Why I Switched from OBGYN to Midwives at 35 Weeks Pregnant
Have you thought to yourself, “This pregnancy I will go with my OBGYN and NEXT pregnancy I’ll go with midwives”? or perhaps, “I just want to see what it’s like to give birth and THEN once I have that under my belt, I explore other routes like midwives, home births, or birthing centers for my next birth?”
I know I did.
In fact, those were the mantras going through my head all the way up until week 35 (!!!!) of my first pregnancy. But then I made the change and I am so grateful that I did.
Exactly a year before I gave birth, I saw the documentary, “The Business of Being Born”. It struck a cord with me. I knew someday in the future I would be pregnant and at that point, I would revisit the documentary and consider going a different route than the normal hospital birth. I figured I would have at least 3 years before that would come back on my radar. In actuality, it was 4 months later that I peed on a pregnancy test and found out I was pregnant.
This was unexpected. I was not dating the father of my baby. I was in shock, although I couldn’t be happier than I was in that moment. Exactly a year before I peed on that pregnancy test, I was looking into being a single mother by choice by the time I was 35 years old. It seemed that that choice was made for me a few years earlier, though.
That being said, I had no idea what being pregnant meant, really. It wasn’t like I was married and trying to have a child or going down that single mother by choice avenue and getting artificially inseminated. (If I had, I think I would have had a better inkling of what to do when I found out I was pregnant.) But as it was, I was shocked and also super sick that weekend that test read positive. I needed some relief from the cold but ran into the first pregnancy barrier when I picked up the DayQuil, “Consult a doctor before use if pregnant.”
“HOLY CRAP. THAT’S ME. I’M PREGNANT.”
I did not have a steady OBGYN at the time so I went first to Planned Parenthood to confirm that the home pregnancy test was correct and also to ask about what I could take for some relief from the cold. They confirmed I was indeed 100% pregnant, but said they couldn’t give me information about what medication to take and I should go to my OBGYN.
So I stood on the streets of NYC and called around to every and all OBGYNs that could take a newly pregnant woman who had a head cold at 12:00 pm on a Saturday in February. I found a place on the Upper East Side and scurried off to the appointment. The doctor that saw me made me feel uncomfortable on that surreal day. Since I had a head cold, the whole experience felt like a tornado of confusion and questions, “Am I really pregnant? Is this really happening? How would I tell my Dad? Am I really really pregnant?”
The doctor wanted to give me another pregnancy test and a pap smear. The doctor was also a man. I had never gone to a man for a pap smear, but since this was a last minute appointment, I had to go with it.
As any woman can tell you, pap smears are AWFUL. I can’t relax and constantly clench up even when trying to “relax”. This doctor got frustrated with my clenching and said, “You know you better get used to this. You’ll be pushing a baby out of there some day.” Ew. I knew this doctor would not be the one to deliver my baby.
After I told my dad and stepmom about my pregnancy, my stepmom reminded me that I went to her OBGYN for a few appointments years ago and maybe I could go to her for the rest of the pregnancy. I was overwhelmed and although in the back of my head recalled “The Business of Being Born”, I pushed it aside not knowing how to even broach the midwife topic. “How does one find a midwife?” I wondered. “How will I know if they were good midwives if I do a google search for them?” I felt I should research more into midwives if I was going that route, but first trimester had me like, “SLEEEEEEEEEP. I NEED SLEEP. IF I AM NOT SLEEPING GIVE ME CEREAL. EVERYTHING ELSE IS TOO HARD TO DO. BYE!” and so that’s how I decided to go with my stepmom’s obgyn. Plus, I figured, I’d been to her before and she was nice, I guess.
And so began my pregnancy journey with her. Around this time, I found out one of my close friends was also pregnant and not only that that, we had the same due date of October 22nd. I mention this because we talked daily about our hashtag pregnantlife. Sometime during week 19 of pregnancy, she asked me, “What is your birth plan?” I shrugged and said, “I don’t know. Get the baby out of me?” But at that point, I was out of the 1st trimester and 2nd trimester brought lots of energy and I felt like I could read and research now (although I was still convinced that it would be NEXT pregnancy that I would go to midwives because I didn’t want to leave my current doctor now and “hurt her feelings”).
The problem was though that the more I read, the more I felt like I didn’t want to go with my current doctor, but now I didn’t know how to slam on the breaks with her.
In July, I went to my appointment with a list of 20 questions that came up because of my reading of giving birth and pregnancy. Prior to this appointment, she would come into the examination room and spend probably about 5 to 10 minutes and the appointment would be over. She was making for an exit that July appointment but I stopped her and said, “Actually, I have some questions I want to ask you about giving birth.” She sighed and I felt rushed asking my questions. She laughed in my face when I asked about birth plans saying, “Nothing ever goes according to plan” (ok, sure, but I want to have my bases covered). When pressed about options in labor and giving birth (could I walk around? Stand in shower? Bounce on a birthing ball?), I learned that labor and giving birth was going to be laying down in bed pushing (which I wanted to avoid because, from my research and reading, that is one of the worst ways to give birth!).
