Healthy Women Make Healthy Communities
“Healthy Women Make Healthy Communities”. This is the belief and driving force behind what Dr. Stacey Godley considers her life’s purpose. She is an OBGYN for Baylor College of Medicine at the Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women in Houston, TX. I’ve known Stacey since my freshman year at Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was then and still is a force, a woman you admire, but humble and down to earth at the same time. Plus we had a lot of good times that will never be written about lol. On a more serious note, I wanted to have some candid discussions about women’s maternal health with different types of women from various perspectives. I knew I wanted to speak with at a minimum doctors, midwives and doulas. The first name that came to mind was Stacey, now referred to as Dr. Godley. Read our interview below as I pick her brain about pregnancy, birth, obstetrics, marriage and motherhood. DouLaSoul: How long have you been practicing medicine?Dr. Stacey Godley: Technically, I’ve been practicing since 2008 when I finished medical school at the Medical College of Wisconsin. I took some time off to have my son and finished my residency in 2012 at Auora Sinai Medical Center. DouLaSoul: What made you decide to go into obstetrics? Dr. Stacey Godley: Initially I wanted to be a pediatrician. One of Milwaukee’s (where she was born and raised) first black pediatricians was actually my mentor and so she sparked an interest in the field for me. She was my role model and so I wanted to become a pediatrician like her. However, going through the rotations in medical school altered what I thought was a clear course. When I started the labor and delivery rotations, I felt something special inside. I felt privileged to witness birth. DouLaSoul: Wow, I agree 100%. That’s exactly how I felt as a doula witnessing birth. And I think there’s a lesson in your medical school experience: "We must remain open, not be so stringent because the best opportunities are not always planned". Dr. Stacey Godley: Yes, you have to be open. DouLaSoul: So besides being able to witness such a spiritual event as a new born baby’s transition into the world, what would you say is the most rewarding part of your job? Dr. Stacey Godley: Simply being able to take care of women. DouLaSoul: And that’s simply enough. So It seems like more and more women are waiting to start a family for various reasons. Do you think it’s a healthy, wise decision to wait? Dr. Stacey Godley: It’s a fact that as women age, their pregnancies and deliveries become higher risk. Patients require more time with their doctors to address those higher needs. At The Texas Children’s Center for Children and Women, I enjoy working with higher risk patients, I welcome them. If you (as a patient) aren’t getting the time you desire and need then transfer to a high risk doctor. Unfortunately, many physicians have internal and external demands beyond their control and they have daily quotas to meet. Productivity is the dark cloud that hangs over all of us. Yet, like I said, I enjoy taking care of high risk patients. My average appointment is scheduled for 20 minutes and we schedule high risk patients for 45 minutes. I encourage any woman that is considering having a baby later in life to seek out medical centers with an experienced staff. That may mean you decide not to go with the trendiest and newest medical centers, but ultimately you want to receive the best care to meet your needs. DouLaSoul: A lot of women are waiting longer to start a family due to their career goals, which I’m sure you can understand since you started a family in the throes of medical school. How were you able to have a fulfilling career and start your family. Dr. Stacey Godley: You don’t have to sacrifice your passion for your family. I changed my mind late in the game, it was tough, but I was able to do it. It’ll be tough, but you can do it. Carve out the life you want and live it. DouLaSoul: We hear those types of motivational quotes, but really how does that look? How can women make that work, because I think it gives a lot of women anxiety when they think about trying to balance the two? Dr. Stacey Godley: I think if they focus on 3 things, they could make it work. 1. Build a network or a village of people you trust because you absolutely cannot do it all by yourself. You are not equipped with everything your kid needs so it’s okay to depend on others. 2. Take care of your mental health. If you start having negative thoughts, get help! 3. Band together with other moms. Don’t be the mom that judges other moms. We have to take care of each other, strangers, friends, family. If you see a mom whose child is losing it in the store, don’t turn your nose up and stare at her as if she’s unfit. Offer to help, give her an encouraging word. Again band together. DouLaSoul: As an obgyn, what are your thoughts on working with midwives, doulas and the entire move towards more options for pregnant women? Dr. Stacey Godley: Overall it’s good. People were lacking knowledge, they were taken advantage of in some instances. Now options and alternatives have opened up. I think we need more collaboration for it all to work though. I’m very concerned with the back and forth bashing between midwives and doctors. I think midwives are beneficial, I trained under them. But there is a misconception that all doctors do is try to give women C-sections so that they can get paid more. Knowing how the place you choose to give birth at works is important. For example, I am on salary and I get paid whether I perform a c-section or help deliver a baby vaginally. So don’t assume every doctor is the same. Interview everyone you are considering working with, whether it be the doctors, midwives, doulas, etc. Don’t be scared. Communication is key. DouLaSoul: I see a lot of back and forth too and I can only imagine the amount of fear it brings up for expecting mothers. Some cities are better than others, but I’m optimistic that we are going to see more improved communication and collaboration. What is one thing you wish your patients would do or learn more about that would improve their overall gynecological and obstetric health? Dr. Stacey Godley: That’s easy...I wish women would take the time to get to know their bodies and then change their perspectives about their bodies. Once women start understanding their bodies, how things work, what is is normal vs abnormal discharge, etc. then they will be more empowered to take care of their bodies and protect them at all cost. The biggest issue I have is the amount of patients that come in with multiple STDs. We have to do a better job at protecting ourselves. Women are making the ultimate sacrifices with their bodies just to keep a dude. It’s a self-esteem issue and I see it equally in young, single women and older married women as well. DouLaSoul: And here I was thinking you were going to say diet, exercise, water and rest lol. I think our mentality has to change like you said. We promote being a "side-chick" and put so much emphasis on what our bodies can do sexually without taking into consideration that we must also defend and protect them. So switching gears, as an OBGYN, wife, mom and social butterfly, how do you define work-life balance and is it something you see as achievable? Dr. Stacey Godley: I’ve been married 12 years. We both have demanding and fulfilling careers. We are raising 3 kids (ages 3, 8 and 13). Our life is busy! We were high school sweethearts so we know each other, very well. We have learned or are learning to manage our expectations of each other while still living our individual lives. While I was finishing up my residency, the traditional roles were reversed. And that’s okay. Marriage goes through peaks and valleys. Maybe today you’re at 80%, and then tomorrow you’re at 20%. You have to roll with it and keep pushing. I work a lot!!! On my days off I have to try and meet my husband’s needs and give him quality time along with my children. However, I still like and do go out with my friends because that’s part of me too. I was sociable and outgoing before I got married and started my family and I need that for me to stay sane. So again we depend on family and friends for help. Being near our support system allows us to live the life we desire. We also plan family trips, which is a big motivator. “Work hard, play hard” is our motto. DouLaSoul: What advice would you give to new moms especially those transitioning back to work? Dr. Stacey Godley: Give yourself permission to live your life. Stop reading the blogs and comparing your body, relationships, children and your life to celebrities. There is no perfect way to do this. Throw perfection and standards out the window. Talk to regular folks, ask questions from other moms such as, “what do you wish you did differently during XYZ”. Allow your kids to motivate you to pursue your dreams in a more efficient manner, not as an excuse to stop you. Dr. Stacey Godley is a OBGYN at Baylor College of Medicine in the Houston, TX area. She can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org.