When Providers Rock Our Socks

A lot of the time in the “birth world” you hear stories and conversations of medical care providers being less than stellar, and sometimes, downright abusive towards their patients. As a Maternal Support Practitioner and birth photographer, I won’t lie and say I haven’t seen it happen a few times. 

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I have my own scars and trauma in regards to my first birth, all at the hands of a provider who didn’t have my best interest at heart. I think that’s one of the reasons when I see providers who love what they do, and bring compassion and empathy into their practice knowledge, it makes my heart want to leap out of my chest.

I recently attended a birth at Sunnybrook hospital, where my client was considered pretty high-risk, and therefore had what seemed like 20 different doctors always coming in and out of her labour room. Some were very straight forward, and almost business like in their approach to her care. During those conversations, mom was a ROCKSTAR at advocating for herself and saying “I understand what you are suggesting, but no thank you.” When you are high risk and doctors are pulling the dead baby card, it takes everything ounce of strength and confidence to say “no thank you.” She understood her body and condition on a very deep level, and wanted as little interventions as possible.

Mixed into her team were two OBs in particular that blew me away in their care approach. The first of the two came into the room quietly, spoke softly, and when he went over to the bed gently rubbed moms arms and back while he spoke to her. It took me a moment to process what I was seeing, because it was the first time I had ever seen an obstetrician treat their patients with such empathy and gentleness.

The second OB that came in when it was finally time to push was called as the baby was crowning. Mom had instinctively gotten on all fours to birth her baby, and when he walked in, he asked, yes asked, if mom felt she could turn onto her back as it would be easier for him to deliver the baby. When mom refused he said “Okay, no problem” and baby was born 5 minutes later, with mom on hands and knees, while the other OB gently rubbed her back and whispered encouragement into her ear as she birthed her baby. They were TOTALLY supportive of her choice in how to birth, and even went a step further as to ENCOURAGE her that she was doing everything right. Again, I was “Is this real life?! Can doctors really be this awesome?!” 

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It was SO empowering for me to witness, I cannot even begin to fathom the impact it had on mom; giving birth on HER terms, in the position that SHE chose. I really wish more providers took this kind of approach when speaking to and providing medical care to pregnant and labouring women. If a high-risk mom giving birth was given options, choices, and was respected in those, why can’t more women be treated like this? 

Why is there such a discrepancy between providers, and why don’t more take an evidence-based approach that includes INDIVIDUALIZED care vs routine care. We need to start treating labouring people like autonomous beings, where they have the final say on anything that happens, without bias or coercion. I can only hope that these particular OBs have a ripple effect on their colleagues, and that we can start to see more providers taking this approach to care.