Sunday, August 10, 2008

Baby love fells another practical woman

My OB has done a complete about-face, and it freaks me out. I've always liked her because she’s direct and straightforward, but kind—unlike my primary care provider, who is direct and straightforward, but not so kind. (She’s not really unkind, but she glowers a lot; maybe that’s just her default face?) My OB tends to be overly cautious like most doctors, motivated, I’m sure by fear of lawsuits.

But she’s also unapologetically practical. When I showed up at my exam last year hemming and hawing about whether I was going to try and have another baby, she started listing all the reasons I shouldn’t. I’d had some minor complications when I was pregnant with SB, so she rightly mentioned that. Then she started listing off all these others reasons I shouldn’t have another child, primarily because I’d be having a “geriatric pregnancy." (I talked to a friend about this the other day, explaining that I felt like I was in that scene from Knocked Up when the pregnant main character and her sister are trying to get into a club and bouncer tells the sister, “I can’t let you in because you’re old. Not for this earth, but for this club.”)

My OB was very specific in describing how my “advanced maternal age” would put me at increased risk of having twins (an aging woman’s body begins freaking out and spitting out multiple eggs during ovulation) and also of having a baby with birth defects. And two kids aren’t twice as much work, said this woman who didn’t have children of her own, they were, like, three times as much work. And don’t forget gestational diabetes! At one point, she smiled, looked at me with her incredibly kind eyes, and said, “Just get a dog.”

While this exchange would enrage some women, I found it hilarious and refreshing—I prefer when people just lay their opinions out on the line. And I knew that no matter what I chose to do, she’d take excellent care of me. Plus, I don’t know why it’s assumed that OBs are pronatalists; as a magazine editor, I’m pro-magazines, but I don’t think everyone should publish one.

But this year, when I called in April to schedule my annual exam, I was told that my OB was on maternity leave. Uh. Huh. Did I want to schedule with another doctor in the practice? Oh, no, I said. I’ll schedule something for when she’s back in July. Secretly, I imagined sparing her the teasing she so deserved, but smirking just a little when she walked in looking sheepish. I giggled with anticipation.

But when my appointment came last week and she walked into the exam room, she had that classic sleep-deprived look of a new mother and I felt immediately protective of her—big, strong me in my shorty paper robe and drape. I congratulated her and asked how she and her daughter was doing. She gushed about how great her pregnancy was and the delivery, too, and the baby was amazing—a gem—even though she cried for the first three months straight. At one point she said, “It's hard to be away from her. I have a newfound respect for mothers.” This is what a former colleague of mine would call a “come to Jesus.”

She admitted that, as an OB, she was an anxious pregnant woman, convinced that something would go wrong, but nothing did. “It’s amazing,” she said, “that of all the things that could go wrong, most times, nothing does.” It occurred to me to mention that this shouldn’t be amazing because statistically, in the modern industrialized world, pregnancy and childbirth aren't high risks for most of the population.

But a doctor friend, who happens to be a patient of the same OB, explained to me that doctors see a lot of bad things, and, for that reason, it’s hard to shake the sense that something could go wrong at any moment. It’s not the same thing at all, but this is why I no longer watch the TV news or shows set in hospitals. Especially this week, when there have been two tragic accidents—a helicopter crash that killed nine people, including eight firefighters, and a plane that flew into a vacation home on the coast killing not only the two men on board, but also three children who were asleep in the house—an unaffected life feels like a huge blessing when, really, it's the norm.

Though my OB is newly pro-baby and pro-mama, she’s still as practical as ever, telling me that if Alex and I decide to try and conceive but aren't successful within three months, I should look at other options. She explained that my aforementioned complications would make her leery of prescribing the usual hormone-laden drugs. When I suggested acupuncture (I don't make a habit of telling my allopathic care providers about my cadre of alternative care providers because it feels a little like I'm being disloyal), she said, "Good idea. I don't know why it works, but it does." And though she still listed the risks, she didn’t tell me to get a dog. That firsthand mama-love is a powerful thing: it can make a skeptic a believer and a practical person of “advanced age” roll her eyes at statistics.

No comments: