Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Doctors and Doulas

I learned the hard way that you should choose an obstetrician based on referrals from friends, not solely on the appearance of their websites.

When I first told my GP about my pregnancy, she gave me a list of local OBs who have offices in the city, but can deliver at the hospital of your choice. This sounded convenient so I googled each and chose the doctor with the best website. The website featured photos and videos of the doctor and there was something immediately familiar about his face. I took this as a good sign.
diaper bag from TA

After waiting an hour past my appointment time to meet with him at his extremely busy offices on Macquarie Street, though, I realized that the person the doctor reminded me of was former governor of New York Eliot Spitzer and this wasn't really a good sign. More important than his resemblance to a disgraced US politician, though, was his arrogance and condescension. The first time I met with him, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and attributed his abrupt style of communication to the fact that he probably wished to put pregnant women at ease. If he made everything about pregnancy sound like no big deal then maybe women under his care would be less fearful, I reasoned.

Mickey accompanied me on my next appointment (to which the doctor was again an hour late), and agreed that he was kind of a jerk and that we could find someone else. Fortunately, our private health insurance allows us to choose our obstetrician and we didn't have any trouble switching. Our friends Dan and Estee highly recommended the doctor who delivered their son Heston, Dr Lucy, so we decided to go with her.

Dr Lucy's offices are at the hospital where I'm going to have my baby (Prince of Wales Private, Randwick) and though getting to them by public transit is a bit complicated, seeing Dr Lucy is worth it. The first thing she did when we met her was make an effort to say my name correctly. This may seem like a very small gesture, but it indicated that she cared who I was and saw me as a patient and as a person.

Dan and Estee and our friend Shannon also highly recommended that we hire a doula to assist us with the birth of our baby. Doulas are women who couples hire (not employees of the hospital) who provide emotional and physical support to new mothers and fathers during labor and childbirth. Hiring a doula appealed to me because I have a lot of fear of giving birth and feel that anything that can build my confidence will benefit us.

I began my search on findadoula.com.au and weeded out any candidates who seemed to favor an a no-drugs approach to labor. (Doulas assist many women who go this route, but I'm not ready to rule out any of my options for pain relief!) I emailed a couple of my top candidates via the website and was surprised by the lack of response I got. I was amused to discover that the women who become doulas are often hippie types who don't feel constrained by strict time limits (for your labor or for getting back to you!) while the women who hire doulas are yuppie/hippie types who have organised all of their baby needs into a spreadsheet.

Estee and I traded funny stories about speaking to doulas who "would be happy to support you as long your birth didn't conflict with one of her acting auditions" and those who had families of their own and ultimately weren't sure whether they wanted to "make the time to attend another birth." Indeed, it seems doulas get into this line of work because they are fascinated by childbirth not because they have strong business sense, and perhaps that's a good thing.

Our search ended when we met Gaby, an experienced teacher at the Australian Doula College who has five children of her own. Mickey and I take comfort in the fact that Gaby will come to the house when I go into labor and will physically drive us to the hospital at the right time. This is a big concern for us as we're not confident that we'll know when to go to the hospital and we don't have a car! Likewise, Gaby will communicate with the medical staff on our behalf and help decode the looks that the midwives exchange. We're glad that no matter when Dr Lucy arrives on scene or what staff changes occur among the midwives, Gaby will be there on our team.


Laura said...

Great post, Alane! Nice to hear that you've landed in the right hands by way of intuition, research and referrals :)

Shannon said...

Thinking of you Alane and sending positive birthing thoughts your way!