How I found my voice and a doctor to really listen

By Nina Mitchell

It’s the start of a new year — a fresh start and clean slate. We set goals for the new year and also schedule our yearly appointments with our care providers. Many times, these visits are routine checkups that we squeeze into our already busy days.

However, prenatal appointments look much different.  Am I right, ladies?

You’ve learned that your world is about to change forever, and while you’ve been wanting this moment for so long, a little anxiety may sink in when you hear the words: “You’re pregnant.” That’s when you turn to your women’s care team, counting on them to help guide you through the pregnancy journey.

My journey

During my prenatal visits with my doctor, especially in the third trimester, I didn’t feel heard. In fact, I felt rushed when I was quickly told, “Everything looks good. See you next week.” So, what did I do? I trusted those words. I scheduled my next appointment and went about my day.

Being a first-time mom, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Meaning, I didn’t know what questions to ask my provider. I didn’t know how to advocate for myself or speak up to my care team. Instead, I believed they were the experts, and I quieted my inner voice.

My birth experience didn’t go as planned which happens for many women. However, I hope many women don’t go through what I did — a traumatic birth experience, which took a tremendous toll on me physically and emotionally. I am a firm believer that I could have avoided this experience if I had listened to my instincts during all those prenatal visits and found a different care team.

Interview your care team

After giving birth, I decided to find a new women’s doctor and did my homework to do it right. I scoured the internet, read doctor reviews and asked my network about various high-ranking doctors. I interviewed five OB-GYNs in the area.

I did all the right things — helpful things every woman can do — yet I still wasn’t satisfied. I wanted a connection.  I wanted to feel like more than just a number. I didn’t give up.

Attend a “Meet the Providers Night”

Then, I came across an event that one of the women’s practices was offering.  You could meet all the providers in the practice and tour their facility. What a brilliant idea.

I was asked if there was an OB-GYN I was most interested in speaking with. There was. (I’d done my homework.) The doctor I was hoping to meet escorted me to another room and asked me why I’d attended. I immediately welled up with tears because I knew my “why.”

Become knowledgeable — but trust your gut, too

I hadn’t planned to tell the doctor my birth story. After all, this was my time to be the interviewer. But my defensiveness dissolved as I trusted my instincts. Here was a doctor who understood my emotions right away. She made me feel it was OK to ask questions and be vulnerable.

She asked what I wanted out of my next birth experience. I told her it would be like I won the lottery if I had a birth experience like I hear about or see in movies. “You know, what it’s ‘supposed’ to look like.” She held my hand tighter and said, “What if your ‘lottery’ is bringing another healthy baby into this world? Let’s have that be our goal.” We ended our time together with an embrace, and I left feeling like a million dollars. I finally found what I’d been searching for. I felt heard, and I now have a team that knows the true meaning of care.

Because I was proactive about making a change in my care team, I met my new doctor. She changed my perspective and also gave me the greatest gift — she took away my fear.

It’s been a long journey … but well worth it. As a patient, I encourage you to trust your instincts and find your voice. As a healthcare professional, encourage your clinical caregivers to take time to listen.