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An Open Thank You Letter To Our Obstetrician

Photo by: iStock

Dear Dr P,

I have been thinking about you a lot lately. As the girls get closer to the big 1, I have been reminiscing a lot about this time last year – remembering what I was up to at this time of year. How big I was, how nervous I was. How I saw you so often.

I was reading the other day that a study in Sweden showed that 15% of midwives and obstetricians have post-traumatic stress disorder. I have thought about it often: How your job is either one of the best jobs in the world – bringing new life into the world, or one of the most heart-shattering. Thanks for doing it. Thanks for standing on the precipice of vulnerability with every woman that walks in your door, and doing your best to give her the dream of a healthy baby. Thanks for knowing how truly life shattering and heart breaking it can be, and still smiling with every appointment.

When I first met you, I was so nervous I was having trouble even acknowledging that I was pregnant. I was so nauseated and consumed by the constant vomiting that my two thoughts most days were “what if something is wrong?” And “I think I am going to be sick.” Thanks for the drugs that helped with the second thought. They made the days a little easier to get through.

My first appointment with you was one of the hardest appointments I have ever attended. My high blood pressure probably gave you some insight into that. Every fiber of my being did not want to be there. I had this horrid feeling we were walking into bad news. This feeling that you were going to deliver the news that would shatter my heart into tiny pieces again, and return the sadness to my wife’s eyes.
Thank-you for listening to me when I walked into the appointment and wouldn’t even sit down because I was so convinced that something was wrong. When I think back, EVERY time I thought something was wrong you listened and took whatever action was required to show me that everything was ok. Thank you for listening to me. I really needed to be heard.

In those early days, you scared me with nearly every appointment. Your belief that knowledge is power is one I would have backed at any other time in my life. But I was so pregnant, and so all consumed that at that point in my life I was a little bit more in the ignorance is bliss camp. Your discussions about all the risks, genetic and otherwise, had me needing to consciously ensure that I kept breathing.

You weren’t to know that I had Googled every horrid thing that can go wrong in a pregnancy. I didn’t tell you all the stories I had read, and all the research I had frantically combed through looking for some clue as to what could go wrong, what would go wrong. I didn’t tell you that somewhere through the heartache of infertility I had started to believe that I didn’t deserve the kind of happiness that everyone else did.

I realize retrospectively that there was so much I didn’t really tell you. I think I was used to doctors not listening to me. It didn’t even occur to me that I could tell you that your graphs were freaking me out a little and you would probably stop drawing them. At some point though you seemed to get it. I would get my blood pressure taken at the maternity ward instead of in your room, and the graphs weren’t about risks anymore.

I didn’t tell you that when I went in at 24 weeks with a horrible pain the doctor was so condescending that I felt like I couldn’t ring the hospital after that. He remarked that if I came in every time I had a little pain I would be in and out every week for the rest of the pregnancy. I didn’t tell you that even though the midwife made a point of telling me I had made the right decision, I still believed him. I didn’t tell you that even though you emphasized that lots of false alarms were a good thing, and you encouraged me to go into the hospital whenever I was concerned, he had really put me off going in.

I didn’t tell you that I cut back at work and then stopped work at 28 weeks because I was having constant Braxton hicks, and they were really stopping me in my tracks. I didn’t tell you that once I stopped work the Braxton hicks went away. I didn’t tell you that somewhere around 28 weeks I started to relax a little. From that point on I only asked my little bundles not to be born ten times a day rather than with every breath.

We went to parenting class and everyone else had a birth plan. I realized that we hadn’t even discussed it. It hadn’t even occurred me to discuss it. I was barely able to book one appointment ahead. Thanks for letting me take my time. I assume you also knew that with the risks involved with a twin pregnancy, I might not get the birth I wanted.

As I began to relax I started asking more questions. Your quote on the bogus Italian study that found that women with endometriosis are more attractive is one I still use! Your answer to my questions about what I could to reduce the girls’ risks of endometriosis has also been invaluable. I have read more on xenoestrogens, phthalates, fire retardants and pesticides than anything else since they have been born. The information has been empowering and has already changed our lives in so many ways.

Your answer of any questions and the time you took with every appointment, and even the graphs from earlier appointments made me realize something at around 30 weeks. I trusted you. I trusted you implicitly. You were on the forefront of the research. You were meticulous with detail. You were passionate about your job, and you were passionate about my babies arriving safely.

I don’t trust many people implicitly. Most people don’t have the attention to detail that I find imperative. Most people can’t answer so many of my questions. Somehow you had jumped all the hurdles I had put up, all the hurdles I think I always put up and you passed. You were the closest thing to me, that wasn’t actually me.

I made the decision (that once again I didn’t discuss with you, and should have) that once in labor I trusted every call you made. It was my job to be as relaxed as I could. It was my job to have everything I needed if the babies were coming early so you could do what you needed to do, and my babies could be born from a calm and relaxed mother. I listened to birthing meditations – both natural and caesarean. I had plans for who would be at the hospital and who would go with the babies if we needed to be separated.

My birth plan (or hope as I was too scared to use the word plan) was that they would be born healthy and safe. You would do whatever you needed to do, and I would breathe through anything I needed to breathe through.

Since the girls have been born I have met so many mothers that are traumatized by their both. Their expectations were not met. I am one of the few mothers I know that says I had a beautiful birth. It was what I consider a beautiful interventionist birth. The kind of birth you get told in books and articles can’t be beautiful because it happened in an operating theatre. I felt all the love in the universe in that theatre room, and am thankful to every person who was present for making it the most magical night of my life.

When I went into labor and sat at home all day instead of calling you and letting you know that I was in labor – it was because I was scared. I was so close to my dream coming true – what if something went wrong at the last second? What if that same doctor was on and he sent me home again? What if, what if, what if?

And yet I rocked into my last appointment the size of a planet and with irregular contractions, and you were immediately listening to me. I was late, and it was obvious from a call you took that you needed to be somewhere else but you took all the time I needed. You were not impressed that I hadn’t called but you didn’t dwell on it. You even stopped to talk about the fake cigarettes on your shelf that your friends had bought you from America. I was in pre-labor, I was vulnerable and you sat calmly with me.

I realize that you did all these little things that contributed to my beautiful interventionist birth. You made calm decisions. You chose for us to go to theatre without me laboring for hours and hours, which I can see would have exhausted me. You said beautifully encouraging things like ‘you are going to have your babies tonight.’ You were standing outside theatre and smiled as they wheeled me in for my spinal tap. You did all these little things that meant I could do my bit. I could take the whole thing one breath at a time. I felt relaxed the whole time.

In parenting class, they talked about how when your baby is born your heart is cranked wide open. With the emergence of each healthy baby my heart was cranked open and filled with the most beautiful love filled happiness. I believe the reason my heart cranked open and I felt more love and joy than I have ever felt in my life, is because I trusted you implicitly. It meant that I just got to be. I just got to experience the sheer joy that birth can be.

Thanks for being that person for me (and for us). Every day I am thankful for our girls and all the joy they bring to my life. And so often I am reminded of how blessed I am that my story is that I had a beautiful interventionist birth.

With Love,

Kat Stanley is a storyteller, research lover and conversation starter. She writes blogs that she hopes will help other women find a voice for some of those soul shattering and life altering events that life throws up. In her spare time, she is trying to figure out how to fold a fitted sheet.

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