When I imagined the entire pregnancy and birthing process for myself, I always knew I would want to go as natural as possible. Not because I’m a sadistic freak and I love incredible amounts of pain but because I believe our bodies are designed to give birth and will (typically) do exactly what it’s supposed to in order to ensure your baby makes it into the world healthy. Now, let me just say, as I continue to tell the story of how all of this went down, I will be sure to point out what the game plan was and then what actually happened. It’s typical for the birthing process to not go according to plan, but it’s important to note that we did have a plan and which parts changed as time went on.
Before I even tried to get pregnant I went searching for an OB/GYN in my area that I would want to meet with. The closest hospital to my home is Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital (PIH) in Whittier. It’s where both my sister and I were born and where most of my family has gone for medical services my whole life. My mom even worked there when I was younger and still has friends who work for the hospital. Needless to say, since it was local and had such a presence in my life growing up, it was kind of a no-brainer that PIH would be where I would deliver. Once I found out I was pregnant the first time, I called to schedule an appointment with the doctor I had found through my research of OB’s in the area. Her name is Dr. Willner and the bio video on PIH’s website is what sold me on her; she seemed kind, warm, and intelligent. She had a family of her own. When she described the technicalities of her job, she finished by saying “and I deliver babies!” The giant smile on her face when she said that made me believe she would be my Dr someday. Sadly, I never made it to the initial appointment with her during my first pregnancy. I ended up in the emergency room miscarrying. The attending physician asked if I had an appointment to see an OB scheduled at that time, which I did the following week. He told me to keep the appointment and go in to be checked that the miscarrying process was occurring naturally without any complications. When I went in to be examined, I met with Dr. Willner’s Midwife, Christine. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know how important she was to this entire process for me, which only solidified my reasons for going to PIH and choosing Dr. Willner. Meeting her after becoming pregnant the second time was awesome. She was exactly who I thought she would be. She had a great attitude and was really upbeat. She always took her time to listen to all of our questions and made the process an all-inclusive ordeal rather than us being patients and her being the doctor. She ensured us that we were all responsible for taking care of our baby…she was in this just as much as we were. I felt really confident with her taking care of us during such a critical time, especially after what we had been through with the previous pregnancy.
I began to experience some issues with PIH around my 16th week. As more and more routine tests and ultrasounds were being performed, the encounters I would have with various staff members (front office, nurses, techs, etc.) became increasingly frustrating and alarming. No one could stay on the same page in terms of what was going on and I was consistently being giving conflicting information. One person would tell me to do one thing and when I would follow instructions, I was being told to do the complete opposite. Sure, mistakes happen and things can be easily miscommunicated, but this wasn’t once or twice…it was all the time. Still, I took it in stride and thanked my lucky stars that I had a great doctor. Shockingly, around my 29th week, I went in for a routine appointment when the front staff notified me that my insurance was no longer accepted at their office. Here I was thinking this was another annoying miscommunication. I spoke with someone with my health insurance company and they assured me they had no idea what the staff at the doctors office were talking about. They could clearly see in their database that Dr. Willner was an in-network provider. And still, the front office warned me that Dr. Willner was no longer an in-network provider for me, therefore taking my payments from 10% out of pocket costs of any procedure to 40%, which was financially unrealistic. The insurance company then verified that another doctor in the same office would take me as a patient, to which I agreed. I felt that it was way too stressful to change providers and hospitals at 30 weeks into my pregnancy and as long as I could still be a patient at PIH, I would just have to accept that it wouldn’t be with Dr. Willner. After fighting with the front office many times, they notified me that not even the hospital would accept me as a patient anymore. I was livid and frustrated and just broke into tears. I felt so defeated. Joe and I spent a long time discussing this information. We came to realize that maybe this was a blessing in disguise and that, after all the terrible treatment we had come to receive from everyone except Dr. Willner and Christine, would we feel comfortable having our baby at PIH with the way things had gone thus far? Neither of us could say we felt confident in that situation, and at 30 weeks into my pregnancy, I reached out to every new mommy I had in my inner circle for advice on where I should go and who my doctor should be. We finally decided to switch to St. Jude’s in Fullerton with Dr. Grey and oh my God, thank God we did. What a massive difference!!! The Grey Doctors (no, not Meredith) are quite well known within my family. I’ve had many family members treated by Dr. Grey Sr., the father. Both of his sons are doctors, one at PIH and one at St. Jude’s, my doctor. This made the transition a little more comfortable as my mom was familiar with them. When Dr. Grey asked me why I chose to switch to St. Jude’s from PIH, I explained everything to him. He agreed with us and promised that we would be much happier with the treatment at St. Jude’s and with him. He told us about how much he loves the facilities at St. Jude compared to PIH and he joked “if nothing else, our food is better.” He was great at every appointment. He taught us a lot about what was going on in the pregnancy and even how to feel for our baby, which no other doctor had taken the time to do previously. He was very personable and we really liked him a lot. At my 39 week appointment, even though I was only 1/2 centimeter dilated, Dr. Grey said “I bet the next time I see you, we’ll be having a baby!” I laughed nervously as I was starting to worry that Clark would be a late baby and I would still be pregnant when I came back in the office for my 40 week appointment. I guess I should have believed him with all of his experience because he was right.
I woke up exceptionally early on June 1st because when I rolled over, I realized Joe was already awake and out of bed and I couldn’t fall back asleep. I figured if I went into the living room and lied down on the couch, the sound of the tv in the background would probably lull me back to sleep. After lying there for about an hour unable to even drift off, I decided to have a bowl of cereal. Joe and I watched some old Looney Toons cartoons for a little bit, commenting on how we would watch them with Clark when he got here, and a short time later I finally felt like I could snooze again. As I was trying to fall back asleep, my stomach began to cramp up like I wasn’t feeling so well. I thought maybe I had lied down too soon after eating, so I got up to use the restroom. As I walked through the living room, I suddenly felt a stream of liquid running down my legs. I stopped dead in my tracks, looked towards the floor and let out a very confused and alarmed sound somewhat like “UMMM!?…” to which Joe replied “What? What?!”. I said “My water just broke.” He asked me multiple times if I was sure…I was pretty positive. I went to the restroom, sat on the toilet, and called my mom. It wasn’t even 7am and I knew she would be getting ready for work. When she answered, I said “you might not want to go to work today. My water just broke.” She also asked me if I was sure (again, I was pretty sure) and she advised me to call the hospital and see what they suggest. When they transferred me to the Labor and Delivery Department, I explained that I believed my water had just broke. They asked me a series of questions and suggested I go into the hospital to be tested for amniotic fluid. If it was amniotic fluid, I would be admitted. If it wasn’t, I would be sent home. Initially, the plan was to labor at home as long as possible before even trekking to the hospital to be admitted. They have a rule of 5-1-1 for you to go by to help you determine when it’s time to go to the hospital: contractions 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, for 1 hour. Joe and I religiously went over these details for weeks leading up to our due date, repeatedly discussing how we would try to take it slow and do as much of the hard work at home in a comfortable space, and here I was with wet ankles being told to come in to the hospital before a single contraction could even be produced. I called Mom back and told her what the nurses advised and she said “okay, I’m getting in the car, I’ll meet you in the lobby.” Next thing I know, Joe and I are grabbing our hospital bags, going over the checklist, feeding the dog, and jumping in the car. I took one last photo of Joe and I as expecting parents from the passenger seat. I knew this was it…we weren’t coming home alone.