Shortly after suspecting that I was pregnant and confirming that suspicion with a drugstore pregnancy test, I called my doctor’s office. My husband and I assumed that the next step in this journey we were now on was to see the 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 that clinic over the past several years when I get a bad cold or strep throat, and the last time I was sick they refused to take walk-ins and I had to go to a different clinic. But finally she booked the appointment for me.
At my appointment, they repeated the pregnancy test, and 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?” I asked.
“The pregnancy,” he responded.
“Of course,” I said, but I was shocked by his question. My husband and I told ourselves he probably just had to ask it as a routine question, but it still 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 what the date of conception was, 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 the 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.
Then a friend told me about the local midwife program, and my husband 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.
Our first appointment was half an hour, very informative and relaxing. The midwife explained to me the results of the tests that the doctor had sent me for (and never explained). She was happy to hear what date the baby was conceived, as that gives us 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.
Today was my next session with the midwife, run as a group session with all the women who are due in February. We each filled in our own charts and had a few minutes with the midwife. Then she talked to us 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.
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 that 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. And I know that every woman is different, and that other doctors may be different; but for me, for this baby, this is where I am.