Over the weekend I've had a lot to think about.
As we trip through the emotions and upset of this situation, I've gone over and over our doctor's visit from last Thursday. When I think about it … I feel better. It's made me realize how important it is for me to have a doctor that I like and feel I can trust.
For instance? I have a tipped uterus. After being examined by many doctors for the last ten or so years, not ONE has mentioned this to me until Dr. G. When I got home from our visit and mentioned this to my mother, she said, "Oh yeah, ME TOO." Which means? It's not the result of having a big baby or some other lovely side effect of childbirth. I've had a tipped uterus the entire time. Which NO ONE HAS EVER TOLD ME ABOUT.
If you've ever met me and my husband, you know that we're talkers. We talk A LOT. WITH OUR HANDS. LOUDLY. SOMETIMES AT THE SAME TIME. We are verbal people, to say the least. I am less emotionally open than my husband (working on that) but I'm at my happiest when I meet a new friend who quite obviously can keep up with me in a conversation (what UP, Cheri Kay!!!). And so typically when I'm meeting with a doctor, be it a dentist, a pediatrician, a veterinarian, I WANT TO TALK. I HAVE THE QUESTIONS. And so if a health professional can't hang with that? I'm annoyed. I usually go elsewhere.
The OBGYN who oversaw my pregnancy with Sydney and her delivery was, uh, not talkative. Dr. P was, uhm, not my kind of doctor. I arrived at his office already pregnant. I had an ear infection and needed HALP (ear infections are very painful for me and up until that point I'd been rationing out codeine that I had leftover from surgery to get through the night. Since being pregnant took away even ibuprofen, I was desperate). And so we just went on.
Mid-pregnancy Dr. P said some things that revealed his true bedside manner. John and I left his office one week ANGRY. But we felt trapped and like it was too late to change doctors so we endured. (And as a side note I learned that a lot of doctors will not accept new patients mid-pregnancy, so if I'd had the courage to try to change doctors it would have been exceedingly difficult to do so). Mind you, we'd had a miscarriage just four months before getting pregnant with Syd. At every turn we were freaking out that we might lose the baby. Every once in a while it might have been nice to be reassured. But that didn't happen.
When I gained "too much" weight (I gained a total of 30 pounds, which is NORMAL) Dr. P "joked" to John "what have you been FEEDING her?" Oh and by the way, Dr. P only talked to John – the un-pregnant person in the room – when we visited together. John very loudly replied, "SHE'S FINE." I saw his fist curling up and I prayed to myself, "Dear God, please tell John not to punch the doctor even though he deserves it." We all made it out alive that day but we decided that as soon as I passed my six week post-partum check-up that we'd never see Dr. P ever again.
When I suddenly found myself pregnant again last week I immediately got on the phone. Since we had an amazing hospital experience, I called the the office located on the L&D floor for people who are expecting babies. Every time I went to the hospital before Syd was born – for classes, for our tour, for our non-stress tests – I quizzed everyone I could about who the best doctors were. For one, they all knew Dr. P and all agreed that his bedside manner left much room for improvement (although they did reassure me that he was a VERY skilled doctor, which helped). Some told me that they didn't feel comfortable recommending a new doctor until after my baby had been born. I stored that information and knew that next time? I'd be ready.
So while I was sitting in the Social Security office last week, I made my phone calls. I was recommended Dr. G by two separate people and given a list of other options of obstetricians who delivered at my hospital. I asked the lady at the hospital about the doctor's personalities and explained that my husband and I needed a doctor who would be willing to talk with us and spend time with us. Also? We needed a doctor who would probably say "Congratulations" when our baby was born (because Dr. P? Upon forcibly extracting my baby from my womb after I'd been in labor for 22 hours and pushed for 2.5 hours with no success? SAID NOTHING. Not even a handshake for the new daddy).
What I've learned from this whole experience is that it's important to have a OBGYN you love before you ever get pregnant. The best way to find someone is to have a friend recommend and then based on that recommendation? Make calls. Call the hospital where that physician delivers babies. Ask the nurses what he or she is like. And then? Schedule a 20-minute consultation meeting with that doctor before you ever drop trou. Ask for a tour of the office. Take your spouse with you. Ask the doctor about their philosophy on childbirth, c-sections, VBACS, ask them what their GPA was in medical school. I AM SERIOUS. You have the right. Because you are hiring this person to do what may very well be the most important thing you've ever hired anyone to do for you IN YOUR LIFE. Interviewing them is OK. And then? If you don't like them? If they squirm at difficult questions? If there are any red flags whatsoever? If their office smells funny to you? DON'T HIRE THEM.
Even though Dr. P turned out to live up to his reputation as a skilled doctor/surgeon (my baby and I made it out alive), at every turn I didn't know what to expect from him or from my pregnancy. I was never sure how the whole thing would turn out. I was constantly freaked out because I didn't trust him. I didn't like how he responded to my questions and the fears that I expressed. And as a pregnant lady who'd had a previous miscarriage? I didn't need to be blown off and belittled (WHO DOES, REALLY?). While his staff – with the exception of his office manager – were all very kind, they didn't make phone calls that they promised to make, and his office didn't have up-to-date equipment (a sonographer visited the office on Thursdays and brought his own equipment, there wasn't a machine on the premises).
In hindsight, I should have interviewed another doctor before
committing. But I was new in town and didn't know what else to do
but go to a doctor that someone with kids had recommended and also happened to accept my insurance. Because of my history I wanted to be under a doctor's care as early as possible and "shopping around" seemed like it might disrupt that. I kept hoping that things would get better (reminds me of some of the bad boyfriends I've had in my life, unfortunately. As you know, things NEVER get better). They didn't.
Now that I have a new doctor who after ONE visit has surpassed ALL my expectations, I have hope. The level of care I am receiving through this miscarriage has reassured me that it's ok for me to expect more from a doctor. As he was walking out the door, Dr. G told me that I could call him at ANY time if I had a question, even after hours. Even if it wasn't an emergency. When he said that I thought I was hearing things. And then? When I realized he was serious? I felt like hugging him. When I do get pregnant again, I might even actually look forward to my check-ups! Imagine that!!
The moral of the story that I'm trying to pass on is that finding a doctor that has a great reputation is a start. But it's also imperative that you like that same doctor, that they are nice to you (DUH), and they are able to be honest with you and express their medical opinion and also put you at ease when they can. And you know what? If you don't click with them? Move on. And do it soon. Because as I've learned, there are amazing doctors out there who are incredibly smart and talented AND nice to people. You CAN have it all.
(If you live in the LA/Santa Monica area and want more specific info on these doctors and/or the hospital just drop me a comment and I'll be glad to email you back).