Meet our newest Great Expectations blogger, Rebecca Headen. At 32 weeks into her third pregnancy, Rebecca has a lot to share in a short amount of time! We hope you enjoy following along with her journey and encourage you to drop a line in the comments.
At 32 weeks pregnant, I’m in a hotel in rural America about 400 miles from home on my last work trip before the baby comes, awaiting a snowstorm that may or may not delay my trip back, and planning our family’s latest hosting events — a birthday party for my about-to-be 4 year-old and a shower for our third baby to come (that’s right, third). But none of that compares to what has been weighing on my mind for the past week: at just 8 weeks until the due date, I am considering changing my OB/Gyn.
You’re thinking there must be a reason. Of course there is, though like most things it’s not black-and-white. I had my second baby with this set of doctors, although in the end an entirely different doc delivered her (he was on call at the time, and everything went fine and like the first: no interventions, no medications, I called the shots — what worked for me). But I have had a series of small issues with the care at this place, culminating in one large one two weeks ago and I think I may have had enough. At this late stage of my pregnancy, there’s a voice in the back of my mind (the “mom” voice, the “Taurus scared of change” voice, the “you’re pregnant and you may not be entirely rational” voice) that says: “Why not just stick with what you know? It worked the last time.” As a person who relishes in the comfort of logic, I might tend to go with this head-driven approach. But so far in my life it is only when I’m pregnant that I find power in handing my instincts the mic. And so, there is a loud battle of the bands happening in my head right now while I board the plane, as I work with my colleagues here, as I have the after-bedtime goodnight conversation with my husband who is holding things down at home.
One of the best things about being pregnant the third time around is also one of the most challenging: everyone thinks you know what you’re doing. Which in some sense is true, as much as any of us knows what we’re doing. But I think it’s also true that the more you know, the more aware you become that you can’t know it all — and you certainly don’t need to (thank goodness). I guess most people don’t think that experienced moms need to talk it out, too. We still have questions, and not just the ones with answers we forgot about the first time around — new issues, or concerns, or items we never really resolved before. I find myself missing what were once 10 minute conversations with my doctor but are now abbreviated as they confidently conclude: “Well, you’ve been there before. You know all this stuff. No problem.” At first, like anyone might, i felt boosted by these comments. It meant I knew what I was doing. That I didn’t really even need a doctor — everything I’ve ever read in my very natural birthing books (after all, if my health insurance paid for it, I would probably be at a birthing center instead of a doctor’s office anyway). But as time went on, the statement, often said while the doctor was standing up with hand on the doorknob of the exam room, started to sound less like what they said and more like what I suspected they meant. I started feeling like I was watching a dubbed movie, where they were mouthing the supportive words, but what I heard was “you don’t have any problems and I’m trying to make sure I see the required number of patients today so that my practice breaks even this month, so if there isn’t anything else, see you next time.” Right or wrong, we all know that the stressors of health care often dictate the experience we have with medical professionals.
The thing that most surprises me about this situation is my own reaction. I am not a shy person. I am neither judgmental nor overbearing, but I definitely share my opinions (just ask my co-workers, or my husband). But somehow when it comes to dealing with a doctor, I have a hard time speaking my mind. What I dread most isn’t seeing the doctor who was responsible for my recent bad experience (an extra test that resulted in a series of major side effects that I was not warned about), but actually bringing up the issue at all. I have a vision of the office, and me in it, ever so slowly explaining my problem with how the situation was handled, and why it made me trust them less and worry more. I anticipate the doctor reacting as any doctor would — with guarded concern, safeguarding their liability by empathizing while ever so slightly implying that I might be overreacting. And then, I see a few weeks down the road, when (lucky me) this very doctor just happens to be on call as I go into labor. It is at this point that my instincts start screaming for an alternate road to the delivery room. In recognizing all of this, I realize too how lucky I am — I have health insurance. I am well-educated. I can Google my way around any situation (as I did in this one). I can change hospitals, doctors, breathing techniques. I have choices.
Getting my mind, body, family and life ready for baby number three is a different experience, one that I’m still learning to value on its own. Which is why I decided to at least make an appointment with a new doctor ASAP, even just to see how it would feel; and why I’ll continue planning that third shower; stay enrolled in the refresher birthing class (getting my mind ready for what my body knows is coming); and this time perhaps appreciate my instincts through pregnancy and beyond. Who knows. Some really good decisions may come of it.
Rebecca Headen lives in Washington, DC, where she is a social justice advocate and attorney, wife to an adoring superhusband/superdad, and proud mom raising two tenacious, questioning, independent and strong girls with a baby boy in the works.