By Judy Baer Steeple Hill
Copyright © 2008 Judy Baer
All right reserved.
"Be careful, Molly. Dr. Reynolds's bite is worse than his bark."
I spun around to see my friend Lissy Franklin hurry past me pushing a med cart. "Tiptoe softly," Lissy mouthed before turning into one of the birthing rooms on the third floor of the Bradshaw Medical Center.
I took a deep breath and recalled all I'd heard about Dr. Reynolds in the few short weeks he's been at Bradshaw General. It isn't pretty, at least not from my professional perspective.
He's a great ob-gyn physician, no doubt about that. His reputation preceded him from his former position at a large hospital in California. He's only been practicing medicine in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul for three months and already women are booked weeks in advance to be his patients. I, however, hadn't had a client who was his patient until today.
He's cute, too. Gorgeous, actually, with dark hair, impossibly blue eyes and a trim physique that, it's rumored, comes from running and working out two hours a day. Where a doctor gets time like that, I don't know, but maybe it helps take the edge off his temper. It's his personality that gets low points from all the nurses. He demands perfection and settles for nothing less. Felicity, or Lissy as I usually call her, says he can make them cry with a look.
Maybe not all the rumors are true. Fortunately, at least one of my personal experienceswith him has belied that opinion.
"I'm so glad you agreed to come to this visit with me," new mother Tiffany Franks had told me several weeks ago as we sat together in the waiting room of her pediatrician's office. "I didn't want to go to the baby's first doctor visit alone. My husband said he couldn't take time away from work and no one else was available. I'm still so nervous with the baby." The baby in question was a solid sleepy lump in my lap, hardly a reason for Tiffany's anxiety.
A week or two of experience would resolve that. "The doctor will tell you little Max looks great and you will feel a hundred percent better in no time."
We were examining Max's chinsall four of themwhen a man strode into the office and up to the receptionist's desk. "Is Dr. Harley in?"
The receptionist looked up at him and her eyelashes began to flutter like hummingbird wings. "Why
"Dr. Harley," the insanely handsome Dr. Reynolds said. "Your boss?"
"Oh, yes." She blushed. "Do you have an appointment?"
"Do I look like I should?" he snapped impatiently as he opened his hands to show that there was no baby in them.
His legs, however, told a different story. A blond toddler with lemonade curls and sapphire-blue eyes had glommed onto his left leg. She held her teddy bear in one hand and clung to his calf with the other. On his right leg, a little boy proceeded to run a Matchbox car up and down as if his expensive trousers were a vertical racetrack. Two or three other children were creeping closer to get a good look at the man.
"I've never seen anything like it!" Tiffany whispered. "He's like the Pied Piper. The children don't seem to have any fear of him at all."
He appeared accustomed to being a human jungle gym.
"I'm Dr. Reynolds," he told the starstruck receptionist. "We'll be working closely since I deliver babies and he picks up where I leave off. I need to talk with him." His words were clipped.
"Of course. I'll just
" The woman's voice trailed off. She seemed to have lost track of her job description under his expectant and impatient gaze. "Now."
That woke her up. She jumped to her feet and trotted toward the examining rooms.
As she did so, Dr. Reynolds picked up the blond cherub. "Hi, baby girl. How are you?"
The child gurgled gleefully and patted his cheeks with her little palms. "Where's your mommy?"
A young woman in jeans stood up and came forward.
"She's beautiful," he said as he handed her the child.
The woman flushed with pleasure. Dr. Reynolds might have said more, but the little boy with the toy car held his arms out to be picked up.
"He's a kid magnet," Tiffany whispered. "They aren't the least bit afraid of approaching him even though he snapped at the receptionist. Remarkable."
I'd thought of the incident several times since. Dr. Reynolds has subsequently put a number of Bradshaw employees in their places for minor infractions and he has the personnel tiptoeing on eggshells. What did little kids know about him that the staff didn't?
As I pondered the question, a nurse's aide walked by. Her eyes were wide.
I caught her arm. "What's going on?"
"Dr. Reynolds, that's what. He just kicked everybody out of the birthing room because they were in the way. He said no one but the baby's father could stay. The family is up in arms, and he won't budge. He's stubborn, that one."
She looked at me appraisingly. "All I can say is that I'm glad I'm not you. When you come in with one of your clients, he's going to chew you up and spit you out."
That's not a rosy prospect. The kid thing at the pediatrician's office must have been an anomaly. Too bad.
What is a driven man like that going to do with me, an innocent doula, whose client unfortunately insists her baby be born at this hospital, with this attending physician? Bradford is a private hospital that hasn't experienced a lot of birthing coaches in the past, and from what I've heard of Dr. Reynolds, that pattern won't be changing anytime soon. I'm not too eager to be the bomb-sniffing dog who is first to go in and check for booby traps.
So far I've chalked his negativism toward my profession up to lack of sleep, pressure and the fact that he's not yet settled into the routine at the hospital, but those justifications are wearing thin.
I walked into my client's room. Brenda Halbert's face cleared and her shoulders relaxed, but she still kept her telephone to her ear. She patted her belly, which looked like a gigantic haystack hovering under the bedding.
