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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have been married for a year to a wonderful man whom I dated for several years before we married. We have just decided to start a family. Here's the problem:

My husband insists I use his father's practice as my obstetrical team. He thinks I should see one of his father's partners during the pregnancy and have his father assist during the delivery.

To give you a little background, his father works in a practice with other doctors. Only one of the other doctors takes "call," and this is done only part time. That means my father-in-law is on call about 50 percent of the time and is the person contacted if an emergency arises or labor starts. Also, other family members work in his office and have access to all the medical records.

I feel extremely uncomfortable that my husband is trying to dictate what doctor (or practice) I use, especially since these are the most private examinations performed. I feel as though I should be able to use a doctor with whom I'm 100 percent comfortable. I feel very uncomfortable using his father's practice for numerous reasons:

1. I really need privacy and to be 100 percent honest with my practitioner, and I know I couldn't be in that office, as everyone will probably read the records.

2. My father-in-law has asked me questions about pap smears in front of other family members and brought a blood test of mine home from his office and laid it on the kitchen table for all to see.

3. I want to be able to make the decision about who I use as my obstetrician.

This is causing a lot of stress in my marriage. My husband says if I don't go to his father's practice, his family will be "crushed." I then asked him what was more important, my feeling comfortable with my practitioner throughout my pregnancy or his need to please his parents. I got no response.

This whole topic is really creepy, if you ask me. Abby, what are your thoughts on this? -- UNCOMFORTABLE

DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: I don't blame you for feeling uncomfortable, since your father-in-law has already breached your confidentiality. Your reasons for wanting a doctor who can protect your privacy seem logical and sensible to me. No one should be with you in the delivery room unless you wholeheartedly want him (or her) there. Childbirth is stressful enough without having someone present who makes you uncomfortable.

If you are confronted about your choice of obstetricians, I urge you to speak your mind and make no apologies for your feelings. They are personal preferences to which you are entitled.

DEAR ABBY: "Beauty Secrets" -- the wonderful poem in your March 18 column -- was written by the late humorist Sam Levenson, whose writings continue to entertain and inspire many people. The poem can be found in his book, "In One Era & Out the Other." -- WEST HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., READER

DEAR READER: Thank you for the input. Barry Paris included the poem in the biography he wrote titled "Audrey Hepburn." This poem described so aptly the way she led her life that it could have been written expressly for her.

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