Week 17

17 is my lucky number. I think it started because the Disney Channel was channel 17 when I was a kid. We never had it, so it was always this unreachable, almost magical thing. Plus it’s just a pretty number. A lovely shade of emerald green. (All letters and numbers have colors to me. Not sure where that comes from. I was at least ten years old before I realized not everyone saw letters and numbers as having inherent colors.)

Things are still going fine, and God help me, I’m starting to really believe in this. Part of it is just feeling my uterus creep inexorably up toward my belly button (and out a bit, though it can hardly be called a “bump” quite yet).

Also — and this is where I’ll find out if my husband is reading my blog or not — a friend from the CC Facebook group offered to send me a fetal heart rate monitor for free, and how could I resist that? I couldn’t, that’s how.

So I’ve been monitoring the fetus’s heart rate three times a week for about one minute each time, and it has been an absolute sanity-saver. It’s such a relief to hear the little thumping beats and see them stay right in the sweet spot of 120-160 bpm. Usually right at 140, but as low as 135 and as high as 150. (It’s normal to vary a bit depending on your activity level and the fetus’s.)

S/he mostly hangs out on the right, but I found her closer to the center once and off to the left another time. Once she even danced away from the probe, and I could hear the beats fading out. It’s so nice to get this little “peek” into where she is and what she’s doing.

I took a risk in allowing my FB friend to send it to me. If it had stressed me out, I’d have had to either swallow the stress and say nothing or tell my husband and feel like a giant ass. Instead, I’m just a giant liar by omission. But a happier and less stressed-out one. My sweet husband, who’s right about most things, was wrong about this (at least so far).

A recent development: I want to eat ALL THA FOODZ. I’m so excited to eat that I have to be careful not do overdo it and end up bloated and completely miserable. (So. Bloated.) It’s really hard to moderate when food is so delicious all of a sudden. It’s like I’m high all the time (without the high — just the munchies). Last night I had to stop myself from posting on Facebook about how excited I was to be planning on eating Mexican food the next day. It was like Christmas Eve.

(And this evening, when I suddenly craved boba tea, I just went out and got some, and it was seriously heaven in a cup. Until I came to the end of it and felt so indignant. I could have drunk that stuff for hours.)

We went to the Mexican restaurant to meet with my dad and tell him the good news. (My parents have been divorced since I was six, FYI.) He was delighted, and went straight home and called his brother in Texas to tell him the good news before I could, haha. But now my aunt and uncle and two cousins down (further) South know, and they were really happy for us, too. (I’m sure my mom has long since filled in most folks on the other side of the family, but just to make sure, we’ll also announce it at my grandmother’s 89th birthday next weekend. Hopefully I don’t steal her thunder too much.)

Whew. Really starting to get real, little by little. Of course, they still might find something awful at the anatomy scan. It’ll be a huge sigh of relief if that one goes well. If so, it’ll be time to make it Facebook official.

I’ve decided I’ll probably just do something simple, like a shot of our cat with its paw on an ultrasound photo, and a caption that says, “After four long years… Mateo is finally going to be a big brother. Baby [girl or boy] due in March. We couldn’t be more over the moon.”

I spoke with some folks on Facebook about how much to reveal, and when, about the origins of the child. Most people — including donor conceived and adopted people and parents of donor conceived kids — said there was no particular need to bring that up in the announcement. After all, most folks don’t lead off with how their kids were conceived. Just the happy news that a child is coming. Any further details can be filled in later, as appropriate.

I guess the drive to over-share comes from being a little bit dismayed how many people are coy about assisted reproduction, which paints an unrealistic picture of what’s really going on in the world. It makes people who need fertility help feel that much more isolated. I’m not ashamed of it — I’m proud of getting through all we’ve gone through — and it feels like something I should share when I can.

But it is completely up to each family at the end of the day, and as one adopted person put it, she has no shame about being adopted, but she also doesn’t lead with it every time she introduces herself. And to some extent, it is her right to decide when and how to bring it up. So we certainly won’t try to hide it, but we also won’t be the first to bring it up very often. To people we’re close with, we’ll be honest and straightforward about it. But Joe Schmoe doesn’t have any pressing reason to know, and God knows neither I nor (probably) the child will want to go into a whole spiel about the science and sociology of donor conception every single time they meet someone new.

