Step 2: Reflect on Your Experiences so Far, Watch Out for Red Flags and Trust Your Instincts
As we discussed in Part 1, your care provider’s philosophy can have a tremendous influence on your birth. Not only will the provider you choose be influential during the course of labor, but can influence your confidence, level of preparation and attitude toward birth. After you completed Step 1 and gotten to know your care provider a bit more (see Steps for Choosing the Right Care Provider - Part 1), spend some time reflecting on your experiences so far with your care provider and consider how your care provider makes you feel. Your treatment during your prenatal visits can help you better understand what might occur during your birth. Carve out a few minutes to honestly answer these questions:
1. When I ask my care provider questions, he/she answers them:
- completely, using plain language and spending as much time as necessary to help me feel informed.
- for the most part, though I occasionally still want more information.
- vaguely, leaving me confused or unsure.
2. At my appointments, I feel the amount of time spent with my care provider is:
- more than enough to discuss questions, be reassured, and allow us to get to know each other.
- about average, allowing for some discussion, but the conversation is usually brief.
- very brief. He/she is in and out of the room in a matter of minutes and I leave feeling like I didn’t get what I needed out of the appointment.
3. When I have brought up a concern, my care provider:
- has asked me questions to better understand my concern and talked with me or given me additional resources to help relieve my concern.
- has spent some time discussing it and told me not to worry.
- has said “just let me worry about that” or some other response that made me feel dismissed.
4. When we talk about my birth preferences, my care provider:
- is encouraging and seems excited for me. He/She does many of the things I desire as part of routine care.
- says “we’ll see” or stated that I can have what I want if all goes well.
- states that there are many things that are “non-negotiable” or can only be done a certain way.
5. When we have discussed childbirth education, my care provider:
- encouraged me to learn as much as possible and referred me to independent classes.
- gave me some handouts, book recommendations and referred me to a brief hospital class.
- seemed somewhat indifferent and said he/she and the nurses would tell me everything I need to know during my labor and birth.
6. When I leave an appointment with my care provider, I usually feel:
- happy, excited and confident that I made the right choice for my care provider.
- mixed emotions, nagging doubts and a little unsure of my choice of care provider.
- upset, unsupported and regret of my choice of my care provider.
7. The three words that best describe my care provider are:
- compassionate, patient and warm.
- knowledgeable, confident and flexible.
- cautious, thorough, and smart.
8. I wish my care provider was more:
9. My care provider has helped me _________________________________.
10. I disagree with my care provider about _____________________________.
11. For my birth, I am concerned that my care provider _____________________________.
12. For my birth, I am pleased to know that my care provider ________________________.
Your instincts and impressions of your care provider are usually very accurate and trustworthy. Learning to trust your instincts is actually an important part of giving birth.
Consider your answers to the previous statements carefully. For statements 1-6, are your answers mostly a’s, b’s or c’s?
While there are no right answers, “c” answers contain words like “confused, dismissed, unsupported and regret.” Are these answers you are comfortable with if they describe your emotional state during birth or after your birth when you look back on the experience?
Compare these to the “a” answers: “informed, reassured, encouraged, excited and confident.” Do these answers seem more positive and describe your ideal experience?
Consider the “b” answers: “I... want more, average, ‘we’ll see’, mixed emotions, unsure and doubts.” If you answered mostly “b’s,” perhaps you need more time to get to know your provider or perhaps these are doubts that should spur you to find someone new as most of the time, uncertainty before hand may lead to unwanted results during the birth.
Next, consider your responses to statements 7-12. Are your answers mostly reassuring or do they bring up doubts? Did any of your answers surprise you? Based on your responses, would you say you have complete confidence in your care provider, have some doubts or feel regret for your choice?
When you consider your choice of care provider, do you make statements like “As long as x,y,or z doesn’t happen, I’ll be fine” or “My doula will help us get what we want even though...” or “I think I can convince him/her to do...” Sometimes parents rationalize their choice or believe that they will be the exception to the norm, but the fact is that care providers get into a routine; they have a particular way of doing things, and asking someone to do their job in an opposite fashion than they’re used to is setting yourself up for disappointment, and is not entirely fair to him or her. There is a difference between a care provider who will “go along with” what you’re asking versus one who fully embraces your goals and practices them routinely. You will likely have a much better experience with the latter. You would not hire a plumber to repair your car, or a computer tech to do your plumbing. Your care provider needs to know how to do the job you are asking him or her to do for it to be a smooth experience for all involved.
If you have doubts or there are some red flags in your responses, consider looking at alternatives, interviewing other care providers and/or switching care providers at any time during your pregnancy. You are the consumer of a service and you have the right to hire the best person for the job.
Step 3: Ask Around and Compare Your Options
It doesn't hurt to explore your options. When searching for a care provider, there are many resources that can help you find what you are looking for.
- Ask your childbirth educator, doula, chiropractor, massage therapist or anyone else who regularly interacts with pregnant clients for care provider recommendations. Explain what you are looking for and/or ask why they recommend a specific care provider or medical group.
- Ask friends who have recently given birth about their experiences and what they liked and didn't like about their birth place and care provider. If you are comfortable, ask them specific questions about their experience.
- Search message boards (local community groups or the local groups on national boards like Mothering.com or BabyCenter.com) for local recommendations or post a request for referrals.
- Read reviews of care providers on City Search, Insider Pages or other sites.
- Consider all of your options, including using an Obstetrician, Family Physician or Midwife.
The time you spend exploring your options will be well worth it in the end, when you can fondly look back at your pregnancy, birth and the first weeks with your newborn and know that you did your best and had the support you needed.
If this is helpful, be sure to pin this for later. Also, check out our Thoughtful Decisions booklet for more information on care providers and for help with creating a birth plan.
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