Pregnancy Diaries #3
It’s all or nothing
It’s now March 2021 and hard to believe I’m forty weeks pregnant. I’ve attended all my regular appointments through the Community Midwife scheme and had a few unexpected ones thrown in, each providing enough material to give you an insight into maternity care services in Ireland. I have taken notes on each appointment and discovered a clear pattern; it’s all or nothing. No in-between when it comes to care. It’s either outstanding or disappointing and so predictable.
Say your name!
This, in my eyes, is the number one mistake nearly every medical professional makes, and it is beyond infuriating. So far in this pregnancy, I have had only one doctor who introduced himself. Every other appointment, I have had to interrupt the doctor/midwife speaking to ask, ‘What is your name’? There was even one appointment with a midwife and who I presumed was a student in with her, in which I had to interrupt the midwife to ask her name. She apologised, introduced herself and turned to the student and said ‘this is….?’ but couldn’t answer. She herself did not know the student’s name. Not good enough on so many levels. You expect me to show you my vagina, yet you don’t have the decency to introduce yourself or the person you are teaching?!
Everyone’s time is valuable
It was that same appointment that left me trying to find my feet after getting off what felt like an emotional rollercoaster. Before I even got to ask about names, the midwife was running late, which is not the end of the world of course, but she was visibly trying to make up for lost time, reading my notes on her laptop without even noticing my presence. I could feel my heart rate had increased, as I had a list of questions I wanted to ask and already the tone was far from ideal. It may not have been her intention, but it felt like a bother that I was there. It was only when the midwife informed me my blood pressure was slightly high, that she asked if everything was ok. At this point, embarrassingly, I started crying, and even worse, my tears came with a pig-like snort. If I wanted to get this woman’s attention, this was definitely the way to do it.
In complete contrast, on a separate occasion in the hospital I met someone, who also appeared to be very busy (everyone to me looks busy in a hospital) who gave me ten minutes of her time and the impact was immense. I had to go in for a blood test (remember I have a fear of needles) and in fact I was trying to gather some information about ways to manage not only this blood test, but future ones too. To this woman’s credit she read the room well. Despite standing in the middle of the corridor asking some very personal and detailed questions, she could see that one of her questions in particular about Lucille’s birth had upset me and within thirty seconds, she found a place for us to sit down, explained to me that she was going to look up my notes and get the information needed to help us make a plan. Remember, this is all happening in just a few minutes, but it just shows you that time is not about the minutes spent with a person, but in fact what is done with those minutes.
Covid is obviously having a major impact, not only on my pregnancy but on the entire medical system. I am not going to go into the specifics of hospital policies regarding partners being present for appointments and labour, although you can imagine I have rather a strong view on the matter. Being pregnant is something that is so personal, however I don’t feel Covid-19 has stopped the care being given. In fact, all of my ‘complaints’ have nothing to do with Covid-19 as I also experienced them while pregnant with Lucille. Of course, it is hard to ignore all the Covid-19 signs and warnings but let’s be honest, pandemic or no pandemic, you would hope for example, that equipment is sterilised between each patient’s appointment. What is very evident these days, is that what should be natural and appropriate responses are now awkward, apologetic encounters. I’ve had a couple of these encounters where a reassuring hand on mine, (a snort will do that) or a helping hand to get off the bed after a scan were offered, and my reaction was to flinch. I found all parties apologising, yet it was clearly the very thing I needed at the time. What a strange world we live in, where a kind gesture feels so uncommon.
Hello. Anyone listening?
Besides medical staff not introducing themselves, people not listening is second on my list for utter annoyance when it comes to medical care. This is annoying in everyday life, but when it comes to medical care it happens far too frequently, and is unacceptable. However, in one of my unexpected appointments at the hospital, I had one that should be a textbook example of how doctors should interact with patients. You might read this thinking what is she on about, there is nothing amazing about this appointment, but when someone introduces themselves, gives you their time and listens to what you have to say, you know you have struck gold. This doctor, I’m going to call him Paul, should be the poster boy of how medical professionals approach patients (I have to say, I never think as myself as a patient during pregnancy but you know what I mean). Paul introduced himself, read the notes from the midwife who referred me, asked what I understood of the situation, explained what would happen in the appointment, and after my scan, sat down and asked if I had any questions. No looking at a screen, no writing his own notes, no looking at the clock, just him sitting in front of me, at a distance of course, waiting for my response. I did have questions, and he answered every single one of them. When I had finished offloading my worries and concerns, he started to write his notes and he read them back to me, asking if he had summarised our discussion correctly and if I was happy with what he had written. At this stage I could’ve kissed the man! Not only had he listened and heard everything I said, but he was able to summarise my wishes and the impact of this collaborative approach to my care has changed my experience since. To say I left the hospital feeling reassured and calm is an understatement.
The hardest part is yet to come, literally, and often at this stage things can become less clear-cut and the power dynamics between ‘patient’ and doctor become more evident but I can only hope that I have the likes of Paul caring for me as bubs arrives, whenever that will be. Not that I’m getting impatient or anything.