Movement and heartbeat
Physically, this has been a pretty uneventful week. There is still little in the way of pregnancy-related aches and pains to complain about and I am enjoying that while it lasts! I feel the little wiggler upon occasion, but have also had several days go by in a row without feeling anything. Even though I know this is normal at this stage of pregnancy and try not to worry, it was nice to have a midwife appointment this week and get that heartbeat reassurance.
In fact, it was funny, because in the two or three days prior to that appointment, I had not noticed any movement at all from the baby.
Then, as I was sitting on the couch at my appointment -- just minutes before Nina pulled out the fetoscope -- I felt quite a bit of movement. And as she palpated my uterus to find the fundus, the little one really started bouncing around in there. Obviously, I am not poking with enough aggression!
Nina was not able to get the heartbeat with the fetoscope, so -- with my permission -- she got out the doppler and still had a hard time finding it. Luckily I could feel the baby moving, and we could hear it moving on the doppler, so I wasn't at all stressed about the lack-of-heartbeat situation. And she did end up finding it rather lower than we expected it to be. We speculated that the placenta may still be slightly anterior at this point, which would also explain why I'm not noticing movement all that regularly right now.
This is my first pregnancy with midwives and it is such a refreshing difference from my obstetrical experiences. I guess I was made for the high touch/low tech approach. Each prenatal appointment is scheduled for a full hour in a very casual and nonclinical environment. Only the last 15 minutes or so have dealt with the physical aspect: blood pressure and pulse, fundal measurement, edema check and baby's heartbeat. I weigh myself and check my urine when I first arrive. The rest of the time -- usually about 40-45 minutes -- is devoted to talking about the pregnancy. The midwives pretty much let Tony and I guide the course of this discussion and there is much oohing and aahing over the antics of Bailey and Hannah Mac, who have attended most of the appointments so far (they love it... there is a big toybox to keep them entertained :-).
The girls become very interested when I am having the physical stuff checked out. They like to hear the heartbeat, though I don't think they have much understanding about it, and were very impressed with the blue goop mommy gets spread all over her belly. Hannah Mac is still talking about mommy's blue belly a week after the fact. I love that the girls get to be so involved with this and are getting to know the midwives well in advance of the big day... so they aren't just a group of strangers trouping into the house during a time when mommy is acting so strange (or stranger than average anyway!).
And it brings me no end of relief to know that -- if all goes according to plan -- my babies will be right here in the house, our familiar surroundings, with me, when I give birth. My mother-in-law will be tending to them during the hard parts of my labor, but it will be a great comfort to me to have them so close at hand. They are very attached to their grandma, since she comes over to watch them every weekday while I work in another room. Even if I end up in the hospital, she will stay at home with them, so I am feeling very comfortable overall with this aspect of the plan.
Our discussion with the midwives at this appointment was very interesting. Early into the appointment, they asked us questions about our beliefs, both in the process of birth and spiritually. By coincidence, I had just participated in a thread on an email discussion list I belong to where we wrote about these very things. I had been giving it a lot of thought, so felt particularly prepared to discuss it with the midwives.
One thing I realized when I thought about this, that scared me a little, is that as much as I believe that birth works most of the time with as little intervention as possible, I do not feel that I am exempt from something going wrong. I feel very strongly that my baby and I will be safest at home during the birth, assuming there are no intervening complications, but I also know that on rare occasions and with no warning, terrible things can happen. And I know that rare at those things are, they could happen to me.
I am not a religious person at all, and do not derive any comfort from the idea that God will protect me during birth. And as much as I believe it is in the best interest of nature to ensure that things will go well, I also have seen the cruel randomness of nature and have no faith that it offers much in the way of protection. Basically, when it comes down to it, I know that statistically the odds are very much in my favor and that I am well-enough informed about the process that I can make the best decisions possible come what may. I am confident that my midwives and medical backup will do everything that they can if something were to go wrong, but I also know that even their best might not be good enough.
It was a little surprising to realize all of this. I feel that the outcomes of my previous births were largely my responsibility, too, and that I bailed on accepting that responsibility for a long time. The ironic thing is that because I had gone to the hospital in the culturally-accepted, mainstream fashion, no one thought to blame me when something went wrong. This time, as confident as I feel about our decision to birth at home, I already feel the weight of responsibility from others, who would hold us responsible if something went wrong, even if that same amorphous "something" would have happened in the hospital.
We are fortunate that our families are so supportive about this. I've never gotten that trip from any of them. Another irony is that -- despite all of the worrying about me and the baby many of our acquaintances profess to be doing -- I have never worried less about birth during my pregnancy. Perhaps part of that stems from the fact this is my third pregnancy, but I think it is mostly due to a newfound lack of fear, which is the empowering gift of research and knowledge. I still have a smidgen of that fear, of course, but it is not nearly so dominating this time around.
So, yes, while planning a home birth feels like a big responsibility, I'm realizing that no matter where I birth, the decision-making process is a big responsiblity... home birth just makes it a little harder for me to deny that fact.