Q and A: Ob-Gyn Experiences Pregnancy from Other Side

By Amy Bertrand, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Dr. Elisabeth Huelskoetter Klug knows a thing or two about babies. After all, as an obstetrician-gynecologist, she's delivered hundreds of them and counseled hundreds of women through pregnancy. But when she became pregnant about a year ago, she was able to see the experience from the other side. She talked to us about the differences of guiding pregnant women and actually becoming a first-time mom.

Question: How long were you an ob-gyn before you got pregnant?

Answer: I completed my residency three years before I became pregnant.

Q: When you found out you were pregnant, what was the one thing you were most curious about?

A: When I found out that I was pregnant with our first child, I was excited to finally know what fetal movement felt like. Patients describe the movement in so many different ways, from flutters and rolling to kicking and punching. I was anxious to get to experience these feelings for myself.

While it may sound surprising, I was also excited to experience contractions. I had spent several years describing labor to patients based on what I learned in my training. I was eager to experience it firsthand and really know what it felt like.

Q: So how would you describe fetal movement and contractions?

A: When I first felt the baby move, it felt like a little ball bouncing around. Later in pregnancy, it was a lot of rolling and squirming with occasional kicks and punches. When I was in early labor, the contractions started in my back and wrapped around to my stomach. This was different than the Braxton-Hicks contractions I had been having, which were only in my stomach. They felt like bad cramps and were uncomfortable but tolerable. As labor progressed, they became much more intense, and I could feel a spasm in by back followed by a strong tightening of my stomach. I knew they were the real thing when they took my breath away.

Q: What about pregnancy surprised you?

A: I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed being pregnant. Like so many women, I was ecstatic to be pregnant. However, I was apprehensive about the changes my body was going to go through. Before I was pregnant, I exercised daily and was afraid I would have to give this up. Luckily, I was able to continue my routine with some minor adjustments along the way, which I think helped me to feel good both physically and emotionally during my pregnancy.

Q: What was your delivery like?

A: I was fortunate to have a wonderful delivery. My husband and I had talked beforehand about what we would like in a perfect labor experience, and we agreed that all we wished for was a healthy, happy baby. Although we hoped for a vaginal delivery, we would have been fine with a Caesarean section, as long as we were all healthy. My contractions started at home in the middle of the night on a Sunday, and I labored throughout the day Monday. We finally went to the hospital about 24 hours after contractions started, which was when I felt like I was in a good labor pattern. Things progressed fairly quickly, and our daughter was born about six hours after arriving at the hospital. We wanted to keep things simple and private, so only Joe and I, along with the hospital staff, were in the delivery room. Our parents were nearby in the waiting room. It really was the perfect delivery experience for us.

Q: What about childbirth surprised you?

A: I was surprised by how much work it really is. They don't call it labor for nothing! I had a great epidural, so I was able to feel the need to push while still being pain-free. Luckily, I didn't have to push for that long; I know many first-time moms can push up to three hours. Nonetheless, it was still tiring and exhausting, especially after being awake for almost 30 hours.

Q: What's life like with the baby at home? Are you back at work?

A: Things at home are amazing. We feel so blessed to have a wonderful, healthy daughter. She's truly the love of our lives.

Becoming a parent is the most challenging thing I've ever experienced but also the most rewarding. She's starting to interact with us more. We spend hours just watching her babble and smile. Suddenly, the littlest things are the most important.

I started back to work two weeks ago after being off for 12 weeks. The transition back has been challenging at times, but I love what I do, so that has made it a little easier. Our daughter spends the day with her grandparents, so I know that she's in good hands. I actually think that working allows me to be a better mother, as it provides me with a routine and some balance in my daily life.

Q: Now that you've experienced pregnancy and childbirth, will this affect the way you treat your patients?

A: Absolutely. I can now relate to my patients on a more personal level. I can better understand their joys and sorrows, their excitements and fears. I never really knew what fetal movement or contractions felt like, so it was fascinating to have experienced those things. More important, though, I didn't know the indescribable feeling of being a mother ... until now.

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