All in all I’m not worried about it, and I hope that sense of ease will rub off on the kid. But if they do have unease about any of it, of course I’ll respect that and do my best to help them work through it.

Anyway, speaking of 17, Ahmed has his citizenship interview on October 17 (yay!), and if all goes well he’ll be a citizen several weeks afterwards. We’ve been studying the civics questions they’ll ask — 100 questions, of which they’ll ask about 10, and he has to get at least 6 right. Examples:

Do you know what happened at the Constitutional Convention?

The Constitution was written!

Do you know what the Declaration of Independence did?

It declared independence!

Not all questions are that comically simple, but all in all, I think he’ll do fine 😉

So yeah. In the midst of a 2017 that’s been so horrific for so many people, it’s been lucky and lovely for us so far (and full of 17s). Our biggest worry at the moment is finding out soon what kind of gutted, over-priced insurance plan we’ll end up with next year.

I don’t take that for granted for a moment, and we’ve done what we can to contribute to those affected by various disasters. But we are most definitely counting our blessings with profound gratitude.

Sending love and strength to all those struggling in so many ways, fertility issues absolutely being one of them. Most disasters at least don’t last three or four or more years at a stretch… I will never forget how hard those four years were, with every day and month that passed feeling like a mark scratched onto a prison wall with no end in sight. It’s so strange and unfamiliar to see and feel a little bit of light again. And it still feels so tenuous sometimes. But we’re enjoying it as much as we can.

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Traveling while P

I had some airline miles to burn before I cancel the credit card that I got them with (I don’t know if the miles will expire or not when I cancel the card, but I don’t want to mess with it), and it so happened one of my best high school friends, Emily, was getting married on the last day of September in Eugene, Oregon. The only trip I could get with my miles left Wednesday and got back home Monday, and each trip had two layovers.

Oh well. Free trip.

Both trips started around noon, so no crazy early mornings. I really hate those spread eagle nipple scan machines (such a pointless cash grab by the industry, and such a violation of privacy), and especially while pregnant I wasn’t about to go through it. (It’s probably fine, but “probably” isn’t good enough for me after all we’ve been through.) So I had to subject myself to their rather aggressive “pat down” (more like legalized molestation). Seems to be a way to pressure people into going through the machine.

Sometimes I really hate this country, which overreacts wildly to a single half-baked underwear bomber and does nothing in the face of scores of mass shootings. Largely based on what creates more corporate profit and campaign contributions.

Anyway, the rest of the trip went pretty smoothly, and I got to Eugene around 9:30pm, plenty of time to catch up a bit before hitting the sack.

Thursday and Friday we did some shopping and preparations and also hung out with the parents of the bride and groom and Emily’s best college friend Barbara. Friday night we did a pub cycle, which is a big tandem bike shaped like a trolley with five seats on each side facing each other and pedals at each seat. The pedaling didn’t seem to do much, as the electric engine did most of the work, but we pedaled away anyway.

Of course I didn’t drink; I found interesting things like gingerade, fig cola, and at one point — at a coffee shop across the street from one of the bars — a divine hemp milk chai latte. They do them right in Oregon. Spicy, not sweet, so you can just add a few sugar crystals to the foam for a subtle sweet crunch. So good.

Saturday morning was the actual ceremony, a lovely, intimate Quaker tradition of gathering in silence until the couple felt married. The weather was absolutely perfect, cool with clear blue skies, and Emily had decorated the ancient apple tree in her yard with streamers of fabric.

The reception later on was more boisterous, and everyone brought terrific food. There were two cakes, one lemon poppyseed with blackberry filling, the other vanilla with layers of dark chocolate and blood orange ganache. Emily had bought a bunch of mismatched delicate teacups at a thrift store to serve the coffee, and we each got to choose one and take it home as a party favor. (Their “guest book” was a homemade game of giant Jenga made with cut and sanded 2x4s, and we each chose a Jenga block and wrote messages on them.)

