So you have thought of exactly 739 things to ask at your next antenatal appointment, you arrive, wait a lifetime and now its your moment; the doctor or midwife asks you if you have any questions and POOF! every thing that has been buzzing around in your mind for days has instantly vanished only to be recalled the second you buckle up your seat belt and start driving home!
Or maybe you did remember a question and you even listened to them give you an answer but once again, you start driving away and realise; hang on…what about this and what did that actually mean and what if such and such?????
Back to square one again. Aaaagggghhhh…its so annoying isn’t it!
Sometimes you worry that they don’t have enough time to answer all your questions or you don’t want to “hassle or annoy” them with your questions, maybe you think they are silly or unimportant. (STOP thinking that. This is your body, your baby and your birth experience, its important so hassle the heck out of everybody!)
In a moment I am going to tell you how to arm yourself for that ultimate baby brain conundrum, but before we get there you need to remember this all important trick…
The secret to getting helpful answers is asking direct purposeful questions.
For example, if you were in the supermarket and you were looking for a specific product. Asking “do you sell cleaning products?” will not actually get you the specific answer you are looking for, you will still have no idea if they sell the one you are wanting, where they are, or even if the person you asked knows about the brand you want.
You make the question direct – “how much is the Sadie 3 in 1 all purpose cleaner and exactly where will I find it in this store?” This demands a comprehensive answer. That is $4.70, in isle 5, top shelf, next to the cloths and gloves.
You now know the answers to your question but you also know that the person you are talking to has comprehensive knowledge of the products and the store, which makes you feel confident in the answer.
If the answer was a little hollow – for example, they just pointed and said isle 5. You would know immediately you were not being completely heard or answered and you go one step further; Can you take me to where they are located please?
When you are seeking information about protocols and processes from your place of birth, be sure to ask specific questions that require a whole explanation not just a yes or a no. Don’t accept half an answer either. Be unapologetically inquisitive.
If you need a helping hand on what questions to ask, check out my blog here on how to start writing a list of questions.
Here is a list of 5 things you need to do in order to walk away from your antenatal appointments feeling completely understood by your caregivers as well as understanding what your caregivers said.
1. Write down every question you think of in a designated antenatal book.
Trust me! Go on, go right now and buy a yourself a funky notepad and label it; ‘Questions I need answered before I give birth’, keep it on your bedside table with a pen|keep it on your desk at work|keep it on the dining table|anywhere that you will have it handy when a question strikes and very clearly write down what you want to know.
Now we don’t want you to forget to take this handy book with you so go one step further and pop a couple of reminders in your phone co-ordinated with your upcoming appointments. Make the first reminder the night before your appointment “put my book of questions inside my handbag” and the second reminder an hour before you know you will need to leave to get to your appointment “check my book of questions and a pen is in my handbag”. Just don’t forget your handbag.
2. Explain yourself completely.
There are lots of common questions that your caregiving staff hear, and it is understandable then, that they would be repeating a lot of answers each and every day. However, not every generalised answer is sufficient for every question. If you are feeling like there is something specific you are going to need help with, you are worried about, you are frightened of or you are confused about; it is important that you express that fully. Don’t just assume that your caregiver knows what it is you are wanting or needing to understand. Try using these four guiding questions to help you articulate what kind of answer you are looking for.
- What is it that you are feeling?
- Why do you feel that way?
- What is it that you need from your caregiving staff?
- How will they support you with this need?
3. Keep asking why until there is no more whys to be asked.
So many times I hear parents say, I asked the doctor….and they said…but I am still not sure about… So keep asking why until you completely understand. This is an important step in you articulating your questions and your caregivers articulating their answers and remaining accountable for the information and options you receive. For example:
- Why is a decision or suggestion is being made?
- Why do they choose to do things that way?
- Why do they believe that is the best decision?
- Why are they saying yes or no?
- What research is their suggestion based on?
- What if you don’t agree with their suggestion/direction?
- Why is that relevant to you?
One of the healthiest things you can do for yourself in pregnancy is understand your own mindset. In this blog, I talk about the impact of understanding your own decisions by asking for relevant information.
4. Write down the answers as you are given them.
In your ‘Questions I need answered before I give birth’ notebook, write the answers next to your question as you ask them. This not only helps you, it keeps both you and the caregiver accountable for understanding the information as it is explained. Ask them to slow down as you write so that you can record the answer comprehensively. It’s also extremely helpful for when you get home and you are trying to remember all the information you were given, especially if you are passing that info on to your partner or other birth supporters. It keeps everyone on the same page and is something for you to go back to when working out your birth preferences.
5. Get to know your caregivers.
I think it is so important to understand that whether someone works in a public or private caregiving setting, they have teachings and experiences that impact them and the way they offer care. This includes, obstetricians, midwives, nurses, doulas, lactation consultants, pretty much every other kind of practitioner, friends and family and even your partner.
Get to know your caregiver by asking them about their experiences, their education and their workload.
Sometimes doctors or midwives get a reputation for constantly pushing a particular birth choice and there is usually a reason why. For example, an obstetrician that has witnessed a still birth after a long natural labour may be more inclined to constantly suggest what they now feel is a safer medically controlled setting. A midwife that has experienced a traumatic assisted delivery may be adamant about leaving a birthing woman alone and quite discouraging of interventions or medical relief. Neither of these choices as a stand alone are wrong and its completely fair that they have those feelings based on those experiences, but if they don’t align with your particular needs or desires, it’s also ok for you to seek out another option.
Remember, its always ok to change providers, just be sure to know why you are changing so that you can find a provider that can support what you are hoping for. It’s also important to keep in mind that midwives and doctors have hospital guidelines and directives that may over-rule their own personal preference. Some hospital policies are in the best interest of the mother and baby and sometimes they are in the best interest of their insurance policy or hospital staffing logistics. These are again, more reasons to ask all the whys in your antenatal appointments, as you may discover the hospital or your private midwife policies do not line up with your personal beliefs and this may cause you to change providers also. Birth is not a one size fits all experience and we are fortunate to live in a place where multiple options are available so take advantage of those choices.
If you have more questions you want answered, reach out and let me know what you need support with and I will be more than happy to help you.