great big cliche girl

Last night after work I went to a guided tour of the birth center at St Luke’s. I got there late and only just managed to squeeze into the lift with the two dozen other pregnant women. Then as we were walking around I almost fainted. My thyroid meds ran out three days ago and it has taken me most of the last two weeks to get it through the Walgreens pharmacist’s head that YES, I CHANGED PROVIDERS. So between the heat and the huge belly and the fatigue and achiness of low thyroxine levels, I had to sit quietly for a minute and be the great big cliche pregnant woman until my ears stopped roaring and my peripheral vision came back.

On the whole, though, the provider-changing experience has been a large and brightly coloured plus. I got wonderful care at Cal Pacific, where I had Claire to much fanfare: they called me the hippy mama because I was the only one of 29 women who gave birth there that night who didn’t opt for an epidural (I begged for one at 10cm, but by then it’s too late!) I got even better care at UCSF, where a twinkly-eyed elderly Australian man diagnosed my hypothyroidism, probably saved Julia’s life by doing so, then brushed away all efforts at heartfelt thanks.

(“Do you miss Australia?” I asked him.

“No,” he said, “do you?”

“No.” And we both laughed.)

But I am overjoyed to be at St Luke’s. My midwives are legends in their field; the birth center is almost equally renowned. It’s tiny, and chances are I will be one of only two or three women there when Julia is born. The c-section and episiotomy rates are among the lowest in the city. The whole experience of being monitored for gastroenteritis was remarkable for all the unpleasant things that might have happened but did not: a six-hour wait in the ER at SF General; a fruitless battle with insurance. And St Luke’s is my neighbourhood hospital. You can see it from my bedroom window. I walk past it on my way to work.

On the tour I started chatting with a first-time mom who is tossing up between Cal Pacific and St Luke’s. Once other moms overheard that I’d already had one kid, they surrounded me and started peppering me with questions. Did I have a natural birth? Who was my doula? What’s it, y’know, like? I kept wanting to say “I’ve only had one!” but of course one is infinitely more than none.

What I did try to say is how lucky we are here in San Francisco. You can have your silver-spoon birth at Cal, your birth with a view at UCSF, your midwife-attended birth at SF General or St Luke’s, or a home birth. They’re all excellent options. In every case you’re likely to have a healthy mom and a live baby, which is all that really matters when you get down to it.

All women everywhere should have so many choices.

Oh, and I picked up the thyroid meds on the way home. Those little pills work so fast, I’m already back up to 90% of normal speed.

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