me and made me feel like I “performed” poorly in the room…and that’s a shame. My memory of the moments following the birth should be one of accomplishment, or relief, or of my son’s face, and yet more than anything, I remember the feeling that I should not have spoken. Again, not the biggest deal in the world, but still: I wish I had followed my instincts and switched doctors when there was still time.

In sum: Even if you’re relatively laid-back about the whole “birth experience” thing, choosing a doctor is an important decision – much more important than I thought going in. I would suggest getting recommendations from close friends, and if you can’t do that, asking a trusted primary care physician for a recommendation and asking for their impressions of the doctor, in addition to a name. And feel free to switch doctors halfway through if you feel like you need to; labor is no walk in the park, and in retrospect, I think it would have been pretty awesome to have someone I felt safe with and trusted there with me to take me through it.

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