Call the Midwives

We began my pregnancy by seeing my normal OBGYN, one member of a large practice in Owings Mills. The practice delivers at Sinai and I’m sure would’ve provided me with state-of-the-art medical treatment. This is the same practice that walked me through my missed miscarriage last year, as well as the scary diagnosis and eventual removal of the large mass on my right ovary.

When I went in for my first prenatal appointment, I expected to be met with smiles and perhaps even a shocked reaction- after all, it was less than a month since my surgery, and I was already pregnant! However, I was met with blank stares, eyes staring at a computer screen that didn’t recognize me or remember me. In fact, the very doctor who I had seen just a month before several times for my ovarian mass had to look at my records to confirm that I did in fact have the surgery I claimed to have had. The doctor had no recollection of me.

My second appointment was the “ever-important” internal exam. Little did I know that I had been switched from my normal female doctor (who, unbeknownst to me, retired from OB practice) to a male doctor without my permission- and had to endure yet another uncomfortable situation as my poor husband sat in a small chair while I was examined. It was mortifying for us both.

It was around this time that I began researching other birth options in Maryland- everything from simply switching OB practices to home birth. I quickly learned that Maryland is an extremely difficult place to have an intervention-free birth for several reasons:

-Having a midwife attend a home birth is “illegal” unless it is a Certified Nurse Midwife who is backed by an Obstetrician. To my knowledge, there are only a few that practice in the entire state, and I’m not sure that any of them are taking new clients, particularly first time mothers. This leaves mothers with dismal options for home birth- having an “illegally attended” birth with a midwife (which many women do and have great success and healthy babies), or having an unassisted home birth. I’m not exactly sure what the “illegality” of the whole thing can lead to- probably that you can be charged with negligence if something happens to your baby, or perhaps the midwife can be held liable- I’m not 100% sure. But, I think that, for some women, these are the right choices- to have a home birth, with a midwife or unassisted- but not for everyone.

-There are only a handful of free-standing birth centers in the state- two that I am familiar with. There are various hospital “birth centers”, staffed by midwives and outfitted with more natural birth tools, such as tubs, but because they are attached/part of hospitals, their clients must adhere to hospital guidelines- which, depending on the hospital, can significantly change the birth experience for many mothers (though many mothers absolutely love this experience, and I don’t discount that whatsoever). This also effects the after-birth experience for the parents and baby, with certain interventions being much more routine (vaxing/Vit K/eye gel given without parental consent, pitocin for placenta delivery and uterine shrinkage, formula supplementation without parental advisement). Again, these choices are completely right for some families, and many people choose to include all of those things in their after-birth care plans. However, not every family chooses these things.

-Lastly, C-Section rates throughout the state of Maryland are higher than the national average. Nationwide, close to 1 in 3 women
gives birth via cesarean- and that’s not including elective/planned cesareans. Induction before truly necessary is wildly popular, even though a recent Harvard study found that the average gestational period for a caucasian woman is 41 weeks 1 day. I have seen far too many family members and friends get induced, get epidurals, and get cesareans- it just seems normal at this point. I think that’s the problem- in most places, it IS normal. And sometimes it is completely necessary. But it doesn’t have to be!

So, taking all of this into consideration, we have decided to birth our sweet baby girl at Special Beginnings Birth Center in Arnold, MD. This is perhaps the most controversial choice that Matthew and I have made thus far (at least that I’m letting you in on haha)!  Staffed with Certified Nurse Midwives with years of experience, complete with three beautiful birthing suites with big beds, tubs, birth stools towel warmers, and a full kitchen, the place is absolutely stunning.  The only drawback: it’s located almost exactly an hour away from our apartment!

We began our research into this birth center first by talking to people we knew who have been there- most of whom gave glowing reviews, and those who didn’t were really looking for a home birth experience, and ended up going that direction in the end.

Next, we took a tour– and this is where everything changed. We were given a tour of the birth center and then given the opportunity to ask the midwives questions.  It was amazing! So many of the things I was prepared to fight with an OB about- movement and eating during labor, Vit K and eye gel, vaccinations, routine circumcision, delayed bathing, etc- all of the choices that I wanted to make for my child were encouraged, and even assumed to some degree, by the midwife staff. It was like breathing a sigh of relief as I realized that I could have the natural birth I wanted without having to fear that the baby would be stuck or smeared with something or treated in a way I didn’t feel was necessary.