Sunday was a recovery day. Emily and I went to a gently twisty, stretchy yoga class, then we went to an orchard outside of town to pick pears and apples. For dinner we went to a charming Japanese place and split several awesome dishes.

Through most of it I was more or less fine. More tired than usual, and after hours and hours of making small talk with near strangers (lovely as they were), I was pretty peopled out. I needed to take breaks sometimes, and most days I begged off for a nap for at least an hour. I ate reasonably well given that it was a party weekend, but I was definitely glad to think about getting back to my usual food and having more control over when and what I ate. I had too much sugar overall, and my sinuses and ears were a bit congested by the end.

Then when it was time to get molested at the airport again, I had a particularly aggressive woman who talked into my face (even though during these things I try to just tune out what’s happening), and as she walked over to the machine to make sure I wasn’t a bomb threat (or whatever), she coughed and said, “Man, this is killing me.”

I said, “Wait, are you sick?”

“Yeah.”

“I told you I’m not going through the other thing because I’m pregnant. Are you contagious?”

“I think most germs are contagious.”

“You really shouldn’t expose pregnant people to sick people.”

She just kind of threw her hands in the air and walked away.

I found someone else and asked her to tell the manager what had happened, and that it shouldn’t happen. For all the good it probably did.

Three days later I seem fine, but… yeah. Sometimes I hate this country.

In happier news, despite no fetal scans any time recently or soon, the growth of my uterus is easy to feel (still can’t see it — it seems to be growing upward rather than outward), and last night, when I pressed my hand into my uterus, I think I felt a bit of movement. I still can’t feel any movement internally (that is, my uterus / belly doesn’t feel anything yet), but my hand seemed to pick up some movement that wasn’t rhythmic like blood flow and didn’t seem like digestive movement. I could be imagining it, of course, but it was a cool feeling. Very subtle but exciting. A dancing fetus.

Also, I revised the first chapter of my novel and welcome feedback.

You can read it here.

I Ain’t Afraid of No Birth

I think I’m in a minority here, but I am really not scared of a natural birth at all. I am, of course, trepidatious about things going wrong, but if I were able to assume a natural, healthy, uncomplicated birth, I wouldn’t be the least bit scared of it. I’m just excited for it.

Obviously I cannot blithely assume a natural, healthy, uncomplicated birth. But I feel like I’ll be in good hands if things do go a bit sideways. I’m just so excited to meet our little one after all this time, and I have a feeling that will be the dominant thing on my mind.

And what’s several hours of physical pain compared to four years of horrendous mental anguish? Especially if I’m well prepared enough to let it flow through me, not resist it, knowing it’s for a very good cause. With my husband and my doula beside me (we finally settled on Doula 1 and feel really good about it!) and a simpatico doctor, all in the place where I was born… I just feel good about it.

That is, of course, very easy to say while my uterus is still smaller than a volleyball. I’ll revisit this post afterwards and let you know precisely how full of shit it was 😉

But I’m reading up on birth a lot, listening to podcasts (both good and bad birth experiences), drawing from a variety of experts, and so stoked about my doctor’s 5% c-section rate, it just seems like my body can do this. I’ll be so jazzed if I ever get to that place, I feel like I’ll fly through birth. Not that it will be easy, but it will be… what it will be. And it will be good. Primal, empowering, life-changing. Having such a great team around me will help in relaxing me and maintaining my confidence as my body does its (incredible) thing.

Who knows? It could be nothing like that at all. But it’s nice to feel confident about something for once, and I feel like that can only be helpful. A self-fulfilling prophecy kind of thing.

And if not, well hell, I can enjoy my delusion until then 😉

The In-Between

My symptoms have tapered off, but there’s still no bump. I feel no movement. I don’t have another ultrasound for five weeks, and I still have no fetal doppler. (My husband is adamant on that point, afraid I’ll rush to the ER any time I have a hard time finding a heartbeat. Not entirely without reason.)

I feel more like an imposter than ever. The “p” word still doesn’t feel like something that really applies to me. Unless the “p” word is “provisional.” When people ask about the due date, my mind flashes to the other due dates seared into my memory, the ones that turned to dust and blew away. One was due in May, the other in September. Why should March be any different?