"You have got to cover for me on the Smyth case. We were supposed to meet today at three, and there's no way I'll make it." She scowled at the response from the other end of the line. "I'm having a baby, not getting my hair done! It's not as if you can expect me to drop by the hospital and then hurry back to work. Besides, you'll do a great job. It's just a deposition, after all, but we can't take any chances
She gestured at me to sit down and mouthed, "I'll be off in a minute."
I see more and more women already in the hospital tying up loose ends so they can have a baby without worrying their cell phones might ring during delivery. Well, maybe it's not that bad, but it is getting ridiculous. More than once in my acquaintance with Brenda, I've feared she'd bring a briefcase to the delivery. Then I glanced around the room and spotted a suspicious looking attaché case in the corner. Oh, my.
"There you are, Molly Cassidy." She greeted me as if I were the one who'd been on the phone. "I don't want to do this without you, you know."
The room was sunny and welcoming. The necessary medical equipment for a healthy birth was still stashed away behind closed doors. The room looked more like a comfortable efficiency apartment than the delivery room it would become. Bradshaw is known for its upscale amenities. I vaguely wished my own house looked this good.
"No need to worry about that." I plumped the pillows behind her back and handed her fresh ice chips. I felt honored to be trusted by a woman who, in her ordinary, everyday life is a highly capable trial attorney. "I'm stuck to you like glue unless you tell me otherwise."
She smiled beatifically at me and leaned back against the pillows. That lasted for only a moment before she began chuffing and huffing like the Little Engine That Could.
"Another contraction?" I moved closer to put a comforting hand on her arm. "Focus, just focus."
She glared at the gigantic orange lollipop I'd taped to the wall on the other side of the room, concentrating so deeply on the brightly colored sucker that nothing else mattered but her breath and the baby preparing to be born.
I love my job. Being a professional labor assistant is the greatest occupation in the world. Better even than my former occupation as a preschool teacher, which was a pretty exciting and entertaining job. Talk about never knowing what will happen next! I always kept a change of clothes in my car while I was teaching because I never knew when I was going to be splatter painted, thrown up on or hugged repeatedly by little ones with sticky hands.
As a doula I provide emotional support, loving touch and comfort to a woman in childbirth. It is the best of both worlds. Not only do I get to soothe and cheer for the mom, I am present for the miracle of birth. I'm useful, too. Having a doula present at birth tends to result in shorter labors, fewer complications and less requests by the mother for pain medications.
That's why it puzzles me that Dr. Reynolds is rumored to be so against doulas and barely tolerates medical midwives. Gossip has it that he came to this post saying he wanted as few people as possible involved with his patients' births and has so far discouraged clients from hiring the likes of me. Most doctors don't pay much attention to who is there to support the mothers as long as they aren't causing trouble. Reynolds, however, appears ready to campaign actively against my profession.
It's no wonder I'm nervous. In such a state, Lissy's warning did not help one bit.
He can't do much about it if a mother requests a doula in her birth plan, but he certainly doesn't encourage anyone to do so. A birth plan is devised by a mom and her husband to let their preferences for their labor and delivery be known in order to make it the experience they want. It's not guaranteed to work out exactly as plannedbabies choose to come when and where they want and come in very small and very large sizes, both of which may change the birth plan in a heartbeat. Still, it allows the people supporting the parents to know their ideal and to strive for it.
It also makes the new parents feel heard. I insist on having scrambled eggs when I eat breakfast in a café, not over easy, not poached. If I'm that careful to express my needs about something as simple as eggs, surely I should get some input on one of the most momentous days of my life.
My own grandmother thinks it's ridiculous, but she's of the "just wake me up when it's over" school. To each her own.
His "bite is worse than his bark." That doesn't bode well for me or my dream of introducing an actual doula-and-parent-education program into Bradshaw General. Obviously his bark is plenty nasty unless one is under four years old. Then he's putty in your hands.
"Is Dr. Reynolds here?" Brenda wondered impatiently. "I thought he would have been in to check on me by now." Ever the professional, she had no doubt worked out a schedule of her own. I just hope she hasn't made any appointments for tomorrow.
"He's in the building."
"Don't you just love him?" she asked as another contraction subsided. "He is so adorable."
"Adorable?" I'd never heard him described like that. Abhor-able, maybe, or just plain horrible. Never adorable.
"Actually, I've never worked with him before. Bradshaw General hasn't seen as many doulas as some of the other hospitals." Although Bradshaw is one of the smaller private hospitals in the city, it is also one of the best. "Usually Dr. Reynolds doesn't recommend doulas to his patients."
Brenda waved a dismissive hand. "That's only because he's so protective of us. He says he doesn't want anyone around who might disrupt the labor and delivery. My friend Sheila had a baby here last month, and she couldn't say enough good things about him. He's a bit of a fanatic about it, but I told him that there'd be no labor and delivery at this hospital for me if I couldn't have you, so he gave in."
So that's how I'd gotten here. It wouldn't make me any more welcome in Dr. Reynolds's eyes, I'm afraid. I might as well add to my business card
Molly Cassidy, Certified Doula,
Nuisance, Troublemaker and Unwelcome Guest.
Excerpted from Oh, Baby! by Judy Baer Copyright © 2008 by Judy Baer. Excerpted by permission.
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