By Whitney C. Harris
Telling people that I left my board-certified obstetrician to join a group of holistic-minded midwives mid-pregnancy usually results in a few raised eyebrows. “Oh, that sounds…interesting,” they say with a detectible level of uneasiness, before asking whether a midwife can actually help deliver the baby.
Yes, I have to assure them, a midwife is highly experienced and fully trained to deliver my baby. In fact, midwives tend to do a better job than M.D.s when it comes to normal pregnancies. That typically shuts people up. But I can tell they still think I’m crazy for abandoning a mainstream, modern-day medical professional.
I made the big switch just before my 20-week sonogram. At that point, I had already met with all three obstetricians at the practice. They ran all the necessary blood tests, took my urine at every visit, listened to my baby’s heartbeat via fetal Doppler, and performed two separate ultrasounds. They checked all the boxes when it came to my prenatal care. But something was missing.
Any time I asked the doctors a question, it would be followed by a long pause. Sometimes they wouldn’t even bother looking up from their paperwork. “Why do you ask?” they wanted to know. Whether I had wondered aloud about whether I was gaining the right amount of weight, was curious about birthing philosophies, or wanted to know more specifics about my test results, they were hesitant to give me answers. The only feedback they ever offered me was:
“Everything is fine.”
For a type-A, soon-to-be-first-time mom, this was beyond frustrating. I wasn’t being heard and often felt rushed through my appointments. This kind of care is obviously not the case with every OB-GYN practice, but it made me start to think about considering a different approach. Something with a more personal touch.
My first visit with a midwife was just what I had been looking for. It was longer, more relaxed, and more informative than the five or six appointments at my former OB combined. We talked about my medical history, family history, my hopes and expectations for childbirth, my relationship with my husband, and what our lives would be like after a newborn entered the picture. She did a full exam, and we listened to the baby’s heartbeat for a few minutes as the midwife smiled and asked how I was feeling. She recommended prenatal yoga, a birth prep course, and some important topics for conversation with my husband. Best of all, she let me ask as many questions as I needed to, and she answered each with thoughtful patience.
Right now, taking an alternative route just feels right. I’m still planning to give birth in a hospital—I had considered a home birth, but thought it seemed too risky for my first pregnancy—but in one where my midwives work (they have access to obstetricians should the labor go from normal to high-risk). Working with a midwife means I’m more likely to have a natural labor, without interventions, and that I’ll be more in control of the experience along the way. This isn’t the right choice for many women, though, especially those who are high-risk or prefer more definitive guidance, as opposed to being presented with various options. It’s currently the path less traveled by American moms, but it’s the one I’m choosing to take. Wish me luck!
Whitney C. Harris is a freelance writer and Family Media contributor; she welcomed her first child this past summer. Find her at whitneycharris.com.