Occasionally, in unguarded moments, I feel a little thrill, try to connect with this miracle swimming and dancing in my belly, tiny and perfect, growing every day. And then the cynicism tries to clamp down again, reminding me it could all be nothing yet again.

The joy and hope lasts only a few days past each check-up. On a recent post check-up high, I wrote this comment on a friend’s blog:

“I could not possibly be more excited about my very first “p-word” that made it past the first trimester if this (donor embryo) babe shared our genes. I couldn’t love her or him more. I think it’s extra special that it “took a village.” The sky is brighter, the breeze is sweeter, and as long as things continue to go well, it does feel like the past four awful years are beginning to disappear behind us like footsteps in sand.

When I was in the middle of it, I truly despaired of ever seeing this day. I still can hardly believe it. Finally I’m daring to look ahead to the future and feel it might be happy — wondrous — after all.”

I went on a bit later:

“It just underscores, though, how horrible this experience can be. I didn’t even realize how much of my hope and happiness it had robbed until the clouds finally started to part a little. I barely recognized myself for a very long time. And I never thought of myself as the kind of person who’d be so lost in something like this. You never really know until you’re in it…

It’s like some kind of divorce or death or car crash over and over and over and over and over as your savings (your plans, your hopes, your travels, your security) evaporate into thin air, and the very worst part is that your partner has to suffer as well and there’s nothing you can do about it, and you have NO IDEA when or if you’ll ever get out of it. Sometimes there’s just no bright-siding that, no matter how strong you are, no matter how hard you try. Sometimes the bastard of fertility issues just grinds you down.

And there’s no shame in that. Sometimes there’s nothing to do but feel what you feel and then pick yourself up and move on. Sometimes “numb” is the best you can hope for when the most important person of your life stubbornly refuses to materialize. (I know it’s weird to talk about the most important person in your life when they don’t exist yet, but for some people, you just know they will be. And it hurts to miss them every day, to fight so hard every day and be beaten back over and over and over.)

I can only speak for myself here, but there’s been nothing in my life close to as grueling as this. Four years of it! I will always shudder to think about it.

What’s the point of being ashamed of that? It is what it is. I did my best, and it wasn’t much, but I grimly persevered.”

I guess it makes sense that it’s not easy to recover from that in a matter of weeks. To change your mindset from one of grinding lack to one of joyful abundance. And yes, I really had no business having a “lack” mindset even during those four awful years considering how many blessings we have, but knowing that and feeling it are two different things. I tried my best to feel it, and I had my moments, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s a hideous weight to carry. It’s such a heavy fog to have around for so long, your eyes can’t help but adjust to the dimness.

It’s hard to understand how any of us get through it, other than just knowing we have no choice. Some people will be OK without having children, others know they never will be. For people in the second category, there’s nothing to do but carry on however you can manage.

And right now, with no symptoms, no bump, no kicks, no ultrasounds, no doppler, it leaves a lot of space for the old doubts, the PTSD, to creep back in.

Even my OB, whose daughter-in-law has a nine-month-old IVF baby, said there was nothing he could say to ease her anxiety while she was pregnant. Only a living baby could do that.

Kicks and a bump will help, though, plus knowing the gender so we can really play around with names and stuff like that (though we won’t make a firm choice until we actually see the kid and see what names fit). And it helps to go to prenatal yoga classes and have an OB and read up on birthing practices and generally go on as if this thing might really happen. (A colleague of my husband’s gifted me her copy of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and offered me her son’s hand-me-downs — how sweet!)

We’ll also start thinking about a general announcement after the 20-week scan, which is kind of crazy in itself. I shared little parts of our journey with Facebook World along the way but then piped down after the first miscarriage. It’ll be nice to let people know we’re finally in a good place. But I’m really not sure how to go about it. I don’t think I can do one of those stereotypical cutesy posts (we’re not cutesy people), but I don’t want to be too clinical about it, either.

