So, we leave Professionals for Women’s Health. I’m sobbing. Hubs is trying to calm me down. I’m convinced that no other doctor is going to be willing to see us and that I’m going to have to come back to these awful people.
By the time we get home, I’m in ‘go mode.’ (That’s what my husband calls it when I get serious and put my game face on.) I’m going to find a way to deliver this baby naturally without those people! Having read Adventures in Natural Childbirth and attended 1/2 of the HypnoBirthing classes, I’m aware that it’s possible to have a baby at home or in a birthing center, attended by a lay midwife. While I never thought I would be ‘that person,’ I suggest it to my husband. He’s nervous about the idea but agrees to go with me to check it out.
I research ‘birthing centers’ in Columbus, Ohio and find out that (at that time, though I don’t know for sure about now) there were none. The closest one appeared to be in Dayton and that wasn’t going to be an option for a woman in labor! Kylene (our doula), however, recommends CHOICE Midwives and suggests that we consider a home birth. Hubs and I are both a little freaked out about the idea, but decide to pursue it.
We visit CHOICE’s offices and interview a couple of midwives. They are hesitant about the gestational diabetes but willing to take us on as clients. They mention, however, that it’s ‘always a good idea’ to have a ‘back-up doctor’ in case something goes wrong at home (they would not be permitted to help us deliver if we were transported to the hospital) and that insurance will not likely cover any part of a birth that takes place at home.
We are very comfortable with the expertise and bedside manners of the midwives and decide to investigate the insurance angle and see if we can find a doctor who would be willing to meet us at the hospital if something were to go wrong during our home birth.
I spend HOURS on the phone with our insurance company. The run-around is unbelievable. Half of the people I talk to don’t know what I mean by home birth and the other half can’t find anything in our health insurance policy that addresses it. I get every answer from ‘if you birth with a midwife in a birthing center, we’ll cover it’ to ‘we don’t cover midwives but we do cover home births.’ (Yeah, you tell me how that one works!) Ultimately, however, the answer is ‘no.’ Insurance will not cover any part of our birth (and potentially will not cover post-natal care) if we decide to birth at home. We’re undeterred (and striking out when it comes to finding a ‘regular’ OB who will take us) and decide that we’re going to do it!
Interestingly, we mention our decision at the next HypnoBirthing class and everybody has advice for us. Most of them know ‘regular’ doctors who are very supportive of natural childbirth and home births. We get a list of names of doctors who might take us on or be willing to support us if our home birth should go awry. One name on the list comes up over and over again: Dr. William Hammett. He practices in Delaware, Ohio…about 20 minutes north of where we live and in the same town my step kids live in with their mother. His hospital privileges are at Grady Memorial Hospital…a very small hospital in Delaware that I know little about but coincidentally is where both of my stepsons were born. Not going to the ‘big’ hospitals in town is a little nerve wracking for me but we are willing to reach out to him.
We call Dr. Hammett’s office and speak to his office manager. I explain our entire situation and she is amazingly helpful and feels very sure that Dr. Hammett would be willing to see us. She calls me back that afternoon after speaking to him and arranges an appointment for the next day!
Hubs and I drive to Delaware to meet with Dr. Hammett. He’s late to our appointment (we would find out later that that is VERY typical for him because he spends as much time with each patient as she needs) but was warm and willing to listen to our concerns. He doesn’t balk at all at the idea that I could manage my own blood sugar and immediately arranges for an appointment for me with the Grady diabetes education department. We agree that, if I am unable to manage my blood sugar with diet, we will talk about insulin. While he understands other OBs’ concern that gestational diabetes ‘is where 14 pound babies come from,’ he isn’t at all ready to relegate me to a C-section just because the baby processing my sugars might result in a large baby that might be hard to birth.
We talk through our birth plan with him and explain that we are in the process of arranging a home birth with CHOICE midwives and curious as to whether or not he might be our ‘on-call’ doctor in case of emergency. He describes the intimate birthing setting at Grady (only 8 birthing rooms, a steak and sparkling grape juice dinner the night of the baby’s birth and a handmade quilt made by the local senior center for each baby) and assures us that, should we need to be admitted, the nursing staff is very familiar with the types of natural childbirth proponents he often supports. He readily agrees to be our ‘on-call’ doc and commends us for deciding that, without the support of our original doctors, we would pursue a home birth. He is very rationale about our choices and clearly explains to us that there are risks in hospital birth as well as home birth.