We have had two appointments with midwives at the birth center so far, with a third coming up next week. The experience has been so encouraging and healing! I love the focus on nutrition and exercise as well as medical information. I can have as few ultrasounds as I would like (though we have actually had many more than I intended). Their holistic approach to pregnancy, as something that is natural and not a illness or medical emergency, brings so much peace to my heart as I remind myself that the Lord created women to bear children. Pregnancy isn’t a bad thing, and with the right preparation I can trust my body to do the work it needs to do.

A huge part of this decision has been learning to “insert grace” into our birth plans. Do I fault mothers who make choices that are different from my own? Absolutely not. Is it totally possible that something goes wrong and I need to have a medicated birth or a cesarean? Yes. And if that’s the case, I will take it in stride, as I know that medicine is a good thing and saves many lives- perhaps my own, or my baby’s. It’s the grace that I am striving to understand that will allow me to accept what happens, but also strive to be as prepared as possible and make the most sound decisions I can with the information I have now. It’s not easy! But I am glad to be questioning and learning and growing in this process.

I’m so excited for this journey and I can’t wait to share my experiences along the way!

Pregnancy & The Beauty of Grace

Hello again, friends!

As you can see clearly by scrolling down for about 5 seconds, I haven’t blogged at all since before I was pregnant.  The past six months have been a roller coaster for me health-wise, beginning with a scary month of medical testing that ended with my right ovary and fallopian tube being removed, continuing on to miraculously getting pregnant less than a month later, and…well, here we are, almost 22 weeks along with our sweet baby girl!

ULTRASOUND

When I found out I was pregnant, I had grand plans of continuing my health and exercise plans all the way through my pregnancy- juicing each morning, whole foods at each meal, yoga three times a week, basically chaturanga-ing my way to the birth of my child.  Boy, was I in for a surprise! While I felt excellent for the first few weeks, around 5.5 weeks I woke up with nausea and vomiting and literally didn’t stop until 13 weeks- no matter what hour of the day. If I so much as thought about juice, vegetables, or exercise I would throw up.  All my body could handle was carbohydrates and dairy, normal “nausea killers” made my nausea worse, and it was really all I could do to get out of bed in the morning.  It was honestly hard not to feel depressed or tell myself that I was a bad mother– I wanted so desperately to be giving my baby the active, healthy mom that she deserved, but my body quite literally couldn’t handle it.

I think that’s the first big lesson I learned through pregnancy- grace abounds! It didn’t matter that I laid on the couch all day and more or less subsisted on organic spaghetti-o’s (I promise I only ate organic ones!), my baby was still growing strong and healthy, and my nutrient levels remained optimal. When I was too tired to even stand through one song during Sunday morning worship, the Lord met me as I journaled, seated in the back of the sanctuary where I could run to the bathroom if needed.  And by the time I was able to return to my yoga practice in the second trimester, I found that much of my strength and flexibility remained.  Grace.

BANANA

Throughout my pregnancy, I have really struggled with trusting the Lord to provide for Matt and I, particularly as we look forward to next year when our sweet girl arrives.  Many of the decisions that we have made regarding care for our daughter, or things that we want to strive for, are not the cheapest options, though we are confident in our choices and that the Lord will bless them.  But I really can’t pretend that I haven’t been plagued with the thought that maybe I can’t be the mother that I feel I should be because I don’t have the money to buy the quality of things I think are best for her.  This has led to all kinds of sin in my heart- jealousy, bitterness, frustration, not trusting the Lord. And yet, as the weeks have gone by, I have seen time and time again where the Lord has provided these things for us- many things I thought I would never be able to have, like a wooden high chair, baby carriers, or cloth diapers.  He has eased my mind along with this, revealing my sins and showing me that His grace and love is the best standard for what a mother should be, and that I will rob myself of joy if I hold myself to any other standard, no matter how rational it may seem.  He has taught me to be honest in my weaknesses, that His strength may be made perfect instead.

All of this to say- I have learned, and am certainly still learning, a lot about myself, the Lord, and motherhood! There are SO MANY decisions to make, and sometimes trying to navigate all of the options is overwhelming and scary, particularly when trying to make sound, Christlike decisions that reflect a respect for the body and for creation.  I hope to walk through my pregnancy health experience, book reading,  and decision-making on this blog in the next few months as I continue to learn through the Lord’s grace.  I welcome your advice, opinions, and experiences, as I pray that you welcome mine.  I hope that you, or maybe someone you know, will be encouraged, challenged, or enlightened.  Above all, I pray that you see the Love that is the standard for all I am striving for, and that we might point one another to His likeness!

Humbly Yours,
Karli