Monday, November 21, 2011

The Switch

Well, two of them actually.

First, Alice is taking over like gangbusters around here and the cats seem to be adjusting pretty well. No one seems to be experiencing any child actor superstardom-esque ego falls from not being photographed every 5 minutes. I believe Pablo especially will enjoy the newfound privacy he receives from no longer being the 'it' thing on the blog. He deserves a quiet retirement at the ripe old age of 7 and a half, or at the very least a few years of peace until Alice is coordinated enough to chase his fat ass around the apartment.

Secondly and more importantly, I have just realized that Alice's birth story was a bit of a surprise to some because I never really said anything about our decision to switch from my OB and a hospital birth to a midwife and a home birth. It was a decision that I was on the fence about when I became pregnant actually, but it was a decision that I didn't end up making until the halfway point. As previously mentioned, I had done some research on hospitals in the area and had initially decided on St. Luke's-Roosevelt in Manhattan. They have a birthing center that I had heard good things about and I found out which OB's in the area were open to assisting births in the center and picked one. I set up an interview with her beforehand to see if we got on and pretty much just went from there.

She seemed really nice and enthusiastic and supportive of my hopes to give birth in the center naturally. Unfortunately, I was continually less impressed with each following appointment. Between the hens at the front desk that would talk down to you if you had a question about billing (and completely ignore you otherwise), the wait I experienced at every appointment, and the complete disregard I received from the actual obstetrician I left every appointment feeling belittled and like I had inconvenienced them somehow just by being pregnant. Which is sad when you think about it- I'm feeling this way because every single person that I came in contact with felt that way about their jobs and really this happens to be one of those professions where you have to bring your A game to work every day and love what you do. Which obviously none of them did. The straw that broke the camels' back so to speak came when we went for our 20 week ultrasound at the actual hospital (which I had not had time to visit yet). They do an anatomy scan and check for all sorts of important things, but most excitedly they can usually tell you the sex of your baby. Our time there was ridiculous. First, we were made to wait over 2 hours for our appointment. Then, as I am sitting in the room with the tech, jelly on my belly and naked from the waist down- another tech just walks right in! And leaves the door open! She walks over to the tech who is conducting our scan without acknowledging Tim and I at all and proceeds to have herself a casual conversation. She's asking our tech (who says nothing to her about being in the middle of something) about her lunch plans and if she can switch a procedure after lunch with her because she wants to eat with her boyfriend. Then she leaves- and leaves the door open for the world to see me laid out, bare-assed and covered in ultrasound gel! And again, our tech does nothing. I had to get up and waddle over and close the door my damn self. That is exactly the kind of shit that I do not want happening when I am in labor, so I am sitting there shaking my head thinking about how uncomfortable and anxious I am now about having a baby there. After that serious fail on the hospitals' part, I went to my next OB appointment and my doctor tells me that oh, by the way the birth center is really over crowded has a 70% rejection rate for the people hoping to give birth there. So, really my decision to give birth at home pretty much got made for me right then. I smiled and nodded but in my head said, 'fuck this bullshit' went home and searched for midwives who assisted home births.

A better decision has never been made. Honestly, I should actually send my OB and the hospital staff thank you's for being so freaking awful that I ended up finding Ellen and Joan. The differences between the two practices were night and day. The midwives office is a cozy, warm environment and every appointment I had with them was an hour long. We would start by talking about everything from how I was feeling physically and emotionally to how Tim was feeling and how things were going at home with nesting and work, diet, exercise, etc. They would seriously address and answer any question I had in depth without making me feel ridiculous for asking. Then we would go in the examining room and see how Alice was doing. They would measure my belly growth, take my blood pressure, gently press on my abdomen to see Alice's size and position, and listen to her heartbeat. Towards the end of my pregnancy Ellen did a home visit where she familiarized herself with the route to my apartment and checked out the environment in which Alice would be born and made sure I had everything ready. I had ordered the birthing kit (has basic medical supplies needed for such a birth like sterile gloves, a mattress cover, umbilical cord tie off, vitamin K, etc.) and, since I wanted a water birth- a birthing tub. Ellen would bring everything else whether it would be needed or hopefully not needed, Pitocin, oxygen, sterile medical supplies, antibiotics, IV's, needles, I don't know what else because thankfully we didn't have to use much at Alice's birth but Ellen was on top of it. During my labor and delivery there was never a moment when I felt we were unprepared. And that really amazes me that no part of my experience felt out of control or scary. The quiet security I felt in Ellen's presence was so serene. She was (is) so in love with what she is doing, interested, knowledgeable and confident and it all comes across in such a warm and subtle way- the exact opposite of the OB I went to. I am sure the OB is a fine person and all but in order to let me know she was confident she belittled my questions and so I would know she was knowledgeable she would over explain things in terms I wasn't familiar with because I didn't go to medical school. Night and day difference. I mean, after I gave birth to Alice I went to take a shower and when I got out Ellen came in and dried me off, knowing that I would need help with that. Even months later I can't think of that without tearing up. The empathetic tenderness of that moment is so near to my heart and it never would have happened with my OB, in labor and delivery. Hell, I wouldn't even expect that kind of attention from my own husband let alone a medical provider. You just don't meet people like that everyday. Plus, the comfort and convenience of being in your own home, with all your own stuff was amazing. Not as amazing as Ellen, but if you are going to have to get stitches down there it is pretty freaking great to be able to get those stitches on your own bed and not even have to get back up again afterwards. And jesus, I am just remembering that Ellen and her assistant even made me tea and a sandwich afterwards and showed me how to get Alice latched on and stuck around to make sure I wasn't bleeding too heavily or anything like that. Ellen called me everyday for the next week to see how we were all doing and answer any questions I had about Alice and the other midwife in the practice, Joan came by our apartment 2 days later to check up Alice. Seriously, the kind of attention Alice and I received was so personal and I came out of the experience feeling completely empowered, confident and exhilarated. Unless I need surgery, there is no way I will ever go to an OB/GYN again. I am a midwife convert (though they may not all be as wonderful as Ellen).


  1. Aw, Lauren - you've got me in tears over here and I didn't even have the privilege of attending your birth.

  2. Sheesh, me too! Every time I think of it. It would have been great to have you Jo! You guys are seriously some special ladies.