Rotating Doctors, Rotating Perspectives

The maternity clinic I attend actually houses four different clinics in one building. The one I am in has nine physicians, and you see whomever is working when you come in for your appointment. Three of the clinics share on-call (delivery) duties, so any one of about 14 physicians could be the one who delivers your baby. Meaning, there is a chance you will have never met the person who delivers your baby. This is okay with me…I feel like it won’t really matter who is there that day because they’re all equally qualified and that experience is pretty much going to suck anyways (until it’s over, of course).

What is interesting about this set-up is that you meet a variety of physicians in your prenatal visits. In three visits I’ve seen three different doctors, plus a couple of residents as well. I have to admit, I am a bit of a creature of habit, so I’m surprised this doesn’t unsettle/annoy me more than it does. So far the first one was my favourite, so I’m going to kindly request that the universe sends her to the hospital on the Big Day.

Anyways, they have all been fine/good, but they have also all been quite different in personality and style of care. Some are more laid-back, some are more directive, some more communicative or information-heavy, some more blunt etc., etc. For that reason, I’m actually kind of glad that I’m exposed to different perspectives instead of being stuck with one personality, and having to take just one doctor’s word as gospel truth. If I had been thinking about this more at the outset, I would have made an effort to ask each doctor the exact same question on some random topic so I could have compared their responses. I don’t necessarily think I would have gotten different answers per se, but I know the question would have been addressed in significantly different ways, if that makes sense.

On Monday, I had the pleasure of waiting for 40 minutes (alone in the exam room, of course) for the doctor-on-duty to see me (for 10 minutes, of course). With no entertainment, I was practically forced to eavesdrop  overhear the doctor’s visit with the patient in the room beside me. The 40-year-old woman was in for her first appointment, and they set her due date for July 2 (seriously, this is how clearly I could hear every single word spoken behind full walls and two closed doors – the need for whisper-mode was duly noted for the next time I have a sensitive/embarrassing topic to discuss in there).

Anyways, this doctor was really hammering home the point of eating lots of protein, lots of veggies, limiting starches, increasing your calcium/dairy “but without increasing your fat intake!!!” and that “sugar is enemy number one in pregnancy!!”. She then asked the patient what she does for exercise (“uhhhh…” was the tentative reply) and told her she had to work up to 150 minutes of “dedicated exercise” per week and that yoga was “okay for stretching” but you also need cardio and strength training, yada yada yada. Then she went on to talk very matter-of-factly about the heightened miscarriage and genetic risks of pregnancy at 40. Her tone the whole time was very friendly and even-toned, but the messaging was unmistakably all-business.

Sure, it was all perfectly good advice and accurate information, but I couldn’t help but feel a little bad for the patient. A patient I don’t know a thing about, mind you, for all I know she is diabetic or has weight or other issues that necessitated this hard-line stance on prenatal fitness…but if I had been dealt that kind of doctor at my first prenatal appointment I would have been overwhelmed and feeling pretty bad about myself. At 11 or so weeks pregnant, it’s quite likely you’re still feeling like a bag of shit and having a hard time keeping any food down or dragging your ass home at the end of the work day, let alone whipping up a salad and blasting out a few sets of squats when you get home.

The upshot was that by the time the doctor made it to my room, I had 40 minutes of warning on how opinionated and direct she was apt to be. Small wonder baby’s heart rate was a record 158? Luckily, I was spared the scary warnings and exercise lecture. In reviewing the results of my last ultrasound though, she asked if I had found out the sex of the baby. When I said that we had, and it was a girl, she told me, “I don’t recommend that. They are occasionally wrong and it has been shown that it’s very hard on you psychologically when that happens.”

Well okay then. I mean, valid food for thought and all, but too late for that now, no? Why voice that opinion (and it is just an opinion) after the fact? I gave her a confused cocker-spaniel head-tilt and glanced at the resident in the room who was also giving her the side-eye and glancing back at me.

After being shocked a week or so before by a friend who told me gender ultrasounds are wrong about 30% of the time (!!!) I had already scoured for statistics and found that they are generally considered at least 90-95% accurate – with the experience of the technician and timing of the ultrasound (i.e. not too early in your pregnancy) being the major factors, and that in many cases (right view, right tech, right timing) they can tell with near 100% accuracy. As far as my own experience went, I asked how confident technicians are in their predictions and mine said, “we don’t make guesses: I either know or I don’t know.” I believed her.

So while I am sure that finding out she is actually a boy after expecting a girl would be quite the shock, this physician seemed to be making a strong recommendation for my “psychological health” based on something that maybe – at worst – happens once or twice out of 20 times.

As I laughed the comment off with a, “well, I guess it’s too late for me now!” she went on to urge me not to imagine scenarios or “create a persona” for a girl, and to try really hard to keep thinking of it as an “it” — exact words! Okay lady, now you’re just talking crazy. Good fucking luck with that one.

Isn’t it at least possible that there could be psychological benefits to finding out early? Benefits that could apply 90-95% of the time? Bonding maybe? I’m no expert, but it feels like encouraging me to objectify and distance myself from the baby isn’t the most psychologically sound recommendation either.

Whatever. I left the clinic that day, took my shetus directly to the mall and bought her the most adorable pair of size 1 baby Chuck T’s. She’s a good girl, she deserves it 😉

Three’s company

Besides the overarching concern that something is going to wrong with Perry (a sincere thank you to the mom who told me – unprompted – that she also checked for blood every time she went to the bathroom) my single biggest source of stress this pregnancy has been worrying about postpartum visitors. My cardio needs are entirely fulfilled by the breathless, heart-pounding reaction I have every time this topic comes up. It’s not an ideal way to anticipate my first weeks as a new parent, and I know it’s no picnic for Andrew either.

