Pregnancy is hard. Your emotions skyrocket as your body goes through a ridiculous amount of changes. You’re filled with doubt and self-deprecation as the judgmental gas station attendant hands you your morning coffee with a free slice of “you’re not supposed to drink that” guilt. Then you forget your coffee in your car anyway because of course.
You go through a long day of work listening to unsolicited advice while receiving unsolicited belly rubs and handed a second slice of unsolicited “baby drinks what you drink” guilt as you desperately put your money in the soda machine, which is out of order because of course. You try to make it through the rest of your day with zero sleep and zero caffeine, and you have to bite your tongue—hard—when it’s suggested that you’re being a little hormonal.
Finally, your day is done and you head to your doctor appointment, expecting to be welcomed with kindness and understanding. For if anyone should treat a pregnant woman with dignity and respect, it should be the guy who gets paid because she’s pregnant (and also the guy who made her pregnant, but my husband is awesome so he’s not part of this rant). You sit down and explain how you’ve been experiencing this odd pain in your stomach and that you’re pretty concerned about it. He scoffs and looks at you like you just said the stupidest thing he’s ever heard. He explains to you that you are pregnant, if you didn’t notice, and that pregnancy will cause some discomfort. You head home feeling ashamed, like you’re less of a woman for mentioning you’re uncomfortable to your doctor.
But at your next appointment, he specifically asks how you’re feeling. Your pain has gotten worse, but you’re afraid that if you mention it, he’ll demean you once again. But, he is your doctor, after all, and what if something is wrong with the baby? You explain that your stomach pain has gotten much worse and you think it may be contractions. He tells you they aren’t contractions, you’ll know when they’re contractions, and you’re just pregnant. Pregnancy, after all, can cause some discomfort.
On the way home, you decide that you should just keep this pain to yourself. It’s your first pregnancy and the doctor isn’t concerned, so you’re probably just being a wimp. You vow not to mention it at the next appointment.
Except the pain starts about an hour before your next appointment. Throughout the hour, the waves of pain get worse and worse and eventually bring you to tears. This has to be labor you think. This pain is excruciating, and if this is not labor, you’re not quite sure you really want to do the whole labor thing anyway.
Tears steam down your face as the doctor asks how you’ve been feeling. Annoyed and worried that he’s just going to dismiss you once again, you explain that it’s the worst pain you’ve ever felt. Finally, this time he decides to send you down to labor and delivery to be monitored, just in case. However, the monitor shows you’re not in labor, and though you’re still screaming in pain, soon you find yourself thrown out on your ass with a not-so-comforting “you’re just pregnant; it’s uncomfortable.”
Your sister, and mother, and sisters-in-law tell you that pregnancy really isn’t that uncomfortable. And you start to struggle with a constant internal battle of “this is it—I’m in labor,” “hmm, maybe not, I’m probably just being pathetic again”; “hot damn, that hurts”; “what does a contraction feel like anyway?” and “what if something is wrong with the baby?!”
Ultimately you end up back in labor and delivery, and ultimately you’re told you’re being ridiculous once again. And this situation repeats itself every few days for weeks.
And suddenly you’re 40 weeks pregnant, you have an OB who refuses to check for dilation but loves to serve you up with a big ole slice of “it’s all in your head” guilt, and you’ve had enough. Maybe it’s not in my head, you think. Maybe he’s just a jerk.
And you know what? You’re right.
I broke up with my OB at 40 weeks, and you can too. If you ever feel like the doctor you are paying to take care of you and your little one is not doing all he or she can to reassure you that you and your baby are safe, if they refuse to look into your symptoms beyond checking if you are in labor or not, if they demean you for asking questions or sharing concerns, just leave. And don’t look back. It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 weeks or 40, you and your baby deserve to be cared for.
After requesting to see another OB within the same health care system and being told that I was too far along to switch, I called up their competitor to see if they’d be willing to make a little extra money that week. And you know what? They were.
Two days later I ended up in their labor and delivery department with that same excruciating pain I had been dealing with for months. Except this time, I was met with kindness and understanding. I remember looking at my husband with fear when the doctor told me that I wasn’t contracting. I did not want to be sent home again. I couldn’t bear the pain. I just wanted my baby. But instead of sending me home, the doctor explained that he could tell I was in extreme amounts of pain, and that he was going to do his best to keep me comfortable and take care of me and my baby. He treated me with compassion and dignity, even though it was the very first time we had met, and 26 hours later he placed my beautiful little girl in my arms.
When she was 6 weeks old, I ended up back at that hospital for about a week and was diagnosed with severe ulcerative duodenitis, pancreatitis, and had extremely elevated liver enzymes. As they explained they couldn’t release me until my liver enzymes came down, for fear of liver failure, I remembered that one of the times I had been in the other hospital with that pain, my OB had mentioned my liver enzymes were quite high before sending me home because I was just pregnant. How I wish he could spend just one day having a baby repeatedly kick his extremely inflamed duodenum—just pregnant my ass.
Breaking up with my OB at 40 weeks was the best decision I have ever made. It’s never too late to demand care and walk away if your current health facility doesn’t have your best interest in mind.
You do you, Momma, and to hell with the rest.