I'm choosing to write about how we came to the decision to use a midwife before I write our birth story because I feel like they go hand in hand. One cannot be without the other. It was not a lighthearted decision nor one that was easily made. It was a journey for us. For me it was a journey of faith and it tried my faith more than one time. It was a journey into the unknown for both The Mad Monk and myself and I would be doing the decision itself an injustice if I didn't admit that we (mostly me)were scared to death at times. I am thankful for the journey and I believe I am better for it. I know it has forever changed the way The Mad Monk and I both look at birth and especially the medical model of care. It is not for everyone and I would never try to force our decision on someone else who hadn't prayerfully considered it for their family. I hope you enjoy our story as much as I envision myself enjoying the writing of it!
We never intended on using a midwife. As a matter of fact, I was already seeing my OB/GYN and was into my 5th month of pregnancy with my 5th child before we switched over. In my 5th month I still hadn't seen my doctor one time! I kept getting her nurse practitioner. She was nice and all, but the fact of the matter was she wasn't my doctor. A friend from church had just had her baby in January and she had used a midwife. I was groaning on about the fact that I had yet to see my doctor (this was during my 4th month) when she suggested that I see her midwife. I belong to a yahoo group where a lot, if not the majority, of the women use midwives and have home births. I had toyed with the idea, of a midwife, but had never made any concrete decision one way or the other as to whether I would consider using one. The first time my friend suggested it I think I probably said, "yeah, okay whatever." However, she gently suggested I call more than once. She even gave me the midwife's business card. I lost the first one and when I mentioned it to her husband he made sure and gave me another one the next time he saw me. When my doctor's nurse practitioner told me I would need to see a specialist because of my "advanced maternal age" (I was 37) it sent me over the top. We made the decision to call.
I was a nervous wreck the day I called. I don't know why, I just was. I think I was relieved when I got a voice mail and I gladly left a message. I don't think I was expecting anyone to call back. :) I was making dinner when she called and I almost told her I would have to call back, but I didn't. We talked for about 20 minutes and I was shocked that she took so much time to talk with me. I don't remember if I made an appointment to meet with her during that phone call or not, but I know that we met the next week. I had a laundry list of questions and concerns that I wanted to address. Here are some of them:
-would my insurance cover any of this ?(at the time this was a big deal to us. I don't think it is
-what was her percentage of transfer (It was extremely low, but I think I asked this question
several more times.)
-what do you do if something goes wrong?
-what would happen if I began to hemorrhage?
-could we use a birth center? (we didn't want a home birth)
The list went on. You get my gist though. I was armed with questions.
The first time we met Ann was in late February. We had made the appointment for a consultation and were both excited yet guarded about our first meeting. I had made up my mind that I wasn't going to base any decision on one meeting. Upon meeting Ann for the first time we were instantly met with a warmth that could never be found in any doctor's office. It was light and casual, more like a talk with a good friend than anything. We talked about my previous births, certain problems I had encountered and the lack of continuity of care we had received with the four previous births. Ann told me that my appointments with her would be and hour long (give or take) and my children were welcome to come. Wha??? An hour? For me? I would actually get more than 7.2 minutes? She also told us that God made a woman's body to do this and she believed that when given the chance to do so, it does what it's supposed to do. Now that may not seem all that profound to all of you, but considering the way the medical community looks at babies and birth in general, it was a statement that stuck with us in a major way. She believed it was a baby and not a fetus and she believed God was Sovereign in the act of birth. Wow! Major brownie points! ALL of our questions were answered in full and we were not left with any vague notions of what we might expect. She also informed us that they were opening their own birth center on July 1st and I could potentially be the first to deliver there. When we left that day I think I was numb. It was all so overwhelming. I completely loved this new concept, but was I ready for natural childbirth?
