This is a Maternity Monday post by guest blogger Jess Levey. This series will appear every Monday on Beccarama.
Soon after the excitement about my pregnancy began to set in, the practicality of medical care became a reality. Would my meager insurance plan cover the midwife that I wanted? In the beginning I mostly spoke on the phone with my gynocologist who I have been seeing since I was 16 years old. She no longer delivers babies, nor does she take insurance, but she was happy to chat with me about my options, ease my anxiety about miscarrying, recommend some midwives, and call in a prescription for my first sonogram. I felt in control.
Then, I started calling around to different midwives. I knew all along that I wanted to deliver at the local hospital where I was born, where my dad has worked as a doctor for over 30 years, and which happens to be a 10 minute walk from my house. It’s not the most popular hospital in Brooklyn, and most women seeking a birthing center experience travel into Manhattan to Roosevelt Hospital. That’s a 45 minute car ride, or more if there is traffic. But after speaking to one of the local midwives, she assured me that being at my local hospital feels just like a birthing center, and it’s even better since it is much quieter than Roosevelt. Plus, they have Jacuzzis in the room, (which sounds oh-so glamorous even though I have yet to meet anyone who has actually used the tubs during labor.)
So, I knew what I wanted, that was a very important first step, now the real work would begin. I spoke to a few midwives and decided on a woman named Chris. Not only does she have the same name as one of my all time best friends, but she also was a midwife at Roosevelt for many years before deciding to move to Brooklyn, so I was confident that she had loads of experience. Plus, I just liked how she sounded on the phone, she was kind, down to earth, smart, and seemed to get my humorous neurosis. Now, the main issue here is that not one of the midwives at this hospital take insurance. I called my insurance company, and after being told that it is VERY rare to get what they call an “in network exception,” I could try, and see what happened.
So, that’s what I did. The first time I tried for the exception was by phone, explaining why I wanted Chris as my midwife and why I wanted and needed to deliver at my local hospital. I am due in January, and for all they know NYC may close their roads due to a snow storm, and then how on earth would I get to a different hospital? A few days later I was told that I was denied. But! I could appeal! This would mean writing a letter to the powers-that-shouldn’t-be and explaining my case once again, this time on paper. A week or so later, I got a call that once again I was denied. But! I could appeal AGAIN! So, that’s what I did. At this point, I was pissed. That feeling of control was dissipating, and my anger towards nasty American Corporations was stirring once again. I don’t take NO very lightly, never have. At some point I started spotting, and felt so frustrated that I couldn’t just go and see someone to make sure the baby was OK. I had to wait for THEIR approval to get the care that I needed.
At some point during my frustration I called my insurance company to tell them that they really needed to speed this along since at this point they were threatening the health of the pregnancy. I happened to speak to a woman who has children, who actually listened to me, and who responded with compassion. She told me there was really nothing she could do since I am not allowed to speak with anyone in the appeals department, but she could at least write a note to speed things along. The next day I received a voice mail message from her telling me that she was thinking about my situation all night and was going to try her hardest to do what ever it was she could do to get this approved. Wouldn’t you know, around a week later, they approved my midwife, Chris! I wanted to send this woman flowers and chocolates, but of course when I called back no one could tell me who she was. It’s confidential I guess, which makes sense considering all the hate mail they must receive.
I remember calling my dad during all of this stress and being a typical MD, he said “you know, it’s not the worst thing if you just have a doctor.” But I feel like birthing is different for a midwife. Each patient is special. Every appointment is at least an hour, and when I was having some pains the other day, I could text my midwife and ask if I could come in and hear the heartbeat, and she replied right away with “sure, anytime.” About 4 million American women may give birth every year, but it’s still pretty miraculous, and I want someone helping me through this process who understands how unique this is for me and my husband, and who doesn’t see it as just another routine procedure. I don’t believe that everyone who chooses a doctor to deliver their baby is going to have a bad experience, but I for one did not want a doctor who I never met before come into my room during the most intimate and trying experience of my life and tell me what to do, as can happen when you’re at a mulit-doctor ob/gyn practice.
I am curious how you chose your doctor or midwife, and what was important to you in making your decision?