Throughout my pregnancy, my OB appointments have been somewhat of a disappointment. Once you get over the initial rush of your first ultrasound, doppler, and measurement, the appointments start to feel rushed. After my anatomy scan, the average time I spent in the office was 10 minutes and after asking around this seemed to be the general experience among other ladies.
There were a couple of other things that bothered me; I never saw the same practitioner twice. This was to prepare me for the fact that in the hospital you have no idea who is going to be available to deliver your baby, so it’s best to try to meet everyone once and hope you get someone you’ve met. Then there was this phrase: “Do you have any questions?” My answer was often yes (if I remembered to write them down!), but more often I wished that they would just tell me what I needed to know that week or what to expect the next without me having to sift through the list of crazy things that were happening to me and prioritize concerning my symptoms. The books I’d been reading and the birth I was planning was based around the desire for a natural birth, so one day at the doctor's office, I asked a string of questions. Here’s how it went:
“Can I give birth standing up?”
“No, the doctor needs you to be on your back so he/she can see what's going on.”
“Do I have to have an IV? They really freak me out.”
“Yes, the staff must have immediate access in case of an emergency.”
“Can I eat and drink? I assume I’m going to burn a lot of calories…”
“No, we will give you fluids through your IV, but you cannot eat anything in case you have to have a C-Section.”
“What are the odds I will have to have a C-Section?”
Then she said this:
“You should prepare yourself for an epidural, almost all women get one and I think you’ll find you can’t handle the pain.”
Needless to say, I was pretty upset by these answers. She was making it seem like an emergency was going to happen! I understand the hospital has policies and they’re there to give you the best care they can, but everything in me was rejecting these answers and I could feel my anxiety rising. I’ve been working continuously to create a mindset that is completely divorced from fear. And “can’t handle the pain”?!?!? Bitch, you don't even know me! Women have been “handling the pain” since the dawn of man (including my mother and mother-in-law!) and why do you think I’m not strong enough to do this? I’ve been operating under the assumption that if I can give birth, I can do anything, including raise this girl to be a strong woman who truly believes she can do anything she puts her mind to… like giving birth without the aid of drugs!
The other thing that really bothered me was this idea that I needed to somehow accommodate the doctor! Oh, I’m sorry, is the doctor pushing a honeydew out of his lady parts?!?! I hate to be a brat about this but I’m pretty sure I’m the one who should be accommodated. The more I thought about the hospital, the more afraid I became. It's a place where sick people go (I’m not sick!), it’s a place where emergencies happen, and it’s a place where the control is taken away from me and my body and given to strangers. Now, I’m not an unreasonable person and I love and benefit from 21st century medicine, but when it comes to giving birth, I can’t help but feel like the patriarchy has strong armed their way into what should be a natural process.
Since that last appointment at the OB/GYN, I’ve switched to a midwife-based birth center where my appointments last as long as they need to, I see the same 3 women every time, and I will give birth in a peaceful, home-like atmosphere, where I get to call the shots and be surrounded by the people I love. I would highly recommend to any expecting couples out there that you thoroughly research all of your birth options. Being numb from the waist down is not your only option. And watch a documentary called The Business of Being Born for a little insight into the history of birth and how we in the USA differ from our fellow women around the world.
Cecile is a photographer and filmmaker living on Maryland's rural Eastern Shore. She specializes in artistic and highly emotional wedding coverage. Her husband and two dogs are expecting the arrival of their first human baby in April 2017.