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The Business of Being Born (Part II)

As great luck would have it, my co-worker here at Parenting delivered with a midwife she loves here in New York City — at the very same hospital (St. Luke's Roosevelt) that I was already set to deliver in with my obgyn, so I'd already researched the hospital and knew that I liked it.

Also fortuitous: One of the obgyns in the documentary The Business of Being Born who speaks about the benefits of midwifery in the film, works at St. Luke's Roosevelt and he's one of the doctors who backs up the midwives at this practice.

I was so excited that I called up the midwife practice the day after I saw the documentary. Thankfully, they had an opening for me and asked me to attend a group orientation to learn about the practice — something they offer every two weeks. Can you imagine if all doctor's offices offered orientations to explain their philosophies before you chose to sign on with them?

While I waited for the orientation, I had an appointment with my obgyn that I needed to keep. I wanted to see her anyway one last time to make sure I wasn't making a rash decision by choosing to leave her for a midwife.

She could not have made my decision easier.

When I asked her about the labor experience, which she'd never talked to me about, she said that after I'm admitted, if labor isn't progressing fast enough, then we'd need to talk about medical interventions like inducing.

"If you aren't dilated enough for a long time, for instance, then that's not normal, and we'd want to consider our options," she said, dismissively.

"How long is ‘normal,' or how long until you start inducing?" my husband asked.

"If you stay at 6 centimeters for example, for say, six hours, then that's not normal and we'd want to induce."

Since when did it become normal that you have to progress after six hours? Why not let labor progress naturally as long as nothing is wrong?

She answered several other questions dismissively and I started to feel as though there would be no way I could feel comfortable dealing with her during delivery — a time when I would want someone there who actually cared about me and what I wanted. I couldn't see her taking a doula all that seriously either, so I started to wonder if a doula would even do me any good in this situation.

When my husband and I left the appointment there wasn't a doubt in our minds that we wanted to leave her care. I'm sure some obgyns are much more in tune with their patients and much more amenable to alternative birth plans, but my obgyn doesn't seem to be one of them.

A week later, my husband and I went to the midwife orientation, where we met the two lovely midwifes in the practice — both very experienced and very compassionate. All patients see both of them equally throughout the pregnancy and then you deliver with whichever one of them is on call when you go into labor. These two women took an hour and a half to talk with us and answer our questions about everything we can expect from now through the birth. They went over prenatal testing, nutrition, how to contact them, what labor would be like with them in the birthing center at St. Luke's Roosevelt, what would happen if we develop complications during labor, post-natal care, breastfeeding help, etc. They told us more information in that night than my obgyn had ever revealed to me. And they explained that all of our appointments would be a full half hour with plenty of time for questions (except for our first appointment, which would be a full hour). Above all, they made it clear they understood that we were people — with feelings and fears — going through this process, not names on a chart. I seriously felt like crying sitting there listening to them. I don't know if it was my amped up hormones or the fact that I finally felt like I could relax and that someone was going to look out for me throughout this scary experience, but I just felt a release of anxiety.

One of the things I like best about this practice is that when you go into labor, the midwife meets you at the hospital and stays with you the entire time. You don't get carted into the hospital by medical residents who don't know you, and then sit there laboring and waiting until your doctor eventually makes an appearance. These women promise to be there with you throughout it all. Even if you end up needing to have a C-section, they stay with you and your partner during surgery to explain to you what's going on as it's happening. They also work with 11 doctors at the hospital who understand their philosophy and back them up should you need a medical intervention.

My husband and I were sold. I was also happy that my husband asked the midwives some good questions during the orientation — and that he took it all seriously. I, however, had to laugh when he leaned over to ask me one question, right after the midwives were talking about what happens when the baby is breech.

"In breach of what?" he whispered.

I can't blame him for not knowing. He's going through all of this for the first time too — and he's spent a lot less time studying it. The good news is that now I finally feel like we have caring professionals guiding us through.