Be warned this is a long read! So much so that Ive made it into a trilogy..broken into four parts.(Just kidding with the bad maths joke!) 😉
My usual family gynae, that I truly respected, had retired much to my disappointed. It was his time to rest, he did, after all deliver me. (Well, kinda.) I had just fallen pregnant, and thus,obviously in need of a new gynae, so I had decided to use the doctor of a very good friend.
On meeting the man, all went well.Especially since we managed to get an emergency slot with him, despite the FOUR week wait that I originally had with him for my first appointment. Thing is, I was just about 5 weeks pregnant and I had suddenly developed cramps in my womb on the right hand side. Obviously being a new mother, and also being aware of the symptoms of ectopic pregnancies, I was crap-my-pants paranoid! Thankfully, my sister-in-law made a few calls and got me an emergency slot him. So as far as this doctor went, he was in my good books.
Firstly, and thankfully, the gynae’s scan showed all was well with baby. It was just my massive luteal cyst that was causing the pain.Nothing to worry about – this was all normal, apparently…Secondly, and most importantly, the scan showed that I was INDEED preggers! Yay!
Our first peek at baby! And that thunderous heartbeat!Hello, sweetheart!
Thanks to doc, my fears were allayed, and we could now just enjoy our journey of pregnancy! It was exciting, and we felt extremely blessed. The drive home was an exuberant one, all laughs, and giddiness, with “praise the Lord’s” aplenty! We were going to be parents, and the world couldn’t have been a happier place! Anyhoo, as hinted at in earlier posts, I am a bit of a nerd burger when it comes to all things medical. As in, when it comes to the human body, I need to know how it works. And I need details. Human bio to me, is like gossip to People magazine- don’t hold back!So at every session with the doc I had him check everything. Don’t get me wrong, I was not that douchebag that kept doctor up well past my allotted appointment time, thus keeping the subsequent patient up. Nope. I just asked what I needed to know. Always respectful of everyone’s time. (Which, by the way, could not be said of the doctor, who often strolled in 30 minutes well after our appointment time…free of any apologies to us. I mean, we only gave up our time at work to be here on time.Moving along,swiftly.)
I asked questions about the basics, like location of my placenta, head circumferences, etc., all of which were just peachy,with nothing untoward according to doc.
I also did a bit of poking around w.r.t the hospital’s birth statistics. Which were not encouraging: 80% c-sect. Hmm, a worrisome figure, yes, but still I felt perhaps, maybe our doctor’s stats would be amongst those 20% natural births. But in asking some key hospital staff members, it didn’t sound promising. I grew a bit suspect, but still, I took the doc at his word from the first appointment, that he would “let me have natural”, even though that conversation didn’t last more than 10 seconds.
It was around the 20 week mark that I really started getting a bit edgey. I was half way through pregnancy and obviously wanted to unpack the details of birth. Since he had “agreed” in the very first appointment that I could have natural birth, I was pretty freakin’ excited to hear more about what’s going happen on labour day. Like, when do I call, when should I come in, etc…but my excitement was abruptly clothes-lined with a “its too early to talk about this.Lets chat closer to the time” reply from the doc.
I was a bit shocked. But, hey, it was only my first baby. Who was I to get all excited and want to know about how the most pivotable day in my life was gonna pan out!! Silly me.
The next visit was the same.”Too early.Who knows what going to happen”, he said. This raised my suspicions even further. Why CAN’T we talk about it? What are you SO afraid of doc, that we dare not speak of the evitable day????
On our hospital tour, all other moms were asking about the equipment and pain relief choices, etc, I was more interested in actual nurse giving the tour. Her title was “midwife“. As far as my limited knowledge extended, midwives were supposed to be able to deliver your baby as well. So I questioned her about this. Her answer surpised me, and she herself was aghast at me even asking the question. “No. We never deliver!! Only doctors deliver. We call the doctors when they need to come in. That’s it.”
Ok, so the title is just a title. Not an actual indication of skills. Hmm.
But she assured me that they were well experienced (and educated) in the birthing process. Ok, this was good, I thought. I’d be supported by women who understand the uniqueness of labour and birthing. So I posed another question to her:
“ So sister, if doctor came in and told me I needed to go for a c-sect, but you could see my labour was still going well, and that mom and baby were doing great, would you speak up and let him know?”
There was dead silence in the room. However, all the other parents perked up, also now interested in her answer.Please understand, I wasn’t trying to make the lovely nurse uncomfortable, and I wasn’t trying to be a douchebag. I just needed to know what I’d be dealing with. It was my first child after all. Nothing was familiar to us. I needed to know the situation, and I had every right to know. It was my right to be informed.
