Trust is a powerful thing! It can be wonderful to have it. It can be hard to find it within. But that’s the beauty of trust. It comes from within. It can’t be demanded by someone from the outside. It must be earned. It can take a lifetime to build, and a moment for it to come crumbling down, potentially never to be built back up in the same way again.
Broken trust can make some women approach their pregnancy and births with fear and hesitation. Perhaps it was the medical system that broke their trust in the past, or perhaps it was someone else completely who broke it. If this describes you, know that you are not alone. And know that there is hope. You CAN have a great birth! “How,” you might ask?
Start by asking around in your circle of friends or in mom groups with like-minded moms who they liked or didn’t like and WHY. This is the important part. You need to know why they felt the way they did about their provider. If they were feeling nervous and wanted a doctor that they could put all their trust in and didn’t want to have to research any of their options or make any decisions, but YOU want to be included in all the decision-making, you might not feel the same about their take-charge doctor as they do. Did they dislike the provider simply because they were male, but you’re ok with that as long as he meets your other criteria?
Speaking of your criteria. That’s what you need to get clear on. What is important to you?! Do you want someone who is more of a mother figure or someone who is closer to your age? Does it matter if your provider is male or female? Are you wanting to be included in the decision-making, or do you believe “doctors know best?” All of these things and more will make a difference with your ability to place your trust in your provider.
If you don’t know the answers to some of your questions like whether or not they offer the option of waterbirth, if they will be the one at your birth or if they are part of a bigger group (and if you will get the opportunity to meet all of their partners ahead of time), how they feel about using as few interventions as possible, what their view on birth is, etc….start asking! Use your appointments as a chance to learn more about the person who you are going to need to trust at your birth. Listen to their answers. Watch their body language. And trust your gut.
If you start to get the sense that they’re answering your questions just to pacify you or that their answers are vague, then start looking for someone new. If they keep putting off your questions and tell you that you can talk about that next time, start looking for someone new. If they give the impression of arrogance. Start looking for someone new. If they don’t want you to have a doula (more on doulas in a bit). Start looking for someone new! If their answer is that you need to trust them. You guessed it…start looking for someone new! It is never ever too late to find someone new.
One of my past students wished afterward that she would have found someone new. In hindsight, there were red flags. One of the questions she had asked her doctor was how often she performed episiotomies. Her doctor reassured her that she only did them when necessary. My student had a labor that lasted 1.5 hrs from start to finish. Yes, that fast! She was at the hospital for less than 10 minutes before her baby was born. And do you know what that doctor did? She told her that her baby wasn’t coming quickly enough with the very first push, and she needed to do an episiotomy. Apparently that doctor found episiotomies almost always necessary.
On the flip side, I had a doula client who switched doctors at 39 weeks. She left a large group practice where she wasn’t likely to get the only doctor she had been seeing for the birth. She wasn’t impressed with him either as he was starting to fear monger her. She had one appointment with her new doctor before going into labor and had a wonderful experience with that doctor.
Take the time, and use those prenatal appointments to truly grow comfortable with your choice of provider. That might mean you end up switching birth locations in order to have the provider you trust. I personally could have gone to 5 hospitals that were closer to me than the one I ultimately chose for my second and third births. Why? Because my midwife had earned my trust. I knew that if push came to shove, and she needed to make a decision on my behalf, that I could trust her to make the right decision for ME. Some people even end up switching from hospital to homebirth because they discover that the hospital system as a whole is not something they can trust.
Hiring a doula can be incredibly helpful in helping to navigate your options as well. She needs to earn your trust too. So meet with a few. Find out who you connect with, and listen to your gut about which one feels right for your team. Whoever you choose will be there through the thick and thin. She’ll see you at your most vulnerable and one of the most transformative events of your life. Her sole purpose for being there is for your informational, mental, emotional, and physical support. She doesn’t have medical responsibilities. She doesn’t answer to the system or the doctor or the midwife. She answers to you. You have a chance to get to know her ahead of time and tap into all that she knows and her ability to support you in whatever way you need. She will be there as a witness to your whole birth. She is the only professional there who sees it from beginning to end and then comes to see you at home afterward as well. If you need help picking up pieces, she is your person.
On the flip side, you won’t get to meet your labor nurse ahead of time. You might even have multiple nurses if there are shift changes. You may love one, and then get one with a totally different personality or style. Even though she might be really nice, she just might give you anxiety or might not be the best fit for you. You ALWAYS have the option to ask for a different nurse. You or your partner simply needs to have the courage to ask the charge nurse for a new one. This is not the time to worry about hurting her feelings. Yes, it may end up being a bad day at work for her, but it is just one of many days of work for her. Your baby’s birth is something you will remember for the rest of your life. If you don’t have full trust and a full ability to relax with every single person present in your room, it can hinder your labor and change the course of your birth.
Lastly, get educated. Start learning about your options. Learn about what normal labor and birth looks like, tools to help cope with contractions, how to achieve total relaxation, pain medication and intervention options that exist, and so much more. As the saying goes, “If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any!”
Don’t delay. Start learning about ALL of your options now. Build a birth team of people you can trust. But most of all, remember to trust yourself, and your birth will be something you can be proud of.