|My walk to work most days|
Well folks, I've done it. Last week I switched from my ob/gyn to a midwife practice.
I should start off by saying that these midwives deliver in a hospital, in birthing suites on a traditional labor and delivery ward. They are all registered nurses with extensive medical experience, they can perform minor surgery, and the ob/gyn is on call 24/7 in case of an emergency. The birthing suites are right by the operating rooms. I tell you all that so you don't do like my parents did and freak out. It's going to be very safe for me and baby.
It was honestly a little heartbreaking to leave the ob/gyn practice. The two doctors are these amazing, pro-life, Catholic men. They have 17 kids between them. They are warm and attentive, and I loved every visit with them. On top of that, just about everyone in their office knows my family, from the nurse with whom I went to grade school to the receptionist whose kids are friends with my sisters. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming whenever I came in.
Given that wonderful environment, you may wonder, why on earth did I switch to the midwives?
I started reading about natural birth before I got pregnant... possibly even before I got married. I really loved Ina May Gaskin's book and the movie The Business of Being Born. I continued reading and studying once I found out I was expecting—many thanks to Sarah for recommending another great book, Your Best Birth. I devoured articles like this and birth stories that spoke to the potential for an empowering childbirth. Based on everything I learned, I decided I wanted to try for a natural, intervention-free childbirth. Now, I know these things are always outside our control; every birth plan is subject to uncontrollable circumstances; I know that what matters most is a healthy mom and baby. But I wanted to at least give natural birth a shot.
Given all this background, I decided the best approach would be to visit the hospital where my ob/gyns deliver and see what it was like. Frank and I took a tour back in December. I was the least-pregnant lady there, and after the tour Frank and I stuck around for an extra 45 minutes grilling the nurses. We were those people. But what we learned was really helpful.
The hospital had a lot to recommend it. The nurses encourage the infants' rooming-in and skin-to-skin contact after birth, two things that really matter to me. They also assured me that all the nurses are trained in a bunch of different techniques for natural pain relief. But on the other hand, when I asked about their c-section rate, the nurse said, "Our c-section rate is consistent with the national average; it's around 30%." Urgh. Then I asked, "How many women would you estimate have a completely natural childbirth?" The nurse said, "Well, lots of women go natural, but of course we give them a little narcotic toward the end." "No, no," I said, "I mean completely natural. No drugs at all." The nurse looked confused and said, "Um... maybe 2%? That doesn't happen very often." They also thought it was "cute" and a little amusing that I had a birth plan. Those responses were red flags for me.
So my next step was to set up an appointment with the midwives. I found this midwife practice online, through a simple Google search. They offer free consultation visits, so one evening last week Frank and I went in to chat with them. The midwives offer the option of a water birth, something I'm interested in trying. I asked the midwife we met to explain the policies and philosophy of their practice, and after she was done, Frank and I agreed it was exactly what we were looking for. What really clinched the deal was when I asked her about their patients' c-section rate. "Fewer than 8% of our patients end up getting c-sections," she said. Those numbers say a lot. 8% vs. 30% odds of major surgery? I was sold. The next day I called my insurance company to make the switch.
When I spoke to my insurance company, I learned that they don't allow changes in prenatal health care providers after 27 weeks. Good thing I called just in time! I also found out from the midwife that their practice doesn't always accept patients who come in after 28 weeks; at that point they have a meeting to decide whether they can take on another patient in addition to their existing load. Luckily I made the cut-off for both those things, but they're good to know for the future.
I'm so excited about the switch. I feel incredibly happy, calm and peaceful knowing that I'll be having my baby in an environment that supports what I'm trying to do, and that also has safe back-up options in case things don't go according to plan. As sad as I was to leave my great ob/gyn, this decision wasn't hard at all. Now, as my friends keep reminding me, I will have to let you know how I feel about it all after I actually give birth.