She then smiled and gave a very candid answer, for which I was very grateful for. She said,
“You know, doctor delivers your baby, then you go home. Then you don’t see him again. I on the other hand though, have to work with that doctor every day. So it would be very uncomfortable to have to face him everyday after questioning his judgement. So no, I wouldn’t.”
I thanked her for her candor. But it merely started to confirm my suspicions of the toothless role that these nurses played, and all the holes within this particular hospital model.
Not suprisingly, that whole top secret dance/mission impossible discussion with my doc went on for weeks until my 36th week.
The sequence of events were all random, but it was as if things had all nicely played into his hand. You see, I was at my friends house. She had just suffered a miscarriage. Instinctively I felt her pain and her anguish, but believe I could only identifiy with it so far, as I was still pregnant. I couldn’t bare the thought of losing my baba that was growing so well inside me. I kept carressing my round belly whilst listening to her, heartbroken by her loss, and grateful that I still had my baby safely in my belly. How fragile we all are. As she spoke of her loss, and I felt the sting in my heart, couldn’t help but put myself in her shoes.It was hard not to. Then during the visit, highly preggers, I obviously needed to use the bathroom.
It was in that bathroom that I was faced with a tiny drop of blood of the loo paper. The world stood still, and all I could hear was my heart pounding loudly. It was the most tiny little drop ever, but still, it was a fresh drop of blood. Now, there I am, freshly pumped up with all the fear in the world of losing my child, still wearing the proverbial shoes of my friend who just lost her child, staring at this drop of of blood. Imagine the paranoia racing through my mind.
In no time we had an appointment with the doc, and it was almost as if he did a slight chuckle when I shared this news with him. It was like he pushed open the gates of fearville, grabbed us by the collars and tried to drag us inside. It was at this point that he decided that the root cause of all that blood was because of my placenta. I had suddenly developed placenta praevia (low lying)…Huh?Say what?
I was slightly confused as to his reasoning behind that tiny drop of blood – that he had now painted as quite a bit of bleeding, and was trying to jedi-mind trick me into believing this. I tried to understand this “sudden” placenta shift that he spoke of. But he spoke over me, trying his best to quell my curiosity with induced fear.
I sat in the car, somewhat still shocked by the blood I saw, and also dumbfounded by the doc’s explanantion. I stepped aside of myself, and realised I had started to succumb to emotions, and needed to look at it factually/holisticallyl .And I shook my myself off, and off with the coat of fear that he had started to paint me with. I started recalling the bits of research I did on placenta at the beginning of my pregnancy. I immediately recogniszed this doubt in my gut was the smell of this doc’s bullshit . When we got home, I immediately called up my brother-in law overseas, who works in the field. He and his gynaecological colleagues confirmed that placenta cannot move down. It remains where it first implanted itself. The only place it DOES move is UP, as the uterus expands with your growing baby. So this crappy story of the doc’s that my placenta is now covering my vaginal opening was the biggest load of hog wash ever.Still he was my doc, the dude that was to deliver my first born. We had spent this entire journey with him, surely we can just discuss this lapse in his professional/medical knowledge and move on. Right? He is a doctor, who has taken the hypocratic oath. Surely whats best for my baby and my body is top of mind for him, right?..I had hope.
But that flame of hope was like a fart in the wind.
He had me come back the next week again. This time I questioned him about the placenta diagnosis. I asked him to show me. He had hoped to baffle me with bullshit, and that I couldn’t understand what I was looking at, but I drew his attention to the fact that he had already shown me my placenta a few months early, nicely resting posteriorly.And far far far from my vaginal opening. Which incidently, nicely collaborated with what an independent 3D scanning technician also showed me a few weeks earlier. I layed out the medical facts, all of which disputed his opinion, and just like that he changed his story. He didn’t even try too hard to explain it away, he mostly just changed the subject.
He smoothly shifted his fear-inducing tactics to the next trick up his sleeve.….He didn’t even acknowledge all that I had put before him, he just looked away from, with a sigh, and then stated “Im no longer concerned about that. What Im really worried about is that your hips are just too small. You wont be able to give birth naturally.” Im sorry, what? Me? Small hips? Pour que? As the owner of extra junk in my trunk, with rounded hips, this was the first time I was ever accussed of having too small hips. But since I am aware that there are women out there who are a bit too narrow, even with with your hormones working their magic on your pelvis flexiability, I waited to hear his full professional medical opinion.
