The front desk on Labor and Birth is often a social place. If there is not much happening people often gather around there to chat. I was standing by the desk with a group of nurses and one of them who runs her own childbirth education business was talking about how her classes are booking up way in advance. I referred many of my patients to her because I think she does the best job- she is a nurse on the labor floor in the hospital that my patients will birth at. She not only knows labor but she knows how it is at our hospital. So I asked her when she was booking until, thinking I was asking under the guise of guiding my patients when to contact her. She looked at me and said “When are you due?” Apparently I wasn’t as subtle as I thought. I was 17 weeks and due in March. She was already booking up her classes for those due in February. She instructed me to contact her soon, so she could get me into a class. I told her I needed to wait a bit. I spoke vaguely about “issues” with the pregnancy and so I’m not ready to book yet. I was still worried about loss. I had been open about my pregnancy and even the Down Syndrome diagnosis to anyone who asked, but I liked to tell people on my own terms. I just didn’t feel right saying it and my fears right then and there. Besides, many on Labor and Birth knew any I figured word had gotten around.
I wanted to do childbirth classes even as a midwife because I wanted the full experience. I wanted my husband to get the education. And I wanted to learn how to let go and be a patient, not my own midwife. I hesitated booking anything in case I miscarried or had a stillbirth. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do a group class, surrounded by pregnant women happy in their carefree pregnancies, ignorant of all the awful that can happen. I also knew that I wanted to be induced at 39 weeks to avoid any further risk of stillbirth, so laboring at home was not going to be an option. I also felt a little weird about being in a class with my patients. I felt like I would always have my guard up because I’d want to look professional. I thought patients might think it weird too and not be totally open because their midwife was watching.
I eventually emailed the nurse to tell her I wanted childbirth classes but I was hesitant about a group class. I spoke mainly of being in a class with patients and my concerns around that. She pushed me to do a group class and so I relented. Not long after she saw me on the labor floor and actually apologized. She said she didn’t know that I had a difficult diagnosis and wouldn’t have pushed so hard for group glasses had she known. I appreciated her sincerity and understanding, but at that point I had actually come around to the benefits of a group class.
Then I was diagnosed with the olighydramnios. I contacted her again asking, in light of recent events, would she do a private class for me and Chris. I didn’t go into detail because I assumed she knew. I had recently been admitted in the hospital I work at. I had visitors from the labor floor. I assumed my situation was public knowledge- and I was ok with that. She agreed easily to a private class. When we finally had our class in January, she again apologized that she didn’t know I had been admitted. I told her the whole story and our upcoming plan for admission, so she could cater her class to our situation. I would not be laboring at home. I’d be tethered to a monitor. I was likely going to be induced. I could end up with an emergent c-section.
I’m glad I at least had the experience of childbirth classes. There were many things I was robbed of, including the group class I decided I wanted. But at least I had something.
I realized that my hospital and care providers do a really good job of protecting my privacy. It is our job as midwives and providers to protect our patients’ privacy. We take that responsibility very seriously. I had to be very specific if I wanted them to share my situation with people I care about and who care about me. Yes, I wanted them to know. I wanted them to know while I was pregnant, what my baby and I were facing. It was part of the story. It was the start of my urgency for people to know her, to validate her, to keep her in their memory. The more they knew the longer she would live in their minds.