Story No. 507: Sharon from New York

In 1982, I was 32 weeks pregnant with my second child, after one C-section. The estimated fetal weight was high—four pounds, eight ounces. My gynecologist referred me to the high-risk pregnancy outpatient clinic at the hospital. I was seen by the head of OB/GYN, a man with a sterling reputation. He examined me and casually told me that I would “have this one vaginally.” I stared at him.

“Oh, yes,” he said. “Come in tomorrow for a gestational diabetes test, and see me in two weeks.” I did not have gestational diabetes.

At Week 34, though, my blood pressure was 145/100. “Absolute bed rest,” he said. “And check your blood pressure at least twice a day, morning and evening.”

Week 36. I’d been to OB/GYN with high blood pressure three times that fortnight. Estimated fetal weight: seven pounds, 12 ounces. During the visit, I suddenly had dreadful back pain. He had me rest for an hour. It went away. “False labor,” he smiled. “If it happens again, rest for an hour; if it doesn’t go away, come in. See me in two weeks. You’ll have this one vaginally yet.”

“Even if he has ten MDs,” my friend said that evening, “he has no clue. Get another doctor.” I tried; he refused to release me; I didn’t know the appeal procedure.

Week 38: more of the same. Week 40: ditto. I’d come to OB/GYN 13 times in four weeks for blood pressure and/or contractions. Leaving the Week 40 appointment (estimated fetal weight: eight pounts, ten ounces), I asked, “If I don’t go into labor…?” “See me in two weeks. If you haven’t… we’ll see.”

The day before my Week 42 appointment (!), I started labor. At OB/GYN, they said this labor was real. I labored for 10 hours with no dilation, until my doctor went home. Almost immediately, his deputy sent me for a C-section. My son was born nine pounds, three ounces, and had an airway blockage.

My friend confirmed he might have died before my doctor agreed to operate. A month later, she reviewed my files. Without my knowledge, I’d been in a study. My doctor’s hypothesis was that most women after one C-section could give birth vaginally. He’d ignored multiple warning signs about my specific situation and needs for the sake of proving himself right. My story ended happily—my son is now an MD himself. But there are no guarantees.

Know your rights. Question authority.