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  • You can’t have natural childbirth. Said the doc the first day I went in to be examined.

    She had a midwife and several doctors on staff and what in the 1982 passed for a birthing center attached to the building. That’s why I was there. That and that she was a woman doctor from a teaching hospital now in private practice. This was her first year working with patients rather than students.

    You require a cesarean. She said.

    I looked down at her through knees spread to allow her to poke around inside me and said: what?

    You’re too small. She pronounced with a snap of her gloves. Said gloves landed in the trash.

    You can’t deliver a normal sized baby. Not through that.

    What?

    What I said. She said.

    I threw off the silly paper ‘sheet’ and proceeded to dress. Her assistant raised an eyebrow.

    Look, I said firmly while tugging on jeans, t-shirt and sandals, no cesarean, no drugs. I can do it.

    It’s a risk to you and the baby. She said. As your doctor, I won’t approve it.

    Well then, you aren’t my doctor. I replied.

    I was 24, married two years and feeling a little old to be having my first baby. Old for my family at least, where there was a long line of 18 year old first baby mothers.

    She sighed heavily and looked up from making notes on my chart.

    How much did you weigh when you were born? She asked.

    I don’t know… something around 7 pounds I think.

    She nodded. Ok, we can keep an eye on you. If the baby is more than 7 pounds, number one, you will not be considered for the birthing center. Number two, a cesarean must at least be an option.

    I shook my head. No cesarean option. I won’t do it. If it’s on the table, it makes it easier to just fall back on.

    We soft glared at each other across the small exam room. Sizing each other up. She was probably 35. A bit of a hard edge. I was not the compliant patient of study books. In my opinion it was my body and she was a subcontractor hired to help me deliver a baby and to consult. My body – belonged to me. I was not leaving my brain outside the door and transferring ownership rights to my body simply by showing up in her office.

    She set the clipboard down on the counter. None too gently. Her assistant distanced herself.

    She sighed. Look, she said, I won’t have you die over delivering a baby. Understand?

    Fine. I said sweeping my purse up off the floor. Fine. No dying, no cesarean.

    We’ll see. She said as I left the exam room.

    Ten months later, we sat together in that same exam room.

    One more week, she said, and if you’re still pregnant, we’re going to take the baby.

    It was August.

    I was huge.

    The baby was late.

    It was hot.

    I was tired.

    But not giving up.

    That won’t be necessary. I said as I struggled to stand. The baby will be born before then.

    At home later, I had talk with that baby. I told him/her/it that it was time to be born. Period. No more messing around.

    Two days later. It was time.

    My doctor was away. A stranger, a man I had barely noticed in the doc’s office,arrived.

    As they wheeled me into delivery, the attendant nurse swiped my arm with an alcohol pad.

    What are you doing? I demanded through a pain haze. This is a natural delivery, no drugs. I said.

    Doctor ordered a hep-lock. Nurse said. It’s her standard procedure. Every one of her deliveries gets one. Just in case we need to administer something.

    I jerked my arm away. No.

    The contractions were excruciating.

    The nurse looked at me funny. It’s for your own good. Should we have an emergency, should your veins collapse.

    No. I said. I’m not having that in my arm.

    There had not ever been a discussion of a hep-lock prior to that moment. I was infuriated that she had kept that from me and tried, it seemed, to sneak it in at the last moment. Even though she wasn’t there.

    I prevailed. Maybe foolishly. But I had my dander up. That doc was not going to push me around. No sir.

    Here, said the Nurse, sign this then.

    I could barely see, the pain was so intense.

    What is it? I whispered.

    Consent for circumcision should it be a boy. She said.

    Are you crazy? No I will not sign that.

    I shoved the paper back at her and gave in to a contraction.

    She shoved it back at me. Then, she said, write no across the paper and sign that.

    I took the pen in a shaky hand and did as she asked. The pen in my hand scrawled and skip jumped across the page. I simply couldn’t write. But made sure that the word no was clear.

    Little Erik was born. Naturally. Though at almost nine pounds he wasn’t so little and there was a brief moment there when I regretted not being able to have pain killers. And yet, I was glad. I had it in my head that the baby didn't need to be subjected to pain killers either.

    Several hours later, a nurse walked in to my room with a clipboard. She closed the door behind her.

    I hear you’ll be checking out after 24 hours. Nurse said.

    Yes. Wish it could be sooner.

    Yes. Said Nurse. We noticed that you didn’t sign the consent form and I thought I’d bring it by for you.

    Consent form?

    For circumcision.

    He won’t be circumcised. I said.

    Nurse then went into a litany of reasons why he should be circumcised: his partners would be more likely to have cervical cancer, it’s cleaner, it’s common practice, he won’t feel a thing.

    Who was this person? Obviously sent in to get a profit margin item before I checked out.

    No. I said. I don’t want that. And you need to leave.

    Nurse noticed the suffused anger on my face and slowly walked toward the closed door. She turned.

    He doesn’t need it you know. She said.

    That was IT. I raised up on that bed and shouted at her: Really? He doesn’t need it? He was born with it. Tell you what – let’s take out his appendix and his tonsils while we’re at it why don’t we? He doesn’t need those either. GET OUT.

    Meanwhile Nurse frantically scrapped at the door knob trying to GET OUT. Her face white, her eyes wide.

    If I had only felt better, I would have personally escorted her into the hallway… on another floor.

    A month later, when I took Erik for his first doc visit, I was informed that my woman doc had quit and gone back into teaching.
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