The nail in the coffin though was her answer to my last question, “Do you have any books you recommend for me to read?” She looked at me like I was speaking another language and replied, “No. I don’t encourage my patients to read.”
[Cue me flipping a table in my head. I’m an avid reader AND studied to be a librarian. I have the word “READ” tattooed on my foot for goodness sake! TELLING ME NOT TO READ?!?!! What the what? What planet did I just land on?]
She continued saying, “When patients read about giving birth it gives them more anxiety and it doesn’t help them to know what is happening.”
Okay so a few things:
Maybe that is true for SOME patients, but guess what? I’m not that patient.
In fact, NOT knowing what to expect makes me more anxious than having some vague idea. I know nothing can actually put into words what it 100% feels like to give birth, but I want to know what my body is doing.
Knowing what is happening can help me advocate for myself….oh. Wait right there. That’s part of the problem. So many hospitals want to give C-sections over natural birth. Being able to advocate for myself and knowing what was happening would make me harder to agree to a C-section.
I left that appointment not knowing what to do because now I really didn’t want her to deliver my baby, but again, I felt uncomfortable ditching her.
As luck would have it, a few weeks later, I lost my insurance since I was going on leave from graduate school to give birth and my insurance was through my grad school and contingent upon me being a full time student. I scrambled to get new insurance and my previous doctor didn’t take my new insurance.
Again, as luck would have it, on the day I found out my old doctor wouldn’t take my new insurance, I went to an event about conquering fears and happen to run into a midwife and a doula that were also attending the event. This was a sign. After the event was over, I scurried over to them and explained I was looking for a more holistic doctor on Long Island, was interested in water births, and maybe going the midwife route. The event was in Brooklyn and this pair worked in NYC, but they got me in contact with a doula on Long Island, Kaitlin McGreyes, who would have the right connections for me.
Kaitlin DID have the right connections for me and after emailing with her over the course of a few weeks, I decided I wanted a doula for my birth; well more specifically I wanted Kaitlin as my doula for my birth and hired her. The doula and midwife I met at the Brooklyn event had birthing classes that I attended with my stepmom, and while Kaitlin did help me find a holistic obgyn who delivered at Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC) water birthing room, being around doulas and midwives brought back The Business of Being Born and brought back the feeling of, “Maybe I want to go with midwives. Maybe I want to have a home birth?!?!?!”
At week 33, I asked Kaitlin about these things and by week 35, I had an interview with Gaia Midwives. By this point, I read Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and was in the middle of Spiritual Midwivery. Going into the interview, I knew in my heart I would probably be going with them.
I met with Ashley and Colleen in the middle of September for an appointment that wound up lasting two hours. TWO HOURS. In the entirety of my pregnancy I had not been with my OBGYN for 2 hours if the appointments were all lined up from start to finish. I should also add that these two hours were completely free because I was under no obligation to sign up with them. Ashley and Colleen addressed all my questions and concerns and took time to get to know me as a person. By the end of the appointment, I felt like I gained two new friends who just happened to be extremely knowledgeable and smart and knew how to deliver babies. I hired them before I walked out of the office that day and only wished I had done it earlier.
Hiring Gaia Midwives and Kaitlin as my doula were the best decisions I made while pregnant. It is never too late to make the switch! When writing this piece, I looked back at my calendar to see when I went for the interview and was shocked to see it was week 35 of pregnancy!
I went into labor at 38 weeks and 1 day on October 9, 2017. My son wasn’t born until 47 hours later on October 11, 2017. Ashley, Colleen, Amanda, and Kaitlin were all there cheering me on and encouraging me. Gaia Midwives is also the reason I avoided having a C-section. Hold up. I’m going to write that again, bold it, and give it is own line because it is so important.
Gaia Midwives is the reason I avoided having a C-section.
I was in labor without making progression for hours. I was stuck at 6 cm. I wanted a home water birth, but had to be transferred to the hospital since I wasn’t making progress, and also because I wanted an epidural around hour 33.
I wanted Ashley and Kaitlin to come with me though and they did. Ashley advocated for me constantly with the doctors on staff at the hospital. They wanted to C-section me, but Ashley knew I wanted to avoid that unless my baby or myself was in life-threatening danger, so she put her foot down for me and held them off. After a while I made progress; at least enough progress to keep the doctors at bay for a little bit longer. At some point, my water broke on its own (although the doctors wanted to break it for me, but Ashley said no). Because of Ashley’s persistence, I got my vaginal birth and gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
And yes, the birth of my son didn’t go exactly according to my “birth plan”, but it was helpful to know what I did (and didn’t) want going in and knowing that my birth team had my back.
Next pregnancy I’ll be with Gaia Midwives for the whole journey.