(When I went to my team’s first soccer match of the season in civilian clothes, I didn’t feel like lying but didn’t want to say the “p” word, either. So I said, “Sorry guys, I can’t play, I have an abdominal parasite. And will for about the next six months…” They still got it and congratulated me, but it was easier somehow. 🙂 )

My instinct is not to lead off with the fact that it’s a donor embryo. Not because I have any problem or shame about it whatsoever, but because to me it’s secondary to the miracle that we’re going to have a child together. And if I bring it up, I feel like that will become the whole focus. I remember being pretty ignorant about these things not that long ago, but I don’t really want to have to put on my “teacher hat” every time I share our good news. Lots of other things to save that energy for.

I have a friend (white with a white husband) who’s fostering a mixed race baby, and I witnessed someone see the baby for the first time and say absolutely nothing about how cute or sweet the baby was or congratulate the mom or anything until she nailed down why the baby didn’t look like her (foster) parents. It was incredibly off-putting. Some people literally see skin color / genetic origin before they see humanity.

So yeah… I think I may let people get used to the idea that I’m pregnant and really happy before I spring the technical details on them. It’s really going to be a lifetime navigating this unique miracle, and I’m not that bothered about it personally, but it’s an interesting extra level of things to think about. Once the child is here, of course, the number one priority will be making sure she feels 100% secure in her identity, to make sure she (or he) knows how deeply she’s loved and wanted, but without putting any pressure on her to feel she has to “live up” to anything.

Do you know what I mean? Like to never feel for one moment that our aching desire for her and everything we went through to get her means she has to be any particular thing other than whoever she is. I want her to know she’s a miracle, but… so is every child ever born. And I never want her to feel that she can’t express curiosity about her genetic origins or feel like she’s hurting us if she wants to track down her donors. It’s entirely up to her. That kind of curiosity is natural, and it has nothing to do with how much she cares for us.

Haha, so yeah, this is me vacillating between self-protectively pretending (or feeling) like not much is going on and planning the next months and years with our child. 🙂 It’s a bit of a schizophrenic place to be. I guess, like everything else, it’s just a matter of doing my best as the days inexorably pass.

And reminding myself that my MFM, an expert trained in high-risk pregnancies, gave us a 95% chance of a healthy birth. Those are by far the best odds we’ve ever had.

C-section Rate 5% — No Joke

Wow. So I mentioned in a previous post that I thought I read that my OB has something like a 4% c-section rate. It was a big reason that I chose him. But then I couldn’t find the stat again, and I wondered if I had imagined it. It seemed too good to be true.

It was… but not by much. I asked him about it today.

He smiled a little bashfully, as if not wanting to appear too proud, and said, “Do you know, I have the lowest c-section rate in the state. It’s about 5%.”

Not gonna lie, I was pretty gobsmacked. “Wow. That’s incredible.”

“Yeah. So if you want a vaginal delivery, you’ve come to the right place.”

I smiled. “Well, I understand anything can happen, but Plan A is definitely to be as natural as possible.”

“That should always be Plan A,” he said. Then he scowled a little. “Do you know there are doctors here with a 70% c-section rate? One whole group averages 50%. So women who chose one of those doctors will probably end up with a c-section. And they don’t even know it.”

Those are the kinds of doctors I’m talking about when I talk about wanting a doula. I recognize that I got the best doc in the state (hallelujah), but birth is unpredictable. He could be on vacation when I give birth, and I could end up with a Dr. Slice. I’ll need a doula more than ever. Or a nurse might try to rupture my membranes or do some other “routine” intervention that could cascade up into even my OB needing to do a c-section. And I really wouldn’t want to mess with his stats 🙂

(Doula 1 also has about a 5% c-section rate among women who attempt labor with her. She doesn’t count scheduled c-sections in her stats, and I think she rarely takes those anyway. Doula 2 has a 19% c-section rate, which honestly seems a bit high, but I don’t know how many of them were planned. I’m back leaning toward Doula 1 again. I’ll try to choose by the end of the week.)

Anyway. The nurse today listened to the fetal heart beat (152 bpm), and the doc said my ute was growing nicely, and there’s really nothing to report. Other than finally some good news on the insurance front: My OB doesn’t charge per visit but wraps it up into his delivery fee next year, which means it’ll all go toward next year’s out-of-pocket max, which means they’re essentially free (or, well, no added cost) since I’ll definitely hit my out-of-pocket max next year anyway. (He’s also letting me put off my glucose challenge test until the first week of January, which will be week 29 for me.) Yay.

