It’s the 11th hour — I ache, I waddle. I watch my baby’s limbs slide across my abdomen and know that any second now she could start making her way into the world, and the details on how that will happen still aren’t 100% finalized.
You see, I currently live in North Carolina — where traditional midwifery is illegal. Had I stayed put in New Mexico, much of this wouldn’t have been a concern, but the baby’s father thought it best to take a job on the West coast to prepare us monetarily. It made sense, so I came to North Carolina to be with my family until his return.
I was living in the rural southwest for a variety of reasons, not least because I wanted to make an attempt at more, and more radical, self-reliance. Predictably, when I found myself pregnant at 36, I thought to myself, “Oh hey, natural process — we’ll do this at home!”
I was then totally surprised to find myself labeled “high risk” and of “advanced maternal age.” I might have been 36 when I got pregnant … but I was a wiry, energetic, and sun-leathered thirty-six, eating home-grown organic vegetables and deer meat shot on premises, living on the edge of a huge wilderness four miles from beautiful, natural hot springs that I visited as often as possible. Tests showed me as extremely low-risk for a variety of bad things, and my exceptional health and youthfulness were constantly remarked upon.
Still, none of that mattered when I arrived in North Carolina midway through my pregnancy. The town where my family resides isn’t like North Carolina’s more well-known vortexes like Chapel Hill and Asheville, where lay midwives are still very much part of the crunchy, alternative culture. In Greensboro, I wasn’t immediately able to find prenatal care that really vibed with the kind of person that I am, so I simply went for standard medical care that let me listen to her heartbeat on the Doppler every couple of weeks and checked my blood pressure.
Oh, but I heard there are some great birthing centers around, one of which is only 45 minutes away in Chapel Hill. It’s renowned, but the center and its midwives are booked through April 2011. But what about Women’s Hospital? They have great birthing rooms and Certified Nurse Midwives! But it’s still a hospital, which would require additional efforts in making sure my demands were met and some potential disagreements about, say, which kinds of vaccinations they’d shoot my kid up with before they’d let me leave. According to another Certified Nurse Midwive in Asheville, with me being 37, having never given birth before, and not having developed a serious relationship with any specific “care provider,” I was not a candidate for a home birth at all. They had, she said arrogantly, “an impeccable reputation” they needed to uphold. To jump in at the end and guide a strong, healthy woman through a natural process is just not how they go about things. Okay, then. Given the hell midwives have been put through in this state, I can understand the paranoia, but still…
Since when did pregnancy become such a complicated, delicate, and heavily-monitored matter for women in general?
Since when did pregnancy become such a complicated, delicate, and heavily-monitored matter for women in general? Yep, I still make my bi-weekly pee-in-a-cup-and-listen-with-the-Doppler visits, but they feel pointless. I’m well aware of this baby moving around inside my belly, and I’m also well aware that she’s getting ready to vacate the premises. They do that eventually. I also understand that something could go wrong — and that I could potentially wind up on my back in a hospital with a surgeon releasing my child from its uterine bonds at a designated time and hour. Either way, as long as the end result is a healthy, happy and whole baby girl, it’s all fine. I just want to give myself the chance to experience the process first — even if it means digging around underground for references to experienced midwives willing to assist and renting a cabin hours away in order to have some semblance of proximity to them.
Thankfully, at this 11th hour I’ve found someone who resonates with who I am and what I want out of my birth — a lot of advance education about the processes involved, minimal interference, a quiet, private labor with my lover, and some assistance, should I need it, when it’s really time to push. They’ve also got a relationship with the doctors at the nearest hospital, should I need them, because they reside in liberally-minded area where the idea that what they do is illegal seems as moronic to others as it does to me.
But for all the work involved to make this the most simple, natural (and still safe) experience it could be, I could have divested far less energy just doing it myself in the bathtub here at my family’s home. I’m still very much into the idea of unassisted birth, but I’d prefer that choice not be made out of desperation.