Pregnancy Diaries #1
How are you?
It is time again for me to navigate the maternity care system here in Ireland. Before I kick off with the first entry of my Pregnancy Diaries be sure to read my previous post which you can find here. Off we go then, here is the first entry for you. I’ll let you decide which is better example of how prenatal appointments should go.
First GP appointment
Dr: How can I help you today?
Me: I’m pregnant.
Dr: Congratulations. How far along are you?
At this point I give her all the boring details. She updates my file and checks to see if there have been any changes to my medical history. All very standard. And then it comes, something I learned not to expect when I was pregnant with Lucille; she asked how I was feeling in general and more specifically in relation to Covid-19. You may think this is a standard question, medical professionals asking the person in front of them how they are but you would be wrong! It happened so infrequently when I was pregnant with Lucille that when it did, it always caught me off guard and I felt rather suspicious of the question. I would think, ‘Do you really want to know how I am?’ or, ‘Why bother asking when you won’t even look at me to hear my answer’. Harsh? Yes, but also true. We had a great conversation about how I was feeling, my concerns about Covid-19 and how pregnancy fits into that. We spoke about the prospect of family life with two children, how to keep safe during a pandemic and work. Basically anything that came out of my mouth, she ran with it. No eyes on notes or the computer. She had turned her entire body to face me and stayed there until I was done talking. I left feeling reassured that this was a person to rely on during this pregnancy, as any doctor should be.
Before I get into this little anecdote, I am registered with the Community Midwives (as I was with Lucille), a mixture of maternity care between your GP and local midwives. This is ideal for me as I’m not a huge fan of hospitals and this type of care allows me to avoid them as much as possible.
Due to Covid-19, I was informed when I registered with the Community Midwives that the initial booking appointment, which normally takes place in the home, would be completed over the phone. A midwife would then be out to take bloods and would be no more than fifteen minutes in my home. All made sense to me. I was give a day for the call and that was that.
The day of the phone call (which I forgot about of course! Evidence of my state of mind. Need reminding? Click here), my phone rang;
‘Julie, Midwife (Not her real name)’. My heart sank! Well, it sank, then sped up. Can that happen at the same time? Julie was a midwife involved in my pregnancy with Lucille, and the fact that I had that reaction says it all.
Julie (at lightening speed): Oh Jo it’s Julie from the Community Midwives. When I saw your name on the file I remembered you from your last pregnancy and I told the girls I’m taking this one. How old is you little girl now? Oh yes let me see here (she reads out Lucille’s date of birth, which is incorrect). Oh what a fun age. I bet your tired with a toddler to look after. Now listen here, I’m going to go through some questions, and you’ve done it all before, so this won’t take long.
I saw at once nothing had changed. This woman doesn’t stop talking! Keep in mind this is a condensed version of the conversation. Actually, can it be a conversation if only one person talks? I could put the phone down, make a drink, do a load of washing, go for a walk and she wouldn’t even notice I was gone. I finally get to come in to answer some basic questions and just like with my Doctor, she asks if I have been under any stress lately. A standard question along with, ‘Is your partner related to you?’
Me: (laughing nervously) Well, just the usual Covid stress, working at home with a toddler and no childcare, not knowing when I will see my family in Australia again.
Julie: I don’t mean to be harsh here but that’s just normal stuff. I’m talking about real stress.
She was right, unfortunately what I described was all ‘normal stress’ but there has been nothing normal about living through a pandemic. What bothered me most about her response was not that she dismissed what I classified as stress, but that she didn’t enquire further. How does she know what my base line is for managing stress? How does she know what supports I have in place, if any? She doesn’t know because she doesn’t ask. And did she really think I was going to disclose everything to her in a ten minute conversation? I gave her an opening and my answer didn’t fit the box she was ticking. I can very much appreciate a lot can be missed on the phone. No opportunity to read body language, to really look at a person when they are talking or to give a reassuring smile. However, given these booking appointments are being conducted over the phone, it would be nice if more attention could be paid to the women on the other end. I’m fortunate I have a support network, but I couldn’t help but wonder about women who don’t. What about those women who are experiencing ‘real stress’ as Julie would describe it who need someone, just one person, to ask ‘How are you?’ and more importantly, to have their answer heard?
At that point in the conversation there wasn’t much left for me to say. We proceeded to have an equally frustrating discussion about a date and time to take my bloods. This involved Julie asking me for a day/time that would be suitable and when I suggested a time, I was informed ‘No’, and told that ‘The midwives are very busy and can only come on a specific day’. You can imagine how much I was looking forward to that visit. Actually, that appointment ended in tears (mine not hers). I was very nervous about having someone in the house (I have been cocooning since I found out I was pregnant), so that together with my utter dread of needles, it was a recipe for disaster. I always inform the person taking my blood of my fear of needles, but Julie disregarded my warning: ‘I did you bloods the last time so it must have been ok.’ Julie and I obviously have very different definitions of what being ‘ok’ is. My tears came when she couldn’t get any blood, having to remove the first needle she put in while telling me it was my fault, as she tried again on the other arm. I should give Julie some credit. Due to my blood type I have to get another specific blood test so she said she would try to make some calls to see if there was another way to do this. Thanks, I guess.