Hospitals are full of germs. Birth interventions that can impact mother-baby bonding are much more likely in a hospital setting. The rate of inducement and C-section in hospitals is, of course, much higher. He does, however, want us to understand the risk of home birth.
To his mind, a home birth is a completely safe alternative to hospital birth when attended by a qualified midwife. He has no concerns about the baby getting stuck, me hemorrhaging, or the baby’s heart rate dropping. In any of those circumstances, in his opinion, a wise midwife could assist or make the decision to transport to a hospital in plenty of time. He one caution is this: if the baby is born not breathing in a home birth setting, time is of the essence and the midwife’s ability to resolve the situation or get mother and baby to hospital in time might be limited. He feels strongly that a baby who can’t breathe and is born at home has a much lower chance of survival.
Nevertheless, he asks us to trust our intuition, consider the pros and cons of each option and recognize that risks existed in both situations. He is willing to support all of the birth and post-natal preferences we had documented (more on those later) and he promises to support us regardless of our decision and to provide any prenatal care I might need outside of the midwives’ support before our baby comes.
We leave feeling such relief. About 2 miles down the road, Hubs turns to me and asks, ‘So are you still feeling good about the home birth?’ I immediately respond, ‘Oh yeah. I think it’ll be great.’ We are quiet for much of the rest of the ride home until I say, ‘You know I really loved Dr. Hammett. He almost made me want to just have our baby at Grady with him.’ Hubs immediately responds, ‘I’m so glad you said that…that’s what I want to do too!’ We laugh and our decision is made. Neither of us had wanted to disappoint the other but it was clear: We’ll continue to see Dr. Hammett for the remainder of my pregnancy and he will deliver our baby at Grady.
Because I am already 29 weeks pregnant, we see Dr. Hammett pretty much every week after that. Initially, I meet with the diabetes counselor and learn about how to manage my diet. I have already gained nearly 45 pounds (I would gain 60 before I gave birth…eek!) and am HUNGRY! While the beginning of my pregnancy was marked by cravings for bananas and orange juice, by 29 weeks I can eat 2 Whoppers at a sitting. Healthy eating is not coming easily to me and my blood sugar is not under control,
By the time we go back to see Dr. Hammett about the blood sugar, it’s clear that I’m not going to be able to manage it with diet. He sends me back to Diabetes Education and they teach me how to acquire, draw and inject my own insulin and when and how to do so in conjunction with my meals. My blood sugars immediately come back within tolerance and I have no qualms about using the insulin. Luckily, unlike my mother and Hubs, I’m not afraid of needles or blood! Interestingly, neither is my youngest stepson: he gets the biggest kick out of being allowed to inject insulin into my leg. We joke that he is definitely going to grow up to be a doctor. He’s 4 and 1/2 and just loves to help!
We continue to see Dr. Hammett and he signs off on our birth plan. We also take the birth plan to the hospital birthing wing and share it with the nursing staff. They indicate that they are comfortable with it and will keep it on file. Dr. Hammett suggests that we share and get sign off on the birth plan from his two partners, Dr. Lin and Dr. Louvakis just in case something happens and he is unable to attend our birth. He shares his home and cell phone numbers with us personally though and we know we’ll be able to reach him when the time comes.
I truly don’t know what differentiates one OB from another but the experiences we had with Dr. Hammett, his office and partners were so vastly different from what we experienced elsewhere that to this day, I’m floored. Is it training? Culture of the practice? Individual personalities? We were admired and commended in Dr. Hammett’s office for educating ourselves about birth and making informed decisions about what we wanted for ourselves and our child. We were shamed and scoffed at by Professionals for Women’s Health for doing the same. I know that my birthing experience was 100% better for the confidence and support I received from Dr. Hammett, his staff and the staff at Grady!
The exciting part is coming up…check back tomorrow to read about my labor at 32 weeks and The Dude’s ultimate delivery!