I know myself pretty well by now. Well enough to know that I am a card-carrying weirdo. A freakshow of not-so-endearing quirks. I really enjoy my alone time. I know that certain types of lights or graphics make me feel like I’m going to have a seizure (I won’t actually) and that I require aisle seats in large venues to feel comfortable. I also know that I have weird personal space issues that mean I’m not especially at ease sitting in the middle of a couch with other people on both sides of me – I like to live on the edge (of tables, classrooms, couches and crowds) and I hate feeling vulnerable or out of control in front of most people.

Of course I understand that people are excited and will want to see the baby, and I’m excited to show them – for limited periods of time and with certain boundaries intact, natch. It’s not because I don’t like people or I’m a freak about them touching the baby or anything like that – it’s all about me and my issues. My need to figure things out on my own and not be overwhelmed when I’m in an intense situation.

Which is the thing: it’s not personal at all – and yet it will be so hard for some people to not take personally.

And it’s not exactly fair either, because I don’t feel the same about all prospective visitors. There is a list of people I’m totally cool with and whose presence under almost any circumstances would never freak me out, but it’s a pretty short damn list. I’m equally worried that these people won’t be around enough, as I am that others will be around too much. I don’t feel like I was around enough for my friends who had babies, compared to how much I want my friends around when I have mine. I never felt like I knew their situations or schedules enough to know whether I was wanted or not, and I opted for the chicken-shit route of waiting to be asked to visit or hang out, rather than offering. I still have no idea if this was the right way to handle it or not. For that reason, I’m going to try to remember to issue a standing invitation and frequent reminders to the people on my short-list.

Overall though, I feel like I will want my house, my privacy and my little family mostly to myself for the first few weeks. I don’t know how I’ll feel physically, or what I’m going to feel like doing, wearing, eating or saying during those early days. I suspect the answers will be something like shitty, nothing, not much, hot dogs and fuckity fuck fuck– but these are just educated guesses.

Figuring out life with a newborn seems complicated enough without worrying about being good company—even for the kind of company that thinks they will be doing you a favour. Because with company there is always some level of expectation, even if I’d be putting it all upon myself. For example, they might not expect me to get dressed and look presentable but I’d still feel compelled to. They might not be offended that I’d rather eat crackers and watch Netflix than sit down to eat a meal with them, but I’d still feel like a jerk.

Also, how much help will we really require? Maybe I’m being totally delusional, but I feel like I have a perfectly competent partner who can help me out. We don’t have other children to try to feed, entertain and get to school or anything like that. Plus, we have my parents literally one block away from us. If I cut through the alley and skirt around the pond in Bill and Rick’s backyard I can be on their doorstep in 30 seconds. This is both a longer and funnier gauntlet to run when you’re drunk. Not that I plan to be, I’m just sayin’ if I have to do it with a carseat in hand, I’ve trained for it.

Mostly, I’m scared that the presence of all day, every day company before I’m ready for it will force me into hiding in my own home. I don’t want to eat hotdogs alone in my bedroom with a baby that I can’t figure out how to breastfeed while people lounge in comfort in my living room, chatting it up with my husband who should be with me while I cry and occasionally hit him. Is that too much to ask?

Rounding Second

It felt only fitting to trot out a baseball pun on this fine October day when the Blue Jays will be playing winning game 3 against the Royals.

Of course, I’m actually referring to moving into the second trimester, which begins at 13, 13.5 or 14 weeks, depending on what you read or who you ask. At any rate, I’m over 14 weeks now, so definitely into it. Woohoo! This is supposed to be the magical trimester when you feel good, look good (ha!) and the parasite is pretty firmly settled in for the long haul.

At the moment, it’s a weird no-man’s-land where the nausea, food aversions and extreme fatigue is gone, yet I don’t actually look or feel pregnant. It’s not that I’m dying to start showing (or shopping for maternity clothes) but it would be nice if my midsection looked more like it was storing a baby than a supersized quarter-pounder meal.

In many ways it’s actually like a weight has been lifted. I’m not angry about being awake at 10 pm any more, I can live without a daily nap and I don’t feel bone-crushing physical exhaustion from things like standing in the shower. I’m getting my patience back and I can get my head around the effort it takes to put on makeup. All good things for me and the people who have to be around me.

Last Friday I had my first appointment at the maternity clinic and I was pleasantly surprised by how positive of an experience it was. If you know me well, you know that I have very low expectations for society at large. Organizations are not well organized, businesses don’t do good business and a shocking number of people just don’t do their jobs very well. It’s a cynical outlook, but I’ve found that if you don’t double-check information, confirm details, take down the name of who you’ve dealt with and conscientiously advocate for yourself, things are bound to fuck up.

This clinic though, gave my faith in humanity a decent boost. It was super organized, everyone was friendly, knowledgeable and helpful and I left actually feeling good about the hands I am in. I was especially impressed with the thoroughness of topics covered by the doctor on duty – everything from how supportive the father of my parasite is and whether there is abuse of any kind, to stress and mental health issues, to how I feel about my body, sexuality and weight gain. These are topics my own family doctor never addressed to my satisfaction – even when I specifically saw her about things like anxiety and panic attacks.

With my prenatal care sorted out, it feels good to have one less thing to worry about. As a bonus, I got to hear Perry’s heartbeat for the first time with the Doppler stethoscope. 155 – a little bit faster than it was two weeks before. Now it’s only 4 more weeks until we get to find out if it’s a boy or a girl!