Tough love: Back with the midwives I love (only sometimes to hate)

03.19.2007: Week 11


My best friend from high school's mom, Janette O'Sullivan, is a midwife. Starting at age 15, I've had a pretty serious education in women's health and natural childbirth--and when I worked at a magazine, I helped edit the pregnancy section. So you could say I knew a lot about pregnancy and birth by the time I was having a baby.

It follows that I wasn't messing around when I went looking at different hospitals and practices around here. There are really only two to choose from in 30-minute proximity, and I immediately warmed to the one that's less convenient--I liked that its C-section stats were lower than the other's, that they allowed water births and not just water labors, and most of all, I really liked how it seemed like the four midwives in the practice owned the place. They weren't mere window-dressing on a conventional obstetrics group; it seemed more like the OBs were following the lead of the midwives.

Since I met a midwife when I was 15, I've never really had the stereotypical image of one in my mind--you know, the incense, the loose-fitting garments, the touchy-feely. The midwives I know are tough cookies--no-nonsense straight-talkers with very hip footwear and wicked senses of humor. And that's what I respond to in a healthcare provider. (I would say "Except for the footwear," but it'd be a lie. I do like it when they have cooler shoes than me. Janette modeling some latest favorites, above.) And like me, they seem to appreciate a drug-free approach to childbirth not out of moral reasons, but because it often just works better. I know this is a somewhat controversial position, but it's one I hold fast to: Interventions in childbirth are sometimes totally necessary, and thank God for them. But often they're not necessary, and come with serious side effects for the rest of the birthing process.

So anyway, I love midwives, especially when they're empowered. Just saying.

Special time with Baby #2

It's a good thing I like my midwives so much, because man am I going to see them a lot in the coming months. I forgot how often appointments come up--every four weeks! Just like clockwork! When we got on the road up to the office last week, on a day Sylvia was at daycare, it hit me that choosing the more conveniently located practice might have had some advantages--the hour roundtrip commute is sort of painful, when measured in time away from work and dollars spent on daycare.

But the drive there provided a lovely, unexpected benefit: time to just "be" with this pregnancy, and the idea of the growing little person inside of me. Aron came along for this appointment, since it was the first. (He came to just about every single one last time, something I'm sure is not going to be the case this time--really an example of learning from experience that most of them are no different from the rest.) And while we weren't exactly talking about the new baby the entire time, carving out two hours in which the baby was really all we were focused on felt right, sacrosanct. Like we were giving proper due to the individual we're welcoming into our family.

Letting bygones be bygones

The midwife we met with was the same one who was present at Sylvia's birth. Which would be heartwarming, if not for the fact that in the last, pushing stage of labor (have I mentioned before that I pushed for three hours?), I decided that I hated her guts. In retrospect, I do see some things I wish she'd done differently--like not suggesting Pitocin early in labor, when really all I needed was to walk around and a little (ahem) nipple stimulation to get the contractions going. (Which I did, but only after refusing her suggestion.) But mostly what I've come to recognize is that my hatred for her felt necessary at that stage of my labor--that if it wasn't her, it was going to be someone else in the room, and she happened to be the one sitting in a rocking chair, arms folded, glancing noncommittally at my not-much-happening crotch.

(I've described the sensation of being watched that way as similar to how I can get flustered at the A.T.M. when people are waiting behind me, and I can practically hear them thinking, "Any day, sister, any day.")

I'm happy to report that this visit turned all of those negative emotions around for me. I felt so much more comfortable with her, and in the office, than I remember feeling with Sylvia. Something about being through birth already made me want to saunter through the halls. I know what questions to ask now, and which ones are really so 2004. (Like that this time, I'm not going to sweat over our birth "plan," since what I learned from labor last time was that the only people who really need to know it are me and Aron.) The midwife was delightful and funny, and totally on the ball, remembering details about both me and Aron, and marveling at the idea that it's been three years since my pregnancy with Syl.

And the best moment had nothing to do with interpersonal dynamics or medical training or really anything but this: the baby's heartbeat, thump-thump-thumping through the Doppler; the wave of warmth and excitement that came over me upon hearing it, and having Aron's eyes to lock into, knowing that we're in it together--again.

Join writer Emily Bloch each week as she chronicles her pregnancy.

Next week: Emily goes public with the blog, and doing so gives her pause. So she blogs about it!