The Mad Monk and I talked a lot over the next few days. I think he was hung up more over whether insurance would cover any of the expense and I was hung up over whether I was enough of a woman to be able to endure natural childbirth. It was such a man/woman thing that it was almost humorous. A few days later Ann called to let us know that insurance would work out and we would only need to cover our deductible. Okay, that prayer had been answered, now it was up to me. Oh, I fretted for days over whether I could do this. You see, deep down I'm a major wimp and the thought of natural childbirth t-e-r-r-i-f-i-e-d me! I had given birth naturally to my first daughter, but she was so fast there was really no time for pain. I was sincerely hoping for a repeat! I knew the Lord had made my body to do this and I knew it going to hurt, but what I didn't know was if I could handle it. I kept telling myself that God's grace was sufficient. Finally, I took the leap with The Mad Monk beside me. We chose to go with Ann and we were not going to look back.
When I went to my first appointment I was shell shocked. There was not only Ann there, but her assistant and a pregnancy chiropractor that she worked with. I was still quite nauseated (because I have 9 months of nausea!) and I wasn't sure if I appreciated the crowd. It didn't take long though until it felt like a bunch of friends just talking about birth and babies. I still had so many doubts and questions and I think Ann knew it. I would try to throw her a curve ball and she would take it in stride. They actually spent an hour talking to me, asking me questions and basically getting to know me. It was almost surreal. Then, when I was about to leave Ann did the unthinkable. She played dirty. She hugged me. Now don't get me wrong, I can hug with the best of ' em, but for some reason this just completely threw me. You just don't hug on first visits! There is some written code somewhere that says so. I just know it. You remember the old Tom Cruise and Renee Zellwegger movie Jerry McGuire? When she tells him, "you had me at hello"? Okay then, it was like that. She had me at the hug.
Over the next several months I became more and more comfortable with the group of them. I began seeing Dr. Cindy, the chiropractor, and she began doing the Webster technique on me. Dr. Cindy would become vital to me as the pregnancy wore on. My lower back was so bad that there were days I could hardly walk. She kept me walking and my pain to a minimum. Little did I know how much I would need her while in labor (how'd ya like that teaser, hm?)
Ann also had her work cut out for her in keeping my fears to a minimum. I would panic, she would put it into perspective and tell me it would be okay and then I would be fine. At one of my appointments I was especially fragile. It was June and I was about 8 weeks from delivering. Me, being the "stiff upper lip" kind of gal I am (I coulda made a great British woman) I wasn't about to say anything. I was tired, hurting and taking it on the chin from various family members concerning my safety and my "age" (grrrr) and just generally getting a lot of overall negativity. It was making me doubt myself and whether I had it in me to do this. I don't remember what set me off, but something Ann said opened the flood waters and I just began to cry. A lot. (Hold on to your seats people because this is the amazing part. ) There was not one single hesitation in that room. They all came to me and then they each took turns praying for me and comforting me. It brings back such emotion now that I cannot hardly fathom it. It was an incredible moment to minister to a hurting sister and they did just that. They prayed for me, they comforted me and the Lord, through them, gave me peace.
My 5 months of midwife care were something I wouldn't trade for anything. It completely reshaped mine and The Mad Monk's way of thinking. The care I received wasn't just about my physical well being. It covered my physical, my mental, my emotional and my spiritual well-being. It was something that a doctor's office could never replicate. There is a continuity of care in midwifery that cannot be found anywhere else. Over those 5 months Ann prepared me for the birth of my child. Through suggested books, childbirth classes and my monthly visits I went into natural childbirth knowing what I needed to do. More importantly Ann forged a relationship with me that allowed me to completely and totally trust her. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we had made the right decision and that she would take care of me and my unborn baby. I was more than a "patient" to her. Unlike the medical arena, she took the time to get to know me and let me tell you, by the time I had my baby I can guarantee you she knew what made me tick. I know of no doctor that can truly say that. They don't look at the individual and that individual's personality or circumstances -- it's just another birth, another day at the office.
I don't know what God has in store for our family. I don't know if he will choose to bless us again. I would hope so, but again, we only want His will for our lives. I do know that if and when he does, The Mad Monk and I will not fret over what to do this time. We will simply pick the phone up and call Ann, our midwife. And she will rejoice with us and once again, we will trust her to bring us through another beautiful birth. Just like she did this time.
**just a note** we are not opposed in any way, shape or form to medical doctors. Our opinions and decisions concerning childbirth are based upon previous personal experience.
p.s. Rosa, if you still read my blog, thanks for that business card!
Next up: Hope's Birth Story (and you thought this post was long!)