By Trish Wilkinson
Women’s (strongest) feelings (in terms of their birthing), positive and negative, focus on the way they were treated by their caregivers.
Annie Kennedy and Penny Simkin
Birth is one of the most intensely important times in your life, and the person who provides your prenatal care can make such a difference in how the whole experience is perceived. It is essential that women know the resources and the caregiver options available in their community in order to help them make the choice that is right for them. And this subject has really made me look at my own experiences — I realize that I have taken more time deciding on paint samples for my bedroom than I did when I looked for an obstetrician 20 years ago!
Champaign-Urbana has a fairly progressive medical birth community for a Midwestern, semi-rural university town. There are a number of obstetricians, certified nurse midwives, women’s health professionals, nurse practitioners, and family practice physicians that practice at the two major hospitals, Provena Covenant and Carle Foundation Hospital. Choosing a caregiver in the case of home birth is more difficult — home birth is technically not legal in Illinois. Therefore the availability of attendants is scarce — it is harder to find support in this arena, but not impossible.
Whether you are choosing a hospital or home birth, taking the time to seek out a caregiver with whom you are comfortable will go a long way in boosting confidence and feeling reassured when it is time to give birth. Asking questions and seeking answers is a woman’s right and responsibility.
I have had clients lament that they did not more thoroughly research the options available to them, and that they did not interview more caregivers. If a woman feels this is important to her overall birth experience, there are so many ways to “investigate” the possibilities available for care. Utilize Web sites and books that list questions to ask potential providers; talk to mom’s groups who have experienced birth in the area, getting feedback on who they used; talk to family, friends, social/spiritual networks; call doulas that have experience with providers in the area. And interview, interview, interview!
If you are established already with a provider, be sure to keep up communication with them. Do not be afraid or intimidated to dialogue — while some caregivers may give off an “aura” of inapproachability, you won’t know for sure until you try. And be sure to tap into your partner/support system throughout the process — they can give you additional feedback with their impressions.
Knowing the options for the services in an area can go a long way in helping a woman find a provider with whom she is comfortable. It can be so detrimental to a woman to basically open up the phone book and settle for the first name on which her finger lands. Be sure to be proactive wherever you live — your comfort level with your provider can definitely help you as you travel through your pregnancy journey.
Trish Wilkinson has been married for 24 years and is the mother of two boys ages 18 and 14 (first born by unplanned cesarean; the second was a VBAC). A child and family therapist for 15 years before becoming a doula in 2001, she started Tree of Life Doula Services and Birth Resources in 2005 and has attended more than 250 births, including cesareans. She is a certified doula through Doulas of North America, as well as licensed clinical social worker for the state of Illinois. This is her second column for chambanamoms.com.