PREGNANCY: Choosing YOUR Care Provider
So here I am! 29 weeks pregnant with our second baby. I’m having a lot of flashbacks to what this time was like for me the first go around, three years ago. One of the biggest decisions I made was how, where, and with whom I birthed. I tried on MANY different options, most theoretically, before I landed where I did. Looking back on it, it makes sense that as a first-time mom, as a person that had not yet embodied the experience of pregnancy, labor, birth, and motherhood, as a person that had just moved out of a big city to a small town, I didn’t know what my options were… or what would feel right for me. I was starting from ground zero. And it felt heavy.
With hormones-a-surgin’, I turned to the internet. I had just taken a positive pregnancy test, and was ready to make an appointment to learn everything about what was going on in there. NOPE! No doc will see a pregnant person until they are at least 7 or 8 weeks along, when they can do the initial vaginal ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy and estimate a due date. OK, FINE! I suppose that gave me more time to investigate where I would go for that initial appointment.
Google maps. If you search for prenatal care providers in NYC, a million of those red markers show up. Kind of overwhelming! If you search for prenatal care providers in and around the small town I’d just moved to, you get just a handful. Kind of underwhelming! BUT, I suppose having fewer options made me recognize that not all of them were Obstetricians at hospitals. I immediately saw “Connecticut Childbirth & Women’s Center” pop up, 30mins away.
What’s a childbirth center
I knew some people birthed at home with a midwife, and some people birthed in hospitals with an OB (and of course later I learned of even more nuances… midwives delivering at hospitals, CPN vs CNM homebirth midwives, and so on). But what was this in between place?
A freestanding birth center is a homelike, out-of-hospital facility where a woman’s choices in pregnancy and birth are supported and respected, following the midwifery model of care. Birth center midwives generally work together with consulting physicians to balance the need for more personalized care with a woman’s potential need for technology and medical intervention.
Sounded great! I scheduled my first appointment at the Childbirth Center. When they ran my insurance information, they alerted me that I’d be paying out of pocket (I had NY insurance, and this was a CT facility). I decided that I was fine paying out of pocket for that first appointment, but that I’d continue to research my options…
So yes, I had a great first appointment at the Birth Center. I got to see my little, magical growing bean via transvaginal ultrasound and tour the private birthing rooms with their large bathtubs and floral bedspreads. Tempting, but that place would cost me about $7,500 out of pocket, so I still felt that I should explore some fully-covered-by-insurance options to see if I could find a good match.
Ob/gyn office setting
Back to Google! I found an Ob/Gyn office only 20mins away that took my insurance. All appointments would be at their office, and then delivery would be at a small hospital about 35 mins away. Okay, let’s check it out. So I showed up for my first appointment there at 9 weeks pregnant. The nurse checked me in, I filled out all the paperwork, got weighed, peed in a cup, etc. I told the nurse that I’d been to the Birth Center and was excited to meet Dr. S, still in the process of figuring out where I’d be delivering my baby.
That’s when things got weird. Instead of coming into the exam room to see me, Dr. S had the nurse take me to his office. Big mahogany wood desk, degrees on the wall, books he’d authored arranged on a table, etc. He had me sit down and said, “What can I do for you?” I was really thrown off, as I had set an appt for a prenatal exam. He went on to say that he’d heard I had not yet chosen where I’d be giving birth, and that he was not there to be interviewed. He would not see me unless I had made it clear that he would be delivering my baby. I was totally shocked that he refused me care, and that he insisted I needed to blindly make such an important decision. It felt crazy to me. I was pissed. I felt very strongly about keeping my decision open at that point in my first pregnancy. That decision was mine to make, in my own time, on my own terms. He had no compassion for the fact that I was newly pregnant and still trying to navigate my options. It was extremely upsetting. Needless to say, that experience made it quite clear that this was not the right doctor for me.
That was only week 9. Over the next several months of my pregnancy, I spent time with an OB based out of an even closer hospital, then switched to midwives that delivered at that same hospital, then spent some additional time with a MFM doctor at a different medical center, before I landed with a homebirth midwife that drove over an hour to deliver my beautiful girl peacefully on my living room sofa! I plan to share my experience with each of these care providers in the articles to come, hoping that my story illuminates the different styles of treatment and attitudes us pregnant women come across. Birth is such an intense and special time, and we only get one or a small handful of “at bats” in our lifetimes, so I couldn’t just settle for whatever when it was finally my turn. Too many women suffer through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, and many times it’s due to misaligned care and messaging, so I was intent on doing whatever I could to feel best supported. Stay tuned…