The Doctor and the Midwife: My First Prenatal Care Experience

Shortly after suspecting I was pregnant and confirming that suspicion with a drugstore pregnancy test, I called my doctor’s office. I assumed the next step in my pregnancy was to see a doctor. The nurse on the other end of the phone, however, seemed to wonder why on earth I was calling. It didn’t help that I’ve seen three different doctors at the clinic over the past several years. But finally she booked the appointment for me.

The Doctor and the Midwife: My First Prenatal Care Experience. Photo of midwife checking a pregnant mom's belly via Depositphotos.

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Doctor’s Appointments

At my appointment, the nurse repeated the pregnancy test. When I saw the doctor, he told me that I was indeed pregnant. (I already knew that.) Then he asked me, “Do you want to keep it?”

I didn’t know what he meant. “Keep what?”

“The pregnancy,” he responded.

“Of course,” I said, but I was shocked by his question. I told myself he probably had to ask it as a routine question, but it unnerved me. I thought doctors were to be advocates of health and life, and if I didn’t “want to keep it,” then I wouldn’t have been there.

The doctor calculated my due date, laughed when I mentioned I knew my date of conception, gave me a little pamphlet, and sent me off to the receptionist to book my next appointment. I was a little disappointed, but I dutifully showed up for the next appointment, and the next.

For most of my appointments, I spent more time sitting in the waiting room than seeing the doctor. When I did see him, he took my blood pressure and heart rate and asked me if everything was fine and then went off to his next appointment. One appointment was a bit more detailed (and painful), but still only took about fifteen minutes. I felt hurried over, and though I didn’t have many questions, I didn’t feel I could ask them.

Meet the Midwife

Then a friend told me about the local midwife program, and I headed out for an information session. The speaker explained midwifery, the program’s development (pioneered by a doctor I knew), and their theory of natural birth. She showed us the birthing rooms at the hospital. I felt much more comfortable with this program, and the next week I transferred my care from the doctor to the midwife.

My first midwife appointment was a very informative and relaxing half an hour. The midwife went over the sheaf of test requisitions the doctor had handed to me at my last appointment, and explained each test and its pros and cons. She was happy to hear what date my baby was conceived, as that gave the best indication of a due date. She answered our questions about ultrasounds and genetic testing, clearly explaining both and understanding our concerns. She included my husband in the discussions and let him run the machine to hear the baby’s heartbeat.

Overall, I felt like she gave us much better care than the doctor had (or was able to). She wasn’t rushing off to the next appointment, but was able to focus on us and to get to know us and what we wanted for our unborn baby.

The Doctor and the Midwife: My First Prenatal Care Experience. Photo of midwife checking a pregnant mom's belly via Depositphotos.

Group Midwife Appointments

My next session with the midwife was a group session with all the women due in February. We each filled in our own charts and had a few minutes with the midwife. Then she talked to us as a group about how we could prepare for giving birth. The other women shared their experiences, as several of them have children already.

I thought how natural that seemed—women supporting women and sharing this most womanly of duties. For those of us who are pregnant for the first time, and trying not to freak out over the thought of labour, it was helpful to hear from the women who had “been there, done that” and had a good experience.

Doctor Care vs. Midwife Care

With the doctor, I felt like I was part of a system and had no choice or voice, just had to go along and hope everything turned out okay. With the midwife, I feel like I am a woman and how I want to give birth is up to me. With the doctor, I wondered how much my husband could be involved; with the midwife, I know he can be there supporting me. With the doctor, I felt like I didn’t know anything; with the midwife, I feel like I should know as much as I can.

I know every woman is different, and that other doctors may be different; but for me, for this baby, this is where I am.

Would you like to know how it went? Read my birth story!

Beginner's Guide to Growing Baby: Tips to Help You through all Four Trimesters by Bonnie Way and Anna EastlandAfter this experience with a midwife for my first baby, I had my second baby in a hospital and then three midwife-assisted homebirths. For more mom-to-mom advice about pregnancy and prenatal care, check out Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby: Tips to Help You Through All Four Trimesters, a book about pregnancy, birth, and baby’s first three months. Written with my good friend Anna Eastland (mom of 10 kids!), Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby is an honest, practical look at pregnancy and beyond. We share what’s worked for us in growing, birthing and loving thirteen babies.

Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby is available on Amazon.

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