According to him, there was just no way baby was gonna come out. He then drew my attention to the fact that my baby was just so huge at 37 weeks.(yet another infamous fear-inducing trick he threw in there.) And he doesn’t want to “hurt my feelings” but my dreams of natural birth are most likely not possible. He continued with “you could try, but its going to hurt like hell”.I had retorted with “ Im not afraid of pain, doc”, so he was quick to add “… and it will probably hurt baby too.”….Hmmm, more liberal application of his fear-tactics.
He then said he has to do an internal exam. As a first time mom, I didn’t know any better. And went with it. The man wasn’t even in there for more than a few seconds, and from that he concluded his “diagnosis”. Yes, “you’re hips are too narrow…Oh, and you’re bleeding”. He then proceed to show me the blood on his glove, by shoving his glove in my face, and then pointed to it on the linen saver. “Just look.”
I think he was hoping that I was someone who reacted to the sight of blood. Unfortunately, for him, my reactions are not that strong. But my logical thoughts expounded on what the blood could possibly mean.
It wasn’t as much as he was making it out to be, but still, it was blood. He then for good measure of fear inducing tactics, added, ”
OMG! You’re bleeding so much. Ive never seen a woman bleed so much. But no need to be alarmed, though. Just relax…But still this is not normal for you to be bleeding so much.”..
Which is the equivalent to “you’re possilbly miscarrying. But don’t worry, just relax. But you could be miscarrying”…Wtf? Just relax?!
I lay there, trying very hard to decipher what was going on in my head. I was hit with a flurry of gut feelings, logical thought processes wading through medical facts, emotive urges. Everything. Just so many millions of thoughts, that I didn’t respond to his statements at all. I had just nodded when he said I should call immediately if it got worse or didnt stop bleeding.
Who wants to be responsible for the loss of their child or any damage to their child?! You’re whole existence revolves around getting this person safely to earthside.
But the most overwhelming emotion I had was my gut feeling. I dismissed this thought over and over. But no matter how many times I thought through what he said, what my situation meant in medical terms, trying to apply logic and facts, my gut feel kept bubbling up. No matter how I tried to quieten it down…I kept thinking, “was this guy trying to prematurely start labour?”. But he’s my doctor, surely he wouldn’t do that. Right? Or would he? I tried so hard to ignore this feeling that I didn’t even tell my hubby. And I usually tell him everything!
Thing is, I didn’t want to sound like this paranoid preggo who was biased towards doctors…Like I was so obsessed with natural birth, that I was no longer thinking straight. That perhaps I was willing to put my child at risk purely for the blind goal of natural birth. And there are people out there who would think that! The last thing I needed was to have my sanity and my priorities second guessed.
I knew I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t doing this for myself. As a mom, I wanted to do the best for my unborn daughter, and for me, that meant ensuring that we’ll be given the chance to labour naturally and the best care for our choices. To let baby decide when she was ready to come. And how she wanted to come. Whether that’s natural or c-sect. But we needed to be given the time to labour as long as my body needed. Since it was my first birth, who knew how long MY body would take? Only way to find out was to go through labour itself. (I was psychologically prepared for a three day labour!) It was up to me to ensure we had the birthing team who would enable this. I knew I needed a team who firstly trusted my body, and the process that it needs go through, and secondly who had the medical expertise to know when the wisest next move was for surgery. (c-sect). And for this , I needed to trust them completely.
The drive home from doc that afternoon was a tense and quiet one. I was still trying my damdest to quell the urge to share that gut feel with hubby though.
Later, we quietly discussed the matter. What this all meant, what were our options, and plan of action. We were being very methodical.My husband is great at being calm during a storm. Love that man. We both felt though that I was to remain calm for the good of the baby. I also had a nice long chat with baby about only coming when she’s ready. I tried to distract myself, but eventually I couldn’t anymore – every bit of me needed to share with my husband what I felt. So I spilled the beans about my gut feel.
The thing is, he completely trusts my gut. Often more than I do. And he’s always the one that reminds how my gut has never failed me before. So as I hesitantly shared with him my suspicion that Doc Oc was up to no good when he did that “internal exam”, his expression immediately changed to one of, maybe a bit of anger, but mostly clarity. The realisation that this guy was trying his damndest to instil fear and insecurity in us, to the point where he would interfere with the natural course of things.
Still I wanted..needed to be 100% sure of my accusation. What if I was being a neurotic preggo? So before the next check up, at 37 weeks, hubby and I said special prayers for guidance. I asked the Lord to provide me with clarity as to what I am to do. I didn’t want any unsurety. I wanted to leave the doc’s surgery very clear, without a doubt as to whether we should stay or go.
And boy, did I get my answer!
The three of us sat there in his office. I could see doc was already slightly on edge. However, strangely, we were very relaxed. I had faith that today we would find direction. God was with us. We felt it.
