Friday, March 26, 2010

a boy, a doula, and a next step

Justin and I went to my fifteen week appointment together. Saw the baby's ribs and spine, all parts measuring fifteen weeks. Dr. S told us we are having a boy.

"That is the femur. Here is the other leg...I can't quite see. I think something is there." He paused to press and roll my abdomen. He looked again, "There. See that? A little penis. See?"

"That white speck?" Justin said.

Dr. S gestured at evidence of our son. I saw black, white and gray fuzz. I didn't see a penis. Then again, he estimated the baby to weigh 125 grams, so I was looking for a very tiny manhood.

Justin pretended he saw it. Maybe he did.

"Yes, I am sure of it," Dr. S said, "A little boy."

Justin grinned. I was hoping girl. Just because I thought two little sisters sharing a violet room would be fun. Hand-me-downs and hair ribbons. The three of us going off on girls' days while Justin hammered away at something in the garage. But a sister and brother: that's nice too. I grew up with one of each and enjoyed them both.

Back at Dr. S's desk, I asked about a doula. I wished we had had one when I delivered Claire because neither Justin nor I knew what to expect right there in the hospital, and my doctor - as good a man as he was - was also impatient to deliver. When time came to push Claire, two nurses flipped me from kneeling to flat on my back and at each contraction, my doctor told Justin and a nurse to press down on my belly to move the baby down faster. At that point, I could have used someone to speak for me: I was tired and managed to tell Justin I was afraid my ribs would crack, but I didn't have energy to fight with my doctor over what seemed a ludicrous, uncomfortable birthing position.

I really don't want that kind of birthing experience again - I felt like a bit of an inconvenience for letting my body be in control of the delivery.

So I asked Dr. S if he was willing to work with a doula.

"What is that?" He scrunched his face; I explained what a doula was. He said, "You're allowed one person. Take your pick."

Hospital policy is that one person is allowed in delivery with the mother. Justin wins. But I'm making him read doula websites and birthing books all summer so he can be mine.

At my eleven week appointment with Dr. S, when I said I hoped for a second natural delivery - no epidural, and this time (please, please) no episiotomy - he leaned back in his chair and said, "If you like pain, great. I do not like horror shows, but if this is what you want..." So that's when I thought: doula, I need a doula who can speak when I'm too deep in labor to be bothered. After asking another expectant mom I know here, I learned that the other doctors share a similar philosophy, preferring epidurals. But after delivering Claire without an epidural, I gained a new respect for the female body and also our minds; I found both my body and mind were capable of managing the intensity of labor. I view birth as a natural, not medical process. (Of course I understand that medicine has brought babies into the world that would have died, has saved mothers from losing too much blood - I am not against medical advancement or necessary intervention. I just think that women have been fed enough scary birth stories and most of us need a renewal of faith in our own bodies).

So I said this to Dr. S at my fifteen week appointment. "I just want to make sure you understand that I think of birth as a natural, not a medical process."

He collapsed back into his chair, "How many times will you tell me this?"

Until I sense that you will not warp into some maniac in the delivery room, irritated if pushing takes longer than you expect. Aloud, I said, "My last doctor was impatient. I don't want that again."

"You want to do it on your own. I am there only if there is an emergency," Dr. S said.

"Yes," I said and added, "I am sorry if I am being rude. I just need to make sure."

But I'm not really all that sure about Dr. S. So at this point, I'm wondering if I stay with Dr. S or if I try to find another doctor with greater respect for natural birth, or if I should insist that I be allowed a doula present (in addition to my husband), or if I can trust Justin to be wise and fully supportive in the middle of my labor, or if I start seriously investigating a midwife and home birth. I am not jumping to a decision yet.

I can hear a chorus of voices saying, "At the end you'll get your baby, and isn't that what's really important." Sing-song. Well, yeah, of course that's what's really important. But I trust my body to deliver my son and I want a doctor that celebrates my strength and ability to labor and deliver. I want a midwife who knows how to reposition the baby in my womb, or move a shoulder at delivery, rather than a doctor calling for cesarean. I want a Red Tent. I want a bunch of women in awe of how we've been designed to bring babies into this world.


jessica said...

oh, just reading this gets me all tense and I could easily write some long, crazy comment about how men have no business delivering babies and on and on... I hope you can find a solution to ease your worries.

Exciting about the boy! I really had no idea what to expect, but our big sister/little brother dynamic has been amazing.

Clare said...

i hear you on this is what we were designed to do! my labor was so fast that no one had time to make me do something i didn't want. sound like you should explore another doctor...he sounds like a bit of an ass. yay for a boy!

DC Running Mama said...

Yeah! on a boy...I would switch doctor. My midwife had a similar reaction and I always sensed that she didn't really think I could do it. And, in the end, her negativity and unwillingness to help me give birth naturally probably contributed to my extended labor and inability to have a natural childbirth. Move now. I don't like his flippant response.

TO Doula said...

I'm so sorry you're running into this! I'd say do both: change docs AND find a doula. You and your baby deserve the kind of birth you know you're capable of.

If a doula is really not feasible for some reason, you and your spouse might also want to consider attending an actual doula training to support your reading. It won't give you experience, but it'll give you some tips and tricks and just maybe the confidence to question your caregivers when they're doing something that doesn't feel right to you.

Good luck!

TO Doula said...

(I just realized where you're located. I'm guessing that doula trainings will be hard to find! Keep looking and asking questions, though.)