Don't Look for Tacos at Olive Garden: Right Fit for Parents, Providers, Place

A mom-to-be (let’s call her Theresa) recently asked me what she should look for as she began her search for the people and places that could best support her in birthing her first baby. She would be moving mid-pregnancy and looking for this fit in a new town where she knew no one.

Despite the daunting circumstances, the question is quite simple. However, as many times as I have been asked this same question, I always have to think it through. Yet the answer is pretty much the same.

First, this business of “right” people and place will never one-size-fits-all. Some mothers would never go near a water-birthing tub, while others are ready to plunge in the second the water’s drawn. Some will be sipping herbal tea all the way through a home birth while others arrive at the hospital saying, “Where’s my epidural?”

“Think about what’s important for you at a birth,” I started my answer. “As you talk to doctors or midwives, take into account the manner of their answers as well as the content.” If the answer is “yes” to a water birth, for example, it could be a warm, enthusiastic “yes,” or a reluctant “I suppose so…” and a list of all the reasons why they’d rather not.

If most of your wishes are greeted with a warm “yes,” that is probably a good fit, I told Theresa. If not, I added, “getting what you want in that setting may be as pointless as trying to order tacos at Olive Garden.” In other wards, no matter how sweetly or adamantly you ask, the tacos won’t appear.

Also, listen on the inside to how you feel when talking to them. How do they treat you? Even if one of your requests is given a firm “no,” how is that given? Does the doctor/midwife/administrator of the hospital/birth center give you a respectful explanation regarding the reasoning behind the “no”? Do they treat you like an adult?

Or, as I said to Theresa, when they’re talking to you, do you see the words “silence, whippersnapper!” rolling across the bottom of the computer screen of your brain? (In “The Wizard of Oz,” that’s what the Wizard shouts at Dorothy to put her in her place. Nobody should be putting you in your place.)

The bottom line: there is no one team of professionals or place that is perfect for all women giving birth. But every woman, at these important times in her life, should be treated with respect. At the point where you’re putting together your team, a winning combination will have the following qualities:

  • serious attention to your questions,

  • evidence-based answers with substance,

  • a good feeling on the inside about how you are treated — no talking down, no eyerolls.

When you feel you are “there,” enjoy the quiet confidence that comes from a good decision. More work lies ahead, but this stage is done, and done well.

Paula Moyer