Receiving medical care has never been easy for me. I remember with great anger going to the Dupont Institute outside of Philadelphia for care for scoliosis and having to wait hours to be seen by doctors, though we would watch white family after white family go in for examination. Their appointments were honored. Ours rarely were. The doctors were always trying to push extreme measures, surgeries, on me because while I had no back pain, my scoliosis was severe. I resisted, perhaps mostly out of anger for being ignored, though that resistance has served me over the years.
And in this fertility process, I have shed more tears on the phone with health care providers (because of mistreatment, not being listened to, the system itself being incredibly murky and unclear); shed tears in doctor’s offices because I was being pushed into procedures (one would have cost me up to $9000 only to find out through getting a second opinion that it was unnecessary); had more appointments rescheduled without notice or waited in more waiting rooms … well, than anyone should have to suffer. My partner and I ended up going to Spring Fertility in San Francisco, which, though expensive, gave me a quality of care that I have only experienced in Germany previously, a place where I never felt that I had to fight for my own humanity. Perhaps that is naive and only because my German is absolutely paltry, but I have found in traveling that when I have needed medical care overseas, I have been treated well. At Spring, I rarely waited more than 15 minutes for an appointment, and oftentimes, if I was early, they were, too. They had great coffee and tea, remembered my name, and always answered questions with smiles and care. When our embryo was transferred, the woman who carried our future child to us, pointed to the screen so that we could see it placed and held her hands in prayer for us. They even sent us flowers during the two week wait before we learned we were pregnant.
At Spring, we went for follow-up ultrasounds at 7 and 9 weeks respectively, but after that we had to transfer to regular maternity care, which led us to have to make a choice: should we go with the big system insurance and care that I have had for 6 years or so; should we go with a provider that we would choose through a PPO option (still located in a hospital); or go with an alternative like a maternity center? I looked into and I’m exploring all three.
I immediately favored maternity centers. They are smaller, more personalized, women-centered and women-run, and have lower rates of episiotomies and C-sections. I’d read the articles like Childbirth is killing black women in the US, and here’s why and The quiet crisis among African Americans: Pregnancy and childbirth are killing women at inexplicable rates among other articles. There have been many in the last few months. Considering my own medical struggles and that of my mother who also almost died in childbirth with me, I don’t want to take any chances. After one visit to the Pacific Family Maternity Center, I decided that we should center our care there while also developing relationships at Kaiser (big system) and Alta Bates through our Cigna insurance (also big system, but with PPO choices).
It’s week 12 now, and I’ve gone to one appointment at PFMC and been so impressed by their focus on honoring the choices of the family and the detail of their care. I have an appointment with my Kaiser OBGYN in a few days and I have to say that I’m really impressed there, too. They are trying out having more midwife and centering care … but it seems like this is a recent development at Kaiser Oakland. I’m going to privilege those that are committed to that approach. In the next few weeks, we will tour Kaiser Oakland and Alta Bates labor and delivery centers as a backup; in about 25% of cases at PFMC a transfer to a local hospital is required, so we are covering our bases. That said, I’m feeling good about these multiple paths; I like to have options and be in control of those options. That’s what I feel like I’m getting now.
There’s nothing worse, and perhaps nothing scarier for me, than losing control over your body and also losing control over the choices around that body. Our child may not have much of a college fund after this year, but he will have someone who fought for her own body and his.