My husband and I had been trying for several months to expand our family, and after a few negative pregnancy tests, we got the results we had been yearning for. I excitedly made my first appointment with my general practitioner to simply confirm my pregnancy and figure out next steps. I chose my OB from a small list of doctors covered under my insurance and I chose her simply because she was the one who removed my IUD just six months prior. My husband liked her because she was frank and to the point. I just wanted the best for my baby, I didn’t care about much else.
I saw my OB once a month and it usually consisted of a one hour wait in the waiting room, weigh in, and then another half hour wait in the examination room. She was quick, she was cold, and she was thorough. Things were great for the first four months, but coincidentally, during those four months I did not gain any weight. I simply ate healthy and with the combination of nausea and extreme food aversion, I was the same weight I was when we conceived. However, month five came around and I had gained a total of ten pounds in one month. My doctor who usually just came in and out, sat me down to talk to me about my “ridiculous” weight gain. I explained that I was just so hungry but I was eating healthy for the most part while also walking for at least an hour a day. She told me I didn’t need to walk because it was useless and did nothing for weight management. Yes, you read that correctly, a doctor was discouraging me from exercising daily and criticizing me for my weight gain. I went home with the plan to get my cravings under control and I walked less because I am a rule follower and I would be damned if I did something to negatively affect my baby.
The next month came around and another ten pound weight gain, and then another month came around and another ten pound weight gain. I cried in the exam room. I didn’t know what to do. My doctor was shaming me for my weight gain and telling me that I needed to stop eating so much. Even the nurses in her office were critical about my weight gain. I had started dreading my appointments and my days before would be filled with anxiety. So far, my total weight gain was 30 pounds. And I was eight months along. Every ailment I brought to her was blamed on my weight gain. Extremely dry skin, PUPPS, terrible back pains, restless legs, insomnia – all of this was blamed on my weight gain. Here I was, terribly uncomfortable, with extreme back pain and feelings of failure. I had already failed my baby and he wasn’t even earthside.
In the midst of all of this, I was tested for gestational diabetes and tested positive. However, I never received notice from my doctor. I found out when I received a phone call to make an appointment with my local hospital to begin a program specific for gestational diabetes. This very personal experience of growing a baby was just so cold and sterile. It felt nameless and insignificant. I realized when I was eight and a half months pregnant that I couldn’t trust this OB to deliver my baby and I sat in the office of my local hospital begging for help. I was a high risk pregnancy, I was due in 6 weeks, and I was desperate. Not exactly the right equation for finding the perfect OB. However, I was fortunate to find an OB that was willing to accept me with everything that I had going on. And suddenly, the most stressful part of my pregnancy became the happiest parts of my pregnancy. My new doctor looked at me and said, you’re done working now, stay home, relax, go out for dinners, go for walks, enjoy your quiet evenings, you are in good hands. And I felt that. She never talked about my weight. She never even mentioned my weight gain and I felt like she loved my baby just as much as I did. She delivered my beautiful son at 38.5 weeks and she did so with care and compassion. She even called her parents in India and sent them a picture of my son because she was so proud of him. A very happy ending to a very difficult and frustrating situation.
Throughout this experience, my doula was always kind and reassuring. She and my mother were the ones who encouraged me to find a better situation. All it took was for my support people to say, “Hey, you’re worth far more than this”. And they were right! I highly recommend hiring a doula, and even hiring one early on in your pregnancy so you can ask any questions you may have throughout your experience. In the midst of all this chaos and stress, I always had a professional to be there to support me throughout everything. She was the consistency I needed while making such big changes around me.
It can be so stressful changing your doctor in the middle (or end!) of your pregnancy. Most birthing people stay with their doctors because they don’t know they have other options. You don’t have to stay with a doctor if you are unhappy and you definitely don’t have to stay with a doctor if you are feeling bullied or unsupported. There are many local resources to help you find the perfect fit. You can call the hospital you plan to deliver at, you can call your insurance company, and you can ask your doula for recommendations. You have options! And most importantly, don’t be afraid to shop around until you find a doctor that you can trust with your most precious bundle. The business of having babies can often times fail birthing people and leave us feeling like we don’t even have a choice. But, we always have a choice and we always have control over our babies and our bodies.
Lisa Buswell-Rodriguez is a birth and postpartum doula that specializes in breastfeeding in Inland Empire, CA. During Lisa’s pregnancy with her son she had a very difficult experience along with a forced cesarean, and an even more difficult breastfeeding journey. Because of all of these experiences she realized that the business of giving birth is failing birthing people so much. Lisa felt like she needed to be a part of the positive aspects of giving birth which is why she changed careers and decided to become a doula. Lisa is a mother of three (two are her wonderful step sons) and wife to a wonderful man. You can find Lisa at HoneySuckled.