Thursday, November 10, 2011

Guest Contributor: Choosing a Doctor and a Doula

Over the next week, we welcome some posts from a guest contributor. Amy contacted me a few weeks ago to share her birth stories. She has Type I diabetes and three sons, all born vaginally and with minimal intervention. Her stories have been a real encouragement to us, and we hope you enjoy reading about her journey!

Our first son's birth story really began before he was even conceived, because we believe that God knew him before then and in His sovereignty chose to give him to our family at just the time that He did. But, on our end, his story began on February 19, 2008. That evening we found out that we were expecting him and we were thrilled! I wrote this story down because I wanted to remember everything about my first son's birth and what led up to it, including finding our doctor and being connected with our doula.

I began my hunt for a doctor right away and I knew that I would need to find a doctor who was willing to work with “high-risk” pregnancies, since I have type 1 diabetes. Being new to the area, all I had to go on was a recommendation from a woman at church. In all my excitement, I didn’t really ask this doctor any important questions until my third visit. My husband and I were planning for a natural childbirth, so at this appointment we finally asked questions about how I would be allowed to labor and birth. We left this appointment completely appalled at the doctor’s answers! I would HAVE TO be induced, all sorts of interventions would be used as a matter of standard procedure at the hospital, and to top it all off, he told us that our baby would not be able to room-in with us for the first 24 hours, but would HAVE TO stay in the nursery during that time (even if the baby was fine and stable). He also had the audacity to tell me that I had a 50% chance of having a c-section. Looking back I realize that would have been true had I let him “care” for me and followed all of his instructions. I knew we would not be returning. So the search began for a different doctor, and I didn’t even know where to start!

I belong to a somewhat large yahoo group for Christian women (Above Rubies) and I know there are a lot of women from all over the world on the group. I thought there might be someone in my area who could help me. I asked if anyone had any ideas or advice for me and a woman who is now a good friend, Leah, responded. She encouraged me to contact the midwife, Kathy, that assisted at her home birth the previous year. Also, through searching on the internet I came across an organization called Center for Humane Options in Childbirth Experiences (CHOICE). They offered many programs and services, including pairing mothers with midwives and doulas, and assisting in home births. I knew that I would not be able to receive pregnancy care from a midwife, but I thought they may be of help so I called and set up a consultation. In the meantime I also contacted Kathy. Both Kathy and the ladies I met with at CHOICE recommended the same doctor. Another doctor/midwife practice nearby was also recommended.

I chose to look into the doctor/midwife team first since they were closer and I liked that it was a solo practice that included a midwife. We loved the midwife, but the doctor was not a good fit for us. I left his office in tears because he basically told me the same things my previous doctor had. He also told me I WOULD have problems at the end of my pregnancy, no matter what. I was so devastated and having that experience made me really nervous to try out another doctor. I didn't want to be told the same things all over again and I felt like I had no options.

Finally, when I was about 21 weeks along, I decided to set up an appointment with the last recommended doctor. To my surprise, he was wonderful! He was immediately supportive of our preferences of how the baby and I would be treated during pregnancy, birth, and after the birth. He actually treated me like a normal person and not a worst-case scenario waiting to happen. He informed me of the possible complications of pregnancy when the mother is diabetic, but said that as long as none of these things were happening that our plans were acceptable. He continued to care for me for the rest of my pregnancy, and I was even able to request to see him specifically for all my appointments. He gave us his phone number so that we could be sure he would be the one caring for us during the birth, even if he was not on call.

A few weeks later my husband and I started our The Bradley Method® childbirth classes. Everything was going great. I was able to keep my blood sugar under control (as usual), we were learning and preparing all we could for having a natural childbirth, and the baby was as active as ever. Several weeks before my due date we were discussing our birth with our Bradley instructor, Rachel, who was quickly becoming a good friend as well. She recommended that we have a doula with us for labor and birth. My husband and I had thought about this before, but knew that if we had a doula, we wanted her to be a Christian. We saw the benefit of having a doula there to support us,and thought it would work out best if our doula also shared our faith and could encourage and pray for us. Not knowing how to find a Christian doula, we set that idea aside. But with our due date drawing close, Rachel gave us the phone number for the doula who assisted at her home birth, Amy. Amy said she would be happy to help us find a Christian doula. Amy connected us with Amanda, who we eventually chose to assist at our birth.

For more information on what a doula is and how they can help you during pregnancy, labor, and birth I would recommend looking at this website: www.dona.org. Their quick explanation of a doula: “The word 'doula' comes from the ancient Greek meaning 'a woman who serves' and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.”

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