The MFM is not like that. He charges $200 per consultation. So I won’t be seeing him anymore this year, even though he enjoys traveling to Turkey. Sorry, doc. Maybe next year.

Pop!

Today when my husband came home from work, I greeted him with, “I think my uterus popped out today!”

A horrified look crossed his face — I don’t even want to know what he was imagining — and I laughed apologetically and said, “No, it’s a good thing. Come feel!”

Backtracking a bit: This morning I felt somehow heavier around the belly, and I pooed like a dream. I just chalked it up to pregnancy weirdness until…

I’ve been palpating my belly most nights lately hoping to feel something that felt like a ballooning uterus. Not much luck so far. But then today I thought to check it and… whoah mama. No doubt about it. That’s a grapefruit-sized uterus right there in my lower belly!

It’s funny how fast it happened — how quickly it went from wedged in my pelvic cavity to perched on my bladder. (And no longer compressing my bowels.) From no apparent evidence of pregnancy to (literally) palpable evidence.

You still can’t really see it from the outside, but Ahmed felt it immediately and smiled in wonder. There it is — we can feel it. It gets more and more real every day.

It was nice that it happened today, because as great a mood as I’ve been in all week, now it’s been a whole week since my last ultrasound, and it seems psychologically impossible to think about waiting another SIX weeks to get another one. Doubts creep in so quickly. I need to get over it and trust that my body knows exactly what it’s doing. (And these damned ultrasounds aren’t cheap on my insurance that was chosen based solely on its premium and out-of-pocket max since I expected to be giving birth this year, not next year. I couldn’t afford to keep getting more ultrasounds even if I thought it was a good idea. And Ahmed still doesn’t want me to get a Doppler fetal heart rate monitor.)

So today, feeling my uterus pop out to say hello… It was another good Monday. 🙂

OB appointment tomorrow (separate from last week’s MFM appointment). There won’t be an ultrasound, just a check-in and maybe some blood work. I’m hoping after the 19 week scan six weeks from today, I can put off any other prenatal stuff until next year so it’ll go toward that deductible / out of pocket max. (Good Lord I hate dealing with the American medical insurance industrial complex.) I’ll be 28 weeks on January 1. There’s no big thing between 19 and 28 weeks, is there?

Anyway, it is what it is. Trying to enjoy the good things more than worry about the stress, nonsense, and expense that is the American medical system (at least if you’re not rich, not traditionally employed, and/or live in one of those tight-fisted, cold-hearted red states).

Doulemma

No road trip Colorado vacation for us, modest as it would have been. It’s just a little too stressy to spend that money right now when we have so many other things to think about. Perhaps when our child is several months old, we’ll have a better idea of our financial situation and can find a nice time to leave the kid at Grandma’s house and have a “couple’s retreat” then. We may even need it more at that point…

I am signing up for a local four-day meditation retreat, which I did a couple of years ago and really got a lot out of. I heard recently that mindfulness practices can help significantly reduce preterm birth, and I’ve gotten way out of whack as far as mindfulness because I’ve spent so much time just gritting my teeth waiting for disaster. It’s no way to live, and hopefully this retreat will help jump-start me back toward being the person I really want to be.

We met with the two doulas I picked out, and they are both fantastic in their own ways. Doula 1 is a bit younger and has a daughter who’s about five years old. The set-up in her office was a little awkward with her on a couch on one end of the (small) room and us on a couch on the other end. And I was nervous for some reason, maybe just my general social awkwardness combined with the oddness of the set-up (she had recently moved to the new office, so maybe things hadn’t really settled in yet), plus my husband still not 100% really understanding what it was all about. It’s certainly easy, on first blush, to see it as an extravagance.

(Oh yeah, and this was before Monday’s ultrasound, so I was also in a really bad place as far as fearing this was all moot anyway.)

But the more I learn, the more I see the impersonal, medicalized version of birth we generally have in the US as problematic. As my mom said, “We all