I think the doc was slightly disappointed that he hadn’t heard from me earlier, what with the stretch ‘n sweep rubbish he tried a week ago. But we continued as per normal, no talk of last week’s bleeding, and we did the scan.
Once back in his office, I then opened up. “So can we discuss the birth plan,doc?” He tried his usual evasive tactics, but I reigned him back in, and that’s when all the drama started.
I felt I wanted him to understand that I respected the medical profession – I wouldn’t have been at his practice if I didn’t- and also to acknowledge that,in not so many words, I understood his fears w.r.t medical insurance. It was for this very reason that I always opened up all my requests with, “in the absence of no medical emergencies, would you grant me a,b,c…”. But, unfortunately, all that play-nice method of mine didn’t seem to make a single bit of a difference.
It was like a game of ping pong, and every one of my serves he intended to smash.
Ping: Will you allow me all the time to labour? Pong: “If something goes wrong, we wont be able to do that…”
Ping:I asked if he would allow me to give birth in a position that was most comfortable for me, what with it being ME giving birth and all…Pong:Apparently that was one of the worst questions I could have asked. It was met impatience and with a dismissive response that it is “a myth” that I need to be in a position that I feel I am more comfortable in, and something along the lines that I will be comfortable on my back.
I sensed his growing impatience and realised it was pointless and fruitless going over the details, when there was a big fat elephant in the room. I needed to know where he truly stood.
I chucked all my other questions aside and just went straight for it. I asked if he would support me for natural birth. He then proceeded to tell me how horrible birth was. How painful it was. Just what a nightmare Im in for.
I responded that I understood what I was in for and that I was by no means under any misguided impressions that birth was unchallenging. All I needed to know from him was, “doctor, can I TRUST you to support my natural birth?”
He was so uneasy as he prepared to answer me. He just couldn’t sit still in his chair, fidgeting with every pen and page on his desk. He then broke out with a sarcastic ,”Look I don’t get my information from the Living and Loving!” (Neither do I, but I let him go on. Passing him some proverbial rope.) This is where he proceeded to up his volume, and lose his shit!
This is him, verbatim: “Natural birth is not this romantic idea that YOU have in your head. There’s so much blood. Just blood everywhere.” (because apparently, blood is supposed to scare me)… “There’s faeces everywhere! Its really just disgusting.”…Yes, you read right, the good doc actually said birth is disgusting. Then he dropped the bomb: “Look. It will ruin your vagina. Forever!” (At that point, I wasn’t sure whether to burst out laughing at his attempt to put me off natural birth- something I was built to do- or to maintain my poker face and pass him even more rope. I bit my tongue and passed him more rope for his rant.) He then promptly turned to my hubby, looking him square in the face to add “Sex will never be the same again”. (Trying desperately to talk to some fear he thought/hoped my hubby had). At this point the ol’ doc was huffing and puffing. It was almost funny.
My hubby and I sat there calmly in our seats, a little puzzled by his frazzled state, but also a little amused by the bullshit he was trying to sling. Unfortunately for him, scare tactics never have, and never will work on hubby and me. In fact, as we learnt, we’ve become quite adept at smelling scare-tactics a mile away, and it mostly just strengthens our resolve. That particular day was when hubby and I discovered that fact about ourselves, and about us as a team.
At this point, to finalise the thought processes going on in my head, I smiled and quietly asked, “So doc, just to be sure, are you saying you wont support me in natural birth?”, to which he responded with a highly irritated gasp, and pushed his chair away form his desk, flinging his arms up in the sky in a gesture of defeat , “I have been doing this for years! And it is not this beautiful romantic idea you think it is!”. ..*more rope*..And with that statement (and all that rope) he swiftly kicked his own bucket out from under himself.. And just like that, my prayers were answered. We maintained our composure. “Thank you, doc. That’s all I needed to hear.” We thanked him for his services and gracefully exited.
Without a doubt, I knew he was NOT the doctor for us, if we wanted any chance at being given the opportunity to see what my body and baby does in my first labour ever. We walked out of that surgery, knowing we would never return again.
I was 37 weeks pregnant though, almost 38. This was not a likely decision to make. But I had all the faith in the world we had made the right decision. I knew that if we wanted any chance at being granted the opportunity at natural birth, we simply couldn’t stay with him.
I had no idea what we were going to do. Who was going to deliver our baby girl?Our baby girl was due in less than two weeks.(maybe less) All we knew was it was NOT going to be this doctor.
The car ride home was filled with a strange buzz.We sat in the car. A little nervous. But there was an air of excitement. We weren’t more sure of ourselves. God had our back all the way…Now,with only two weeks to go, all we needed to do was figure out what next.