What happens when midwives get pregnant?

<insert Monty Python voice> And now for something completely different…

I’ve been keeping this news to myself for quite some time here.  I guess I’m finally ready to blog about it (not that anyone is currently reading this anyway, so it’s more or less like writing in my journal), but guess what??  I’m pregnant!  And not just a little bit pregnant, I am actually quite pregnant: 34 weeks today, to be precise, just three weeks away from full term.

We’re planning a homebirth with two lovely homebirth midwives in attendance  who have been caring for me since I was 10 weeks pregnant.  There will be a doula as well (one of my good friends who is also a Labor & Delivery nurse, whom I met while working as an L&D nurse back in 2003), and of course my husband, and my best friend; a small but incredibly supportive birth team.  And a birth tub, which we’re renting (and which we still need to pick up).  The list of things I need to prepare for the birth is still quite long, and a bit overwhelming, even.  At this point, we still don’t even have a name for the child yet (who is a boy, btw; even if I had wanted a surprise, I knew exactly what I was looking at during the sonogram, and could see the tiny little penis quite clearly).  We don’t have a pediatrician picked out, either.  The birth kit is in the mail but not yet arrived. And don’t even get me started on the list of baby stuff which we still need to acquire before the birth, diapers being priority number one. There is a lot to get done in the next few weeks.

From an emotional standpoint, though, I feel like I’ve been taking it all pretty well in stride.  I’ve had (thankfully) a very healthy and straightforward pregnancy so far.  I’ve felt good for the majority of the pregnancy, aside from some nausea and fatigue in the first trimester; all of my blood tests have been normal, the sonogram looked good, everything is healthy and low-risk at this point.  He’s a very active little guy, he squirms and moves nearly constantly, he likes to dance while I’m listening to music, and always kicks his happy appreciation of all of the good food I’ve been eating during the pregnancy.  Current pregnancy complaints amount to a sore back (totally expected, in the third trimester), and having to get up and pee about 3-4 times a night.  I’ve been working my usual schedule, and if all continues to go well, my intention is to work up until 38 weeks, or until I give birth, whichever comes first.

When I was a younger woman, still in midwifery school, I used to worry about my own birth.  I used to worry that I would know too much, that I wouldn’t be able to turn my brain off and surrender myself to the forces of labor when the time came, that I would be the classic example of the woman who’s trying to give birth with her brain rather than her body, and whose brain is getting in the way of the labor.  I worried that something bad would happen; there is a superstition among healthcare workers that pregnant nurses/ midwives/ doctors etc. tend to have a much higher rate of rare and frightening emergencies during their labors and births which somehow necessitate every intervention under the sun, or result in tragic and terrible outcomes.  I have heard this superstition passed around before—that bad things always happen to healthcare workers—and when I was younger I used to worry about it too.  And I have worried in the past that I will somehow by disappointed by my birth experience—that because I have so much knowledge, and such a love of birth, and so much expectation going into it, that inevitably there is no way my own birth could live up to such high standards.  The flip side of this is the fear that I am never going to be cared for as well or as completely as I care for other women; that the care I receive will fall short of my own lofty standards and expectations, and that I will never be given as much as I have given to other women during their births.

Like I said, these are old worries.  I stumbled across them while I was paging through an old journal of mine a few weeks ago, written down in 2005 while I was taking a Birthing From Within mentor training course in order to be able to teach Birthing From Within childbirth classes.  Strangely enough, these worries now seem foreign to me.  At least, they’re not the things I’ve actually been worrying about during my pregnancy.  I feel like the birth will be very difficult—the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life—but that it’s totally do-able, and that I will absolutely get through it, however hard or long it is.  I’m not really hung up on interventions, or trying to ensure that they don’t occur.  I feel like I’ll have them if I need them, but if all goes smoothly, then hopefully it will be a straightforward, uneventful homebirth. I don’t feel like I’m dead-set on a homebirth no matter what; if there are recurrent decels, or thick meconium, any indication of severe distress, or any other pressing reason, we’ll go to a hospital.  If I need a cesarean in the end, at least I know that I will be one of the women who really, truly does need a cesarean, rather than getting pressured into it by an impatient or uncaring provider.  If I’m having an exhausting 48+ hour labor with excruciating back labor and things are going really slowly, I’m not opposed to an epidural, either, and some rest.  Thankfully my midwife has hospital admitting privileges if we need them, and there is a hospital very close to us for emergencies.  I don’t think we’ll end up in a hospital, but I’m ready to weather whatever my birth throws at me, and I’m trying to cultivate a flexible roll-with-the-punches attitude.  But I think of all the births I have attended (326 now, and counting), each unique in its own way and yet also so similar, and I think of all the women who I have been with who get to a point where they truly believe that they can’t go on, that they can’t do it, that their baby will never come, that they’ll never give birth etc. etc…and then I watch them climb that mountain and get over it and do the impossible thing they didn’t think they were capable of, and give birth—simply, normally, vaginally, uneventfully.  And honestly, it gives me tremendous faith in the process.  I’m sure I too will get to the point where I am convinced I won’t be able to do it…and then I will.  I have faith that I will, and I feel like my faith is what will get me through it (and my smart and attentive care providers will make sure that we’re not taking any unnecessary risks, should we fall off the curve of normal, and I trust them, and their judgement, implicitly).

So no, I haven’t been worrying much about the birth.  I’ve been worrying more about motherhood, about the huge and tremendous responsibility which is about to descend on me.  I’ve been worrying that I won’t be a good mother, or a good enough mother, that the task will be too much for me, that my child will hate or resent me, that I’ll somehow mess my poor child up in terrible, Freudian, unfathomable ways.  And of course I’ve been worrying over the health of my baby.  I pray that he’ll be healthy, and neurologically intact, and strong.  Every pregnant woman does, I’m certain.

But I took the time to write down a gazillion birth affirmations last night, and I’ve been saying them to myself regularly today.  Simple things, but I also believe in the power of positive thought:

I am a strong and powerful woman. I believe in myself. I trust my body.  My baby is strong and healthy. My cervix knows what to do.  I have an open heart.  I am surrounded by loving, nurturing support.  I trust my inner wisdom.  Birth will come easily to me. I have everything I need. I welcome my coming labor as the perfect one for me and my baby.  I deserve and receive all the love and support I need. I deserve a gentle, natural birth. I claim my birthright for a wonderful birth.  I will be a wonderful mother.

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