It’s still slowly sinking in that in there’s a tiny us slowly growing its way into existence. I think I’ve wrapped my head around it a lot more quickly than expected. We’ll have this conversation again when the baby actually comes around, at which point it will be apparent that I did not understand the concept at all.
– Aaron’s musings
I was drinking my afternoon green tea and feeling nauseous. I thought the bitterness of the green tea could be to blame, but Aaron had been badgering me about picking up a pregnancy test for the past few weeks ever since strange and intense cramping had started plaguing me all hours of the day and night. Perhaps, I thought, I should get a test on my bike ride home from work. Just to rule out the possibility.
Early the next morning (Thursday, July 21…a day that will live in infamy) I sat in the bathroom with a pregnancy test in my hand that was *definitely* positive. I brushed my teeth, because no one wants to have a life-changing conversation with morning breath, and went into the bedroom to wake up Aaron. There are no objective accounts of the initial telling, and the primary sources vary wildly, but we do know that I sat on the bed summoning the courage and choosing the right words for somewhere between ten seconds and three hours. He claims he knew as soon as I woke him up, but this is a wholly unverified assertion.
There was of course excitement and trepidation and we wanted to lay in bed all day and talk about it, but duties called and off to work we went. We each needed to tell one person immediately, so he called his dad and I snapchatted the “+” on the test to my bestie. Her excitement was minimal.
After a painfully long and distressingly unproductive workday, we rushed home in the evening to discuss this radical life change over a good ol’ comfort dinner of mac and cheese.
To be fair, the timing wasn’t completely ideal. We had already started planning an outrageous two- or three-month road trip around the country in between leaving Houston and moving into Fort Collins that is probably postponed until at least retirement. I’ve had to find a tailor who may need to make some serious last-minute wedding dress alterations since I’ll be an adorably round 21 weeks (!) along by then. And looks like our dream of eating sushi and drinking stiff Tiki drinks in Hawaii for our honeymoon is all shot to hell. But these are laughably superficial inconveniences. I’m sure we’ll survive.
Due in some part to my nursing background, and largely to pure fascination, I’d been reading books on pregnancy for years; and recently picked up the pace to three or four a month as part of a childbirth education certification I’m currently working on. After dinner Aaron said he wanted to know everything that I know. I suggested he start the same place I did in college and watch the provocative birth documentary The Business of Being Born. He was eager to learn, I was eager to teach, and we were both eager to figure out how to tackle this exciting new chapter.
- Keep eating healthy and not gain too much weight (25-30 lbs is recommended).
- Gobble up some more books because this is what I do (newly delivered: Spiritual Midwifery, Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, The Birth Partner)
- Take a childbirth education class
- Stay flexible – literally and figuratively
- Practice yoga
- Get in a mindset that we cannot control everything around us. I no longer have control over, or even a good prediction of, a whirlwind of processes happening inside my body.
- Daily squats and other pelvic floor conditioners – labor is often compared to a marathon, and you wouldn’t go into a marathon without training, right? We started squatting together the week we got our positive test. It’s so romantic. ❤
- Limit stress and enjoy as much of it as I can. Like a wide-eyed first-time parent-to-be, we’re hoping to document the journey here for friends, family, and whatever internet voyeurs happen to stumble in (you know who you are).
- Be at home.
For a low-risk woman in a large city like Houston, there are several options of where to give birth: home, free-standing birth center, hospital birth center, hospital, or some unintended combination of any of the above or in between. Every option has its pros and cons, but having worked for a few months as a nurse in labor and delivery and witnessing firsthand the way our health care system approaches the apparent disease of childbirth, I knew I wanted to shoot for a home birth.
That being said, and to stick with a theme of flexibility, it should be acknowledged that you can have the best intentions on giving birth in a certain place but where it might actually happen is not totally up to you given the slew of unforeseen circumstances which could come up at any time.
The home birth decision is a difficult sell to friends and family, given the culture of fear around pregnancy and birth in America, but we’re putting in plenty of research time and weighing risks/benefits as they become apparent. Ultimately this decision is ours to make but well-meaning concern from family and friends is bound to come up along the road. We’ll do our best to counter their concerns with evidenced based research, but realize that not everyone’s hearts and minds will be completely won over. Doubts and fears can be projected and cause unnecessary stress and undue burden in a time that is meant to be joyful. We’ll ask our loved ones to support us even if they cannot come to support our decision to birth at home by keeping anxieties and negative thoughts, comments, or energy to themselves.
- Work with a doula.
A doula is a labor support person. She is specially trained to emotionally and physically support the mother and family before, during, and after labor and delivery. Her role is unique, different from supportive dad or knowledgeable midwife. The research demonstrating their value in reducing complications and interventions is so undeniable even ACOG recommends they be a routine part of birth. Insurance, of course, does not cover their services. Let us know if you know any good ones in Houston!
- Maintain a calm environment.
In a wonderfully ideal world, my perfect birthing experience would include open windows, dim lights, soft sounds, sweet scents, freedom of movement, intermittent monitoring, no invasive testing , poking, or procedures, loved ones nearby, and good food. Aaron or I catching, kangaroo care, breastfeeding as soon as possible, delayed cord clamping, and no separation from baby are a given.
The birthing experience can be one of the most wonderful or traumatic events of a person’s life, and we’re trying to take proactive steps to end up more on the wonderful side of all of it. As Aaron has regularly enthused, the process through which women grow babies is just the most mind-blowing thing. Fingers crossed that my process plays itself out in line with our ideals.
- Above all, be safe.
As much as we want to deliver our child onto a fluffy cloud of euphoria, safety is of course our number one concern. We’ve chosen a nurse midwife with wonderful credentials and decades of experience. Transfers to hospitals during planned homebirths are uncommon but they do happen, and are rarely an emergency (maternal fatigue, membranes ruptured for too long are common reasons). Our transfer plans will be ironed out weeks before the due date and prenatal care even involves a visit to the physician we would transfer to in this event. The midwife brings everything to the home you would have in a birth center (monitors, supplies, oxygen, resuscitation equipment, IV fluids, medications for hemorrhage, another nurse, etc). I’ll delve fully into the risks and benefits of homebirth later on.
- Feed and water regularly.
- Enjoy the adventure.