Having a Baby in San Francisco
We Had A Baby in San Francisco!
In January of 2012 my wife Tina found out she was pregnant. Once the initial glow of excitement faded a bit, the sheer number of questions this created for us made the prospect of having a baby in San Francisco a daunting and anxiety-filled experience. Our anxiety prompted us to begin figuring out the myriad details regarding our medical insurance, our search for an OB/GYN, and which hospital Tina should give birth in.
Discovering the Basics
We took birth classes in the Inner Mission at Natural Resources and in North Beach at Carmel Blue, which were very helpful in getting us to decide on a birth plan. Tina decided she wanted to have a natural birth, which to us meant she did not want to have an epidural or a caesarean section, but she did want to deliver in a hospital. Interestingly, a nurse we met at some point during Tina’s pregnancy, sounding a bit annoyed, told us that all births are natural. I guess there is truth in that; but it misses the point that, from my perspective, the term “natural birth” is trying to make. Tina and I knew very little at the start, having never gone through the experience of birthing a child; but we did know we didn’t want to be maneuvered into, for instance, a cesarean for the simple reason that someone had a busy schedule. With lack of information comes distrust, I suppose. We respected our OB/GYN, Dr. Pearl Yee, who had been suggested by Tina’s general practitioner, but we didn’t know her very well except for the short appointments with her during the pregnancy. It is only at the end of this experience that we understand what an exceptional and caring doctor Dr. Yee is. We also came to wonder how she ever sleeps, as she is on call day and night.
Who’s Your Medical Insurance Provider?
My wife runs the San Francisco office of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and she and I are truly grateful to have medical insurance provided by her employer. The MDA’s provider is Cigna. This meant that our hospital would be CPMC (California Pacific Medical Center) in the Presidio Heights District of San Francisco. (This was the most likely venue in any case, since CPMC delivers about 50% of the births in San Francisco each year.) CPMC has 18 delivery rooms, most of which are completely private. I was told that when the hospital is full it can be difficult to get a private room; in those instances patients use rooms that are private but share a bathroom. We were lucky and were given a private room with a tub, which was a convenience Tina really wanted.
Thank Goodness For Nurses
All the nurses we met at CPMC went out of their way to make Tina comfortable, and showed a depth of sympathy that was really quite extraordinary. In the delivery room, our nurse, Sarah, took care of everything. Tina was made as comfortable as possible and was connected to a machine that tracked our baby’s heartbeat. Things seemed quite normal at first, but then our baby’s heart began to inexplicably decelerate. Sarah leapt into action, turning Tina from side to side on the delivery bed until the baby’s heartbeat shot back up to normal. Although we didn’t know this for sure until after our baby was born, it turned out, as Sarah had correctly diagnosed, that his umbilical cord had been wrapped around him. Every time Tina had a contraction, the pressure would squeeze off the flow of oxygen and his heart would slow down precipitously. Sarah understood we did not want Tina to have a caesarean and worked to honor our wishes. She did not try to frighten us into making decisions we would later regret. Even though we had planned to have a “natural birth,” our primary goal was of course to have a healthy mother and child at the end of the experience. Sarah, with the help of Dr. Yee, helped us explore options up to the point at which we could all agree our plan needed to be changed. The choice was organic, and not coercive in any way, which only heightened my respect for the people at CPMC and how well they do their jobs. It occurred to me that these doctors and nurses deliver thousands of babies a year, and it must be somewhat aggravating to deal with prospective parents who have spent a few hours googling birth information and yet want to discuss the options as if both sides were equally knowledgeable. Regardless, neither Sarah nor Dr. Yee made us feel ignorant or naive; instead they showed us step by step what decisions were available to us, and explained the ramifications.
A Baby Boy Is Born
On September 22, 2012 at 8:01 a.m., after 27 hours of labor, Tina gave birth to our son, Jasper, making for two very happy parents. After spending a few hours in recovery, Tina, Jasper and I moved to a very nice, bright room on the fourth floor overlooking Jordan Park/Laurel Heights. During the four days we spent in our room, a steady stream of nurses helped Tina recover. Each nurse was extremely helpful, answering our endless questions as we realized we would soon be sent on our merry way to care for Jasper on our own.
Tina, and I are very happy with our experience of having a baby in San Francisco—and Jasper seems to be too. We send a heartfelt thank-you to all the nurses and doctors (Sarah, Joyce, Caroline, Marina, Doris, Sabrina, Susan, and plenty of others) at CPMC, and, of course, to our OB/GYN Dr. Pearl Yee, who really went the extra mile to make our experience one we will treasure for the rest of our lives.