The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Sorry for the headline, but I'm writing this as I sit waiting to get my blood drawn for my glucose screening test. I'd forgotten just how disgusting that sweet syrupy stuff is that they make you drink an hour before getting bloodwork done. I asked the midwife during my appointment to explain the process to me again--if they're testing my glucose, why pour straight corn syrup down my throat?--and she said that it's a "challenge test," to see if my body can handle the insulin. Or something. I was stuck on "challenge test." "Do you guys have a ropes course out back, too?" I asked. Don't they know that pregnancy is itself a challenge test?
It's been an interesting week, pregnancy-wise. The baby is moving almost constantly, and it's amazing what a difference that makes to how I think about the baby and--you know what's coming--myself. (I've been thinking lately that a more apt title for my blog might be "Me, Me, Me... and Did I Mention Me?") But not to worry: The baby's knocking and twirling and elbowing all help to squelch my self-absorption. It's actually not all about me, because--oof--here's this other person, reminding me of his or her existence, of his or her impending arrival. "Arrival" isn't the right word, because according to my uterine muscles, this person is definitely already here.
But since getting the baby here might take some work...
We've decided to hire a doula. My friend Janah acted as our doula when Sylvia was born, and we're all hoping she can come to this baby's birth, too. (That's her trying to give my lower back some relief during labor.) Janah is awesome: a midwife's daughter, a trained massage therapist, a social worker, and a treasured friend rolled into one. She brought so much to the experience, for me and also for Aron--someone to bounce things off of, make calls to friends and family, bring cranberry juice at needed moments... and for Aron, someone to make panicked eye contact with when things seemed a lot harder than we expected.
But what drew me to the idea of a bonafied birth doula was the notion that someone who had witnessed hundreds of births would have some very specific tricks up her sleeve, ones that Aron and Janah wouldn't have. Things like: try this position, now is a time to rest, focus on me while you have that next contraction... stuff said with the conviction and confidence of someone who had been there many times before.
I was talking to a friend about this last night, and we were saying that the services a doula provides are really the ones that we'd rather naively assumed midwives would provide. As she said, "But I wasn't thinking about the fact that the midwives are there instead of the doctors, which means that they have to be doing everything that doctors do, too." In other words, there is just not enough midwife to go around when there are five women in labor simultaneously on the birthing floor--while she probably wants to more than a doctor would, she's just not always available to do the hand-holding and gentle suggestion-ing I imagined before I actually gave birth.
Finding the best of all worlds
We're really happy to have found Michelle, our doula--not only is she a lovely and competent person, she's also a midwife. She's been at about a gazillion deliveries, and definitely has some nifty tricks--some of which she picked up in Honduras, where she worked for a while. (We haven't had an official appointment yet, but she promises that she'll be filling me in on this technique that involves wrapping my belly in a sheet, in order to position the baby in a more efficient way. Cool! I'll definitely pass along that and other info as I learn it.) She also has two kids of her own.
Aron was concerned that having another person in the room would only serve to distract me further from him and what he can offer; also that since we got through it last time relatively unscathed, that having a doula for a second birth might be overkill. That was my only question about it, too--Will it seem unnecessary? Wasteful of money we don't really have? Sort of silly, since probably it will be fine and she'll just be twiddling her thumbs?--until it hit me: Overkill? I'm worried about making this birth too easy? That maybe it'll be a little, I don't know, boring? Then sign me up! Because I would love to feel a little silly after the birth is over, the baby is comfortably nursing, and all Michelle has to do is take a photo or pop the champagne.
I told Michelle all about Janah, and how important it is to us that she feel welcome. It is my dream--my vicarious dream--that Janah becomes a doula, and integrates that with her training in massage therapy and talk therapy, becoming a sort of Natural MegaMall for Birthing Couples. (Is it weird to want to see your friend transform into a mall?) Who wouldn't want all of those skills and perspectives brought to bear on pregnancy and childbirth?
So now that all of my fantasy elements of the most supportive and easy-going labor imaginable are coming together, I'm finding myself back where I started three years ago: Realizing that I have, again, created a Fantasy Birth, complete with hoped-for outcomes (Michelle and Janah high-fiving as Aron gazes into my eyes, and the baby eases, practically painlessly, out into the world) aside from a healthy baby and a healthy me. Didn't I learn my lesson about this once before?
Sigh. This is a challenge test, all right.
Join writer Emily Bloch each week as she chronicles her pregnancy.
Next week: Emily gets advice about how to prepare Sylvia for the new baby.