One of the first things you’ll need to do while pregnant is find a doctor. Perhaps you’ve already got an OB/GYN that you love. If that’s the case, count yourself lucky! A couple generations ago, women had an easier task of choosing a doctor because there weren’t so many options. There might have been a couple doctors from which they could choose; but in the end, it probably didn’t matter who they picked, because women were generally put out with anesthesia to give birth. They weren’t even awake and aware, so it didn’t much matter who delivered their babies. My mom grew up in such a small town that the local OB was also the town’s veterinarian. OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but really, there were no fancy birthing centers, no one dreamed of giving birth to their babies underwater, and there weren’t dozens of doctors to choose from.
In your search for a physician today, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind: What kind of birthing experience would you like? Are you more comfortable in a sterile hospital setting, surrounded by medical equipment and the latest technology? Perhaps your idea of the perfect birthing experience takes place in your home surrounded by your family. Or maybe you fantasize about giving birth in an airplane or while scuba diving or in a tree house, in which case what is wrong with you??? you may be hard-pressed to find a doctor willing to work with you.
I personally liked giving birth in a hospital setting. I felt comfortable being surrounded by beeping machines and plenty of nurses. I would never even consider giving birth at home. I could just imagine how that scenario would play out! The kids would be barging into my room every five minutes to inform me of stuff: “Clay’s climbing on the kitchen table. Mom, Lexi isn’t wearing her glasses!” They’d bombard me with a constant stream of questions like, “Can I go to John’s house? Will you get me some chocolate milk? Mom, what time is my baseball game at? Can you make us tacos for dinner?” And my dear husband would undoubtedly be watching TV in the other room and insist, “I didn’t realize the kids were bothering you. Sorry.”
I guess I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving birth at home if that’s your kind of thing, but I always looked forward to getting away from my home and the other kids for a couple days. Why do you think I have so many kids? That was my way of getting a little vacation! What can I say? Some people plan their vacations for Disney World. I planned mine for the hospital. And in the hospital, I felt assured that the medical professionals could handle any situation should an emergency arise. That was just my preference. Because of that, I chose an obstetrician and gave birth in the birthing center at a big hospital.
If, however, you want to feel more in control of your childbirth experience, you might want to consider a certified nurse-midwife. Generally, certified nurse-midwives will take more time to talk with and listen to you. They will treat you more as a person than as a patient. Certified nurse-midwives tend to veer more toward natural childbirth. If you feel strongly about avoiding any unnecessary medical intervention, then a nurse-midwife may be the way to go for you.
That’s not to say, however, that you can’t have a certified nurse-midwife if you’re the kind of person who orders her epidural the minute she gets a positive pregnancy test. Or that you can’t have an obstetrician at a big-city hospital who will help make your childbirth experience as natural as possible.
Also, take into consideration whether the doctor you choose is in practice by himself or with partners. If he’s by himself, you’ll probably see him at every visit and he’ll be the one to deliver your baby. Unless, of course, he’s on vacation when you deliver and, you know, with Murphy’s Law, that will be the way it works. In that case you may have to see whoever is filling in for him, and it will probably be a doctor you’ve never met. If your doctor is part of a group, you’ll most likely have to see every doctor in the group at least once throughout your pregnancy, and you won’t get much say in who delivers your baby. The good news is you’ll have at least met the doctor who delivers your baby. The bad news is it could be the one doctor in the group you really, really don’t like. And that’s the law with groups – there must be one doctor out of the half dozen or so that you don’t care for.
That happened to me with my sixth baby. I really liked all the doctors in the practice except one. He annoyed me. I wanted to slap him. The first time I saw him, he commented on the amount of weight I’d gained. Strike one. Later, I told a joke and he didn’t laugh. What kind of boring person doesn’t laugh at my jokes? Strike two. Did I mention that he commented on my weight gain? Strike three. Of course, he was the one who ended up delivering my baby. What can you do? Nothing.
The obstetrician who delivered my first four babies was in practice by herself. She delivered every one of those children. She was a tiny, petite Indian woman who could barely see over the steering wheel of her car. My poor husband, Joe, could never understand a word she said with her thick accent.
“Would you like to cut the umbilical cord?” she’d ask him.
“Oh, no thanks, I’ve already eaten.”
“So what are you going to name this baby?” she’d inquire as she handed the baby to Joe.
“Oh, it’s ten thirty,” he’d answer, not having a clue what she’d just asked him.
I not only loved my doctor, but I also loved the hospital she was at for the first three babies I had. She moved offices and affiliations when I was pregnant with my fourth baby. I followed her to the new office and new hospital, but I had such an awful experience and disliked that hospital so much that I ended up switching doctors after Lexi, my fourth baby, was born. Actually, saying I disliked the hospital is a huge mild understatement. Unless I get in a life-or-death car wreck right outside its doors, I refuse to set foot in that hospital ever again. My nurses were mean and one of them yelled at me and threatened to take my new baby away from me if I didn’t nurse her more often. I calmly and politely replied, “Hello? She’s my fourth baby! I know what I’m doing, and you most certainly will not take her away from me!” She left in a huff and didn’t bother me again. The miniblinds over the windows in my bathroom were broken, and my window viewed another tower of hospital rooms. The poor patients who looked out those windows probably saw a little more than they’d cared to see. Watching a woman who has just given birth try to poop could scar anyone for life. And, of course, I’d been spoiled by the beautiful new birthing center where I’d delivered my first three babies. I decided that I never wanted to deliver another baby at that facility. Ever.
That brings me to another point: Although I think it’s important to have a physician you like and trust, I also think it’s a good thing to check out the hospital or birthing center where you’ll deliver ahead of time. Check out your first choice and make sure they have all the amenities you want – room service, a hot tub, minibar, etc. Most places offer tours for expectant parents. Schedule a tour early in your pregnancy if your facility offers that. My obstetrician was great, but I was so disappointed in the hospital, the nurses, and my room that I searched for a new doctor when I learned I was pregnant with my fifth baby. I know you’ll be in the hospital for only a couple days and maybe it shouldn’t matter too much, but it does. The hospital room, rules, and especially staff can really make your delivery an awesome experience or an experience that makes you want to take your new baby and run from the hospital screaming. Because I’m basically a lazy person, one of the biggest draws to the birthing center was the fact that I never had to change rooms. I labored, delivered, recovered and spent the entirety of my stay in the same room. And that room was furnished with lovely wood floors, a whirlpool tub and a refrigerator, which played very well into my whole “vacation at the hospital” idea.
You (or more specifically, your partner) may want to make a test run or two as well. You know, see how long it takes to load up the suitcase and drive to the hospital in regular conditions, at rush hour, through construction or during a snowstorm.
You’ll want to make sure the doctors you choose accept your insurance. If they don’t, you could wind up like my friend Amy, who had to make monthly payments and didn’t own her daughter free and clear until she was three years old.
Also, whatever physician you choose, you want to make sure they listen to you and take your questions and concerns seriously. Make a list of questions you have during the days and weeks before your appointment and bring them with you to discuss. Don’t rely on your brain to remember stuff because the new little baby growing inside you will suck your brain cells right out of your head and you will, without a doubt, suffer from “baby brain.” You won’t remember a thing and you’ll do stuff like wander around looking for your shoes that you put in the bathtub for some reason, and walk into a room and promptly forget what you were going to get. Make a list!
And the caregiver you choose should welcome your questions and take time to discuss them no matter how stupid they are or how silly you think they might be. You should never feel stupid calling them with a concern. That’s what they’re there for. That’s why you’ve hired them to care for you and your baby. That’s why you’re paying them. If they make you feel like you’re wasting their time with your questions, remind them that you’re the one helping to finance their kids’ college educations.
Excerpted from You’ll Lose the Baby Weight by Dawn Meehan. Reprinted by permission of Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.