Shortly after finding out she’s pregnant, one of the first decisions the expectant mom must make is where she’s going to go for her prenatal care. When I found out I was pregnant with Baby Rystedt V3, I started looking for providers that would be more supportive of my desire for natural birth than my OB-GYN for Paisley and Colm was.
I reasoned that working with a midwife was my best bet for the prenatal care and natural delivery I wanted. Unfortunately, our area is very underserved when it comes to alternative health practitioners, and there’s only one practice that works with our hospital and also has token midwives on staff. So I made the decision to take my care for this pregnancy to that practice with the thought that any midwife is better than no midwife.
Having not seen a midwife for my previous pregnancies, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I did anticipate that my care under a midwife would differ from that under an OB-GYN, but I wasn’t sure how. At my very first visit, I was a bit turned off when a staff RN wouldn’t even meet with me at during the appointment because I wasn’t “pregnant enough” – I was five weeks pregnant.
Needless to say, it wasn’t until I was nine weeks pregnant that an actual midwife even deigned to meet with me. Okay.
I was trying to be a good sport, knowing this was as good as it was going to get while staying within the county limits. With a February due date and two other kids to make birth day accommodations for, there was definite appeal in sucking it up to stick with a practice that delivers at the hospital literally two minutes from our house.
It became quite clear that the midwives at our practice were simply midwives in name only – they acted and practiced the same as the OB-GYNs on staff and like others that I’ve visited with my previous pregnancies. I made it clear from my first appointment that I was primarily at the practice to achieve a more peaceful, prepared natural birth than I had with Colm but the midwives I met with didn’t seem to care much. The only advice I got was “oh, um, well you can go ahead and practice some breathing and relaxation techniques”.
Over time, I was hoping that I’d warm to the practice and it’d end up being a good fit. But with every visit, I simply felt like a number being shuffled from room to room. The front desk staff wasn’t even very friendly and would shout across the waiting room “hey Gabrielle, are you still uninsured?” every time I sat down after signing in. I’m not at all sensitive about our situation, but the lack of professionalism in a crowded waiting room seemed very judgmental to me, like they were announcing “hey everyone, this woman made life decisions that led her here: knocked up and uninsured”. Great.
Around 24 weeks, the primary midwife I’d been seeing left our practice, which meant I needed to drive half an hour away to visit one of the other group office locations. I went for a single, very disappointing appointment that lasted for all of two minutes (literally) and decided I wasn’t going to keep on with the practice.
When you’re 24 weeks pregnant, you can’t simply decide you’re done receiving prenatal care.
However, when you’re in your third pregnancy, you can afford to be a little picky. I know how a pregnancy progresses, what to call the doctor for, and what labor feels like. What I need this pregnancy is a team that’s going to help me achieve a safe natural delivery, provided that something unexpected doesn’t pop up.
So I headed to Google and found the perfect practice – a freestanding birth center staffed exclusively by midwives. Real midwives, mind you.
Only problem? It’s 50 miles away.
Josh and I talked extensively about the feasibility of transferring care during my third trimester. We brought up the challenges of dealing with a drive around Baltimore and to Annapolis while I’m majorly in labor, and even just during regular weeks to get back and forth to prenatal appointments. Oh yeah, and that pesky February due date and the notorious unpredictability of Maryland weather patterns.
Eventually, the idea of having a supported birth in a non-hospital environment got the better of us and I called the center. As fate would have it, they were having an open house the very next night, so I signed us up to attend.
From the very first moment we set foot into the classroom for our introduction, Josh and I both felt a great sense that these were “our people”. The staff members and nurses we talked to on that night we so open and inviting. They talked about the super chill birth rooms, non-medical labor interventions and holistic approach to pregnancy and delivery. I was impressed, and Josh was totally over the moon.
You know you may have made the right decision when your husband is legit stoked about things like water birth options and how your midwife handles placental delivery!
Anyway, after a brief confab, Josh and I knew we were going to break up with my old practice and pick up care at the birth center. I registered as a new patient that night.
At my first appointment the next week, my decision was confirmed. The office was so warm and inviting and the midwife sat with me and chatted for over an hour about everything baby related. She asked about my previous birth stories like she actually cared – something that no one at my previous practice had even bothered to discuss. We talked about all kinds of labor questions. At another appointment, a midwife asked me about my birth plan, and made sure to take detailed notes about the specifics that Josh and I want to be a part of our delivery for Baby Rystedt V3.
As we come quickly down the homestretch to our due date, I’m confident that I’ll have the birth I want – even if I don’t get the opportunity to have a peaceful waterbirth in the birth center. I have the support I need to nourish myself and my baby until he or she is ready to join the world. And more importantly, I have the confidence to advocate for exactly what I need to bring this baby into the world. Even if there’s a blizzard and I get stuck delivering at our local hospital.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to be supported during pregnancy. Looking back, I realize how little support I had during my first two pregnancies, and how much I could have benefitted from more thorough care. I was told bogus things like “birth plans just lead to c-sections” and that “you don’t get a gold star for doing things the natural way” at multiple points during my first two pregnancies. You know what? I can get a gold star for a 17 hour med-free birth if I damn well feel like it, thank you very much.
I have a feeling I’m not the only mom who has entered pregnancy with a lot of unknowns, doubts or trepidation about the process. Pregnancy and birth don’t have to be scary. They don’t (typically) have to be intense medical procedures. Sure, there are crazy things that happen, and it’s important to get prenatal care were you know you’ll be supported during the smooth sailing and stormy seas.
But if you’re worried about offending a doctor or hospital policy because you refuse to do something stupid – like abide by the “no food or drink” policy and get horridly dehydrated during a 17 hour labor – screw it. Pregnant moms need way more support than modern medicine affords them.
I’m not saying we should all get naked and free birth in streams (yes, that’s a thing), but I am saying that we moms are pretty darn capable to take care of ourselves and our babies. If you’re a pregnant mom (or thinking about becoming one), and you’re in a similar situation that I was, look into your other options. Switching care providers late in the game is kind of scary, but if you need more support than you’re getting, do what you need to do.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is a healthy baby. But if it’s at all possible, a confident and happy mama is a pretty high priority too.