We are preparing now for another homebirth. Today we had a prenatal visit with my midwife. Let me paint the picture, first, in contrast.
For a hospital/OB birth, prenatal visits are scheduled with a nurse. You arrive, check in, and pee in a cup. After waiting to be seen, you surrender said cup to a different nurse, and are weighed and have blood pressure taken in the hallway as folks walk by. Then you enter the cool, tile floored exam room, climb up on the exam table (sometimes in a lovely paper frock) and wait a while longer. The OB comes in (one you may or may not have ever met before), and you abandon the AARP magazine you found behind the Dr. Suess books in the rack. Your belly is measured. Your baby’s heart tones are listened to. Perhaps there is some discussion over discomforts and weight gain. If there is time, you might ask a question or two, -that is if the questions are not too embarrassing- or if you are not getting signals that time is up. You sort through your head to the most pressing questions, dismissing others as “silly” or deciding to check on them later online. You are told what tests you need. You get a paper -with a smiling pregnant women eating an apple on it- that tells you all of the things that can possibly go wrong this month in your gestation, and you head to the front desk to make your next appointment with a third nurse for 6 weeks from now.
Now, let me invite you to my prenatal this morning (because I have the capacity for time travel, and so do you).
My midwife, Claudette, calls to say she is on her way. I tidy my room. When she arrives she calls a cheery hello from the porch and the kids run to let her in. Hugs go around. She wishes Ellie a belated happy birthday (she remembers because she was there) and comments that Tessa birthday is coming up (she was there, too, and somehow remembers the date after delivering 1,500 babies). She and Guy hug hello. It is so good to see our friend.
We chat about the crazy weather as she sets up her equipment on the dresser in my room. She hands me the test strips for my urine and sends me off to check it for myself while she and Guy visit. I compare the test strip against the chart, and see that all is mostly-well, but I could stand to be drinking a lot more water. I tell her so. She looks at the strip, agrees, and marks it down on her chart.
Next we take my blood pressure, and discuss the difference from the last visit. "It's a little higher than usual" I remark. "That's because you were running around cleaning up before I got here" she teases. But it's not to high, she assures. She asks about my blood sugar (we know it will go high soon as it has in the past, and she offers to give me the glucometer early so that I can begin monitoring myself). We chat about my diet and excercise. I know the drill, and Claudette knows me well enough to know there isn’t cause to micro-manage me or interrogate me. I have done diabetes four times now. We test my blood sugar and iron, right there on the bed. Things look good.
Then we call in the kids so that they can hear the baby’s heartbeat. As they gather, Claudette measures my belly to check the baby’s growth. 21+ cm. Right on target. The baby’s heartbeat is easy to find, and she listens in several places on my belly. She jokes that there are two or three in there, but then says, no, just one. “Besides,” she says “when you had your ultrasound at 9 weeks, they only saw one.” “Yes,” I reply “but the first time they said they saw no baby at all. I don't put much stock in their track record for accuracy.”
The kids listen to the happy thumps and smile. “That’s our baby in there!” I tell them.
Claudette moves the doplar. “That’s the placenta there” she says, pointing out the difference in the sound. I ask about heart defects, and she tells me how a heart might sound if it had a problem, then compares that to the sounds of a healthy heart. All seems well for now.
The kids trot off, and I share with her my fears of birth defects, risks, or cord problems, and questions of whether I should have further testing. She shares her knowledge and experience. We tell her we plan to pray on it, and she agrees that it is a very good plan. She shares the name of the ultrasound lab she trusts most.
“I know I am panicking over every little thing.” I admit, excusing myself for getting emotional. “Nope. You just sound pregnant, is all,” she assures. I feel more at ease than I have in weeks.
Then we move on to minor concerns. We talk about heartburn and she gives me some tips. “The Amish use a pinch of raw oats” she says. We talk about sciatica and she lays on my bedroom floor to show me exercises that may help. We talk about my heart racing, and emotions racing and I tell her never mind my little worries. She assures me that little worries are ok. I feel so normal.
When our “prenatal visit” is over we sit in my sunny kitchen, share some herb tea and talk about God. We each learn how the other seeks answers to prayers and how we rely on inspiration to make decisions. We talk about parenting and what kids need in order to grow up with values. I tell her what I admire about her. She thanks me for my friendship.
It's time to go. We hug goodbye and she climbs in her car for the 90 minute drive back home. I wave as she pulls away. She’ll be back in four weeks.
I can’t wait.
Photos by Ellie (accept for the one she is in, Dad took that!)