I WAS SWITCHED TO A NEW OBSTETRICIAN WHO NEARLY RUINED MY PREGNANCY
Updated: Jul 23
New mothers are unaware of a lot of things during pregnancy. They are new mothers after all. Between avoiding lunch meat and making sure to stay hydrated, there’s a lot of stress on a new mother. You truly can’t know it all. So when I found myself expecting my first child, there were a lot of things that caught me by surprise. The dietary restrictions, the sleeping restrictions, and the array of different fetal tests were just a few of those things. It was all so new to me, but I had always expected the doctors and nurses would be there to help walk me through it. As it turned out, not all doctors are so compassionate. Some are cold and just plain rude. I was so happy to have found myself an incredible obstetrician who was even pregnant herself. But my world came crashing down when she went on bed rest and I was switched to another doctor in the building.
When we first me the new doctor, she was very strange. As a much older woman, we just couldn’t understand her odd jokes. We figured we’d get through it, as the switch was only temporary. But something immediately didn’t feel right. The physician-patient trust just wasn’t there. She didn’t seem truly invested in us. She didn’t even try to get to know us at all. We were just another mother and father on her list. She had been doing this for decades, so maybe she had just lost interest. Whatever the case, we still tried to look on the bright side of the situation until one day, she completely lost our trust.
We had always planned on getting prenatal testing done on our baby, just so we could be prepared. We were a young couple, after all, so we wanted to be as prepared as possible. It was an ordinary day with an ordinary checkup and ordinary blood work. But the next week was far from ordinary. Sometime during the following week, we were supposed to get a call with the results and the gender of our baby. Days passed until I finally noticed a missed call on my phone with a voicemail. I excitedly listened to the voicemail, but my excitement quickly faded when I noticed the sense of urgency in the secretary’s voice when she asked us to call back immediately in regards to our results. I frantically redialed the number and was told the doctor wanted to see us to discuss the results. I immediately felt my heart sink into my stomach. I hoped desperately that maybe I had gestational diabetes or something. I didn’t want to hear that anything was wrong with my baby. I called my mom and she tried to calm me down saying that maybe the doctor prefers seeing all her patients in person to discuss their results, good or bad. But I knew that wasn’t the case. When my fiancé called his mom, she said, “Don’t tell Kat, but when they say something like that, it usually means something is wrong.” Little did she know, I could hear her voice clearly through the phone.
We were fortunate in the sense that our doctor was able to get us in that same day. But still, the few hours we had to wait before our appointment were torture. I tried to keep busy, but my mind kept going through all the possibilities. I was terrified for the health of my baby. We met with my future mother-in-law at the doctor’s office and took our seats in the tacky, leather chairs. It felt like hours before they called our name. When they did, we were escorted to a private room and the nurse placed a pink, folded paper in the tray outside the door. A folded paper is never a good sign, I thought. We hesitantly walked in and took our seats. Shortly after, the doctor walked in with the same pink paper. She looks at us and says in a slow, nasally voice, “It appears your results came back abnormal for Trisomy 18.” We all sit there and wait for her to explain, but she doesn’t. I can’t think of the right questions to ask. My mind has gone numb. My fiancé’s mother jumps in and says, “What does that mean for the baby?” She looks at us and says in the same obnoxious voice, “It means the baby won’t survive should it have it.” I immediately break down crying. The doctor hands me the tissue box and continues to explain that we can either wait to see what happens or do further testing. My fiancé and I instantly agree we want further testing to be done. It was hard enough waiting a few hours, imagine waiting months. The doctor agrees and sends me upstairs to the lab for further blood work, not offering any sympathy. I somehow make my way upstairs and get seated for my blood work. I’m asked to extend my arm for a small “sting.” As the dark, red blood fills the tube, tears begin to roll down my face. The technician tells me it will all be okay, and for the first time, I feel some sense of comfort.
We were told we would get our results within a week. I didn’t ask if they meant a business week or a normal week, so I basically just began to stare at my phone all day, everyday. Midway through the long week and we were forced to attend Thanksgiving festivities as if nothing was wrong. My mind at this point has completely turned to mush. My baby could possibly die, and everyone’s feasting on turkey and green bean casserole. To pass the time, we look further into Trisomy 18, also known as Edward’s Syndrome, and find that some babies do survive past the womb. Some even survive to adulthood. How could our doctor have been so matter fact about it? Although it wouldn’t be an easy life for the child, they could still survive. Children with Trisomy 18 often suffer from heart defects, kidney problems, and clenched hands. Expecting mothers are offered the option to terminate the pregnancy or proceed knowing at moment, they can miscarry. If this was the road ahead of us, we knew we had a difficult choice to make. The first week went by and we heard nothing. Then the second week went by and we began to worry. Had they forgotten about us? They often say no news is good news. But, still… What if they had just forgotten to relay the bad news? It was three weeks before I could finally find the courage to call the office. I dialed the office phone number and put the phone on speaker for my fiancé to hear. The secretary asks me to hold and returns to the phone and says casually, “Yup, everything came back normal.” I’m overwhelmed with joy and thank the woman over the phone. Our baby was going to be okay.
Fast forward to our next doctor’s appointment and we were sent to a specialist to confirm the results were accurate through an ultrasound. The doctor scans all the vital organs carefully and explains that everything looks normal. He continues to explain that there is only a minuscule chance of our baby having this abnormality, and that’s what the quad screen indicated. We learned the quad screen had only suggested an elevated risk for the abnormality, but it wasn’t a sure thing. That was something our doctor had never explained to us. She merely falsely told us our baby had no chance of survival, should he have the condition.
When we returned for our next visit with the obstetrician, she discussed our results and said these exact words, “See, nothing to get all worked up about.” Easy for her to say now that the results had come in. If it was never a “big issue” why didn’t she just explain herself in the beginning? We were furious with her attitude, but me being the shy introvert that I am, said nothing. As she walks out the door, she pops her head back in and says, “Oh and good news. Your doctor’s back.” And good news it was. We never had to see Mean Doctor again.
I often think of all the cruel torture we went through because of Mean Doctor’s lack of sympathy and the office’s failure to notify us of our results. So many young mothers are new to all these pregnancy terms, and as doctors, it’s their job to support us. A doctor should be someone you trust with your life and the life of your baby. But when they fall short, women like me suffer. When we returned to our original obstetrician, she met us with open arms and looked after us way after my delivery. She was there for me when my son was in the NICU, and she was there for me when I developed postpartum depression. That is something I am eternally grateful for. So when choosing your doctor, choose carefully and find one who has a passionate heart for their profession. A good doctor means everything!