After finding out I was five weeks pregnant, I visited the OBGYN practice I’d been going to since I was 16. A nurse practitioner referred me to the doctor she thought was my “best fit.” Three appointments later and I’d still only seen nurses and ultrasound technicians — the whole thing felt way too impersonal. If I was going to be carrying this baby for nine whole months and eventually push it out of me through a very small opening, I wanted a doctor who at least showed up.
Dr. Daniel J. Siegel visits Seattle on April 30. Learn more.
Frustrated, I consulted one of the few mom friends I knew. She suggested I see Dr. Jordan,* whom, she assured me, treated his patients like people. Even though his office was an hour from home, I quickly made an appointment for the following week.
Dr. Jordan reminded me of Michael Caine’s character in "The Cider House Rules,” a.k.a. the doctor I’d been searching for since practically forever. As we left the office, my husband noticed three hawks circling above — another good omen, in my book.
We were reassured by how long Dr. Jordan had been in practice — he’d seen some of his patients across three generations — and how detailed he was at explaining our ultrasound. Each appointment began with questions about my well-being, including my fears and worries; it ended with an ultrasound (which at the time we thought was standard practice). Our monthly visits became a ritual; we’d take the day off and have a leisurely lunch, drooling over the new pictures of our daughter.
When I asked the doctor my questions, he 'yeah, yeah-ed' or 'sure, of course-d.' I began to feel increasingly uneasy.
But as the months passed, things changed. Our appointments with Dr. Jordan grew more hurried. We learned less and less about the changes I was experiencing and about the body growing inside of mine. By now I was seven months along and I’d read about making a birth plan. But when I asked Dr. Jordan my questions, he “yeah, yeah-ed” or “sure, of course-d.” I began to feel increasingly uneasy but told myself that at least he was better than our last doctor.
Then, a random turn of events resulted in our decision to move. Our drive to the doctor would now be three time as long. I was bewildered about what to do: Stick with a doctor so far away or take a chance on finding a new one so late in my pregnancy?
Dr. Jordan made the decision for me. Should we remain in his care, he said, we should schedule an induction ahead of time so we could plan when to come back to town. I knew that inducing could have serious consequences; to do it for the sake of convenience sounded ludicrous to me. That was the last we saw of Dr. Jordan.
As we settled into our new home, I began exploring nearby options. I was unsure anyone would even take us this late in the game; I was 35 weeks along and could pop at any second. This time I found my way to a birth center, again at the suggestion of a friend. “Patient-centered care,” their website boasted. It was exactly what we didn’t know we needed.
The center’s director gave us a tour and assured us she would do everything possible to make sure we were taken care of. True, their typical cutoff for accepting patients was 34 weeks, but given our circumstances and my healthy pregnancy, she was optimistic the center’s midwives would make an exception. I sure hoped they would; during our tour, I spotted a nurse wearing a “Women Are Powerful” shirt. And the size of the bathtubs in every birthing room? I felt like pinching myself to make sure this incredible place was real.
Thankfully, the midwives agreed to have me and at last, I could breathe a sigh of relief. A few days later, I arrived for my first appointment. The midwife was kind, jolly and wise. We reviewed our options. Potential health complications in mind, anything was possible at the birth center — from eating during labor to delayed cord clamping and baby-led breastfeeding. We also learned all those ultrasounds Dr. Jordan had given us were not only unnecessary but likely a tool to appease us rather than provide the more holistic review we needed.
Finally confident about the care I was getting for the empowered birth my family deserved, stress melted away. My last few weeks of pregnancy were blissful. I was able to focus on self-care and felt joyful readying myself and our home for what was to come.
Baby Okerlund made her way into the world on her due date, via a natural and intervention-free birth. The midwife and nurse on call followed my birth plan. Even more importantly, they trusted and supported me.
That day I walked away with more than a baby; I walked away with a powerful birth experience that renewed my belief in myself and a lesson I won’t ever forget: Never settle, mama. Only you and you alone know what’s right for you and your baby.