I was anxious about meeting the obgyn last month. You go in to meet somebody like that, and you start thinking about the horror stories women tell. Like Perfect Girlfriend, who was forced against her will to lie on her back for labour despite the fact that she found it excruciating. Or my mother, who insists that she was given an epidural against her will and hated it.

What to Expect suggests that breastfeeding works best when you are allowed to do it immediately after birth, and that you should ask your obstetrician about whether this particular hospital will even allow such a thing. It warns that hospitals will sometimes give babies bottle sugar water in the nursery, to make the baby stop crying, which will both sabotage the baby’s latch and reduce the baby’s desire to suck at all, thus diminishing your milk supply. It recommends putting a sign on the bassinet warning people not to give your baby a bottle ever. It tells you that some hospitals allow your baby to stay with you through the night, as though access to your baby was a privilege and not a right.

Naomi Wolf’s (Misconceptions) tells horror stories of routine episiotomies that can make tearing even worse, and of doctors preventing the labouring mother from moving around and finding a more comfortable position. It discusses the high c-section rate and why many c-sections are so unnecessary. It warns you that the stressful atmosphere can halt your labour, and the doctor will give you pitocin just to hurry you up, resulting in pain so excrutiating that you practically beg for an epidural. She talks about them pushing the drugs on you, because US hospitals try to keep a quota of an 80% epidural rate just to keep up income. Of course, these are American, for-profit hospitals, but still… how many Canadian women do we know who have chosen a midwife for fear of just this kind of thing happening to her? My friend’s story, my mother’s story… those are Canadian hospitals. So I can’t dismiss my fears with mere patriotism.

All of these fears and more went through my mind on our way to that first obgyn appointment. Would they treat me like meat? Would they pooh-pooh my crunchy ideas of immediate breastfeeding? Would they force me to lie on my back?

I found them caring and concerned, and because they couldn’t even feel a heartbeat I felt it was premature to start berating them with questions about episiotomies. But I still felt reassured.

Going through the massive pile of pamphlets and leaflets that they loaded us up with, I feel my concerns draining away. This hospital tells you flat out that they don’t approve of nurseries, and your baby will room-in whether you like it or not. Not only are there five different pieces of paper urging you to breastfeed, but if you DO choose to formula feed or even just mix-feed (like allow the hospital to give your baby the occasional bottle between times), they make you sign a paper which essentially says;

“I choose not to exclusively breastfeed even though I have read the literature which clearly informs me that baby formula is pure poison that will result in my baby being fat, stupid, and exposed to the risk of bacterial infections. I am aware that this makes me a bad mother and that by choosing this option my doctor reserves the right to shoot me in the knee caps (sign here)____________”

They also tell you that they encourage you to try breastfeeding as soon after birth as possible, and their written description of their labour practices certainly doesn’t sound like Naomi Wolf’s version of things.

I’ll be allowed to move around, it says, and I can take a warm shower or bath if I want to.  They offer a variety of pain relief options besides epidural. They’ll give my baby to me, instead of whisking it away. Maybe it’s all lies, and I still have to tell them that I do NOT want an episiotomy. But I am soothed.

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