My very first OBGYN’s office was lined with framed magazine pages and plaques. The Best Of The Best! Top 10 Best OBGYNs! Another Important Award! I can’t remember exactly how I chose this office, but I do remember feeling really proud of (smug about) that choice when I saw all these accolades at my first visit.
When I was 20 weeks pregnant, I sat in the award-winning OBGYNs office, and I said to the “accomplished” male doctor who appeared to be in his 60s, “I’ve been thinking about trying for a med-free birth. Do you know where I should start as far as books to read or classes to take?”
He shrugged his shoulders, swatted his hand in the air like I was a fly, and said, “You know who gives birth without meds? Cows. We’ve come a long way from having to give birth like a cow. You don’t want to give birth like a cow.”
And that was the exact moment in my head that I told myself, “WELP. No way this asshole is getting anywhere near my vagina again.”
Shortly after, I found a local Bradley Method class, and the instructors told me about a lovely midwife practice in the neighboring suburb. They delivered in a hospital! I had no idea midwives did such a thing.
And so, halfway through my first pregnancy, I left a practice that I knew wouldn’t support me in labor the way I wanted them to. I’m really glad that doctor was so blatant about his disinterest in helping me through a med-free birthing experience. That would have been an awful thing to discover at 5 cm dilated.
I went on to have the best birth experience for me– a med-free birth in a hospital with a midwife.
That wasn’t the only time I’d have to leave a practice mid-pregnancy. Not even close.
We moved to Texas shortly after our first was born, and when I got pregnant again, I specifically sought out a practice that offered midwives who delivered in a hospital. I found one that came highly recommended. The midwife on staff had amazing reviews. At my first appointment, I learned she had left for a practice in Fort Worth, but the OBGYN who saw me instead assured me that they would be hiring a new midwife soon, and I’d be seeing her regularly by 20 weeks, for sure.
By the time 20 weeks rolled around, there was still no new midwife hired, and they could no longer say for sure they would have one. That, coupled with the many suggestions that I go ahead and plan to induce before Christmas (my due date was 12/24), made me uneasy enough to change practices again.
The good news is this lead me to a really lovely midwife who delivered at a hospital downtown. I saw her for the last half of my 2nd pregnancy, and I wound up with another wonderful med-free birth experience when she delivered my daughter.
I saw her through nearly all of my 3rd pregnancy, too… until she was let go from the OBGYN practice she worked for because of a situation that, to me, was a clear case of a midwife doing what midwives do- striving to help mothers birth with as few interventions as possible in a safe way- in conflict with an OBGYNs office and hospital system that doesn’t always align with that approach.
I was nearly 35 weeks pregnant and faced with either staying in that practice that clearly did not support midwifery care and possibly wouldn’t support me, or find a new midwife at another practice. As stressful as it was so late in the game, the obvious choice was to leave.
For the 3rd time, the practice I began my pregnancy with did not end up being the one I ended with, but just like the last 2 times, the move was worth it. I had a 3rd med-free hospital birth with my midwife when I delivered Lowell. And then I got to keep that same midwife all the way through my 4th pregnancy, and she delivered Wallace, too! It was pretty nice to make it through an entire pregnancy without having to look for another provider for once.
As I wrote Wallace’s birth story, I thought about how lucky I’ve been to have all the great birth experiences I’ve had. And then I thought, well, was it all luck? No. So much of that was because I advocated for myself, up to the point of leaving 3 practices when I felt they wouldn’t support me the way I needed them to.
Here’s the thing- it’s not ok for your OBGYN to brush off your wish to birth med-free. It’s not cool for a practice to pressure you to schedule an induction for no reason other than “You’ll be home in time for Christmas!” There are a ton of things that birth professionals do that may make you feel uneasy, no matter how many awards they’ve won, and no matter what kind of birth experience you want.
Yeah, advocating for yourself isn’t just for moms who want to birth med-free. I honestly can’t imagine that first OBGYN I saw would have had any kind of bedside manner after a c-section, either.
If the OB or MW you’re seeing makes you feel uncomfortable, unheard, small, or stupid, I encourage you to think real hard about getting the hell out of that practice- right up to the very end if you need to. Go to the next town if there’s nobody else near you. I’ve driven as far as 45 minutes for my appointments and given birth at hospitals nearly an hour away.
And if all else fails, and you’re stuck, look into at least hiring a doula.
You deserve to feel supported and to respect and connect with, if not love, the person who helps you bring your babies into this world- no matter if they are an OBGYN or a midwife. I want you to have the best birth experience possible. You can’t control how it will happen, but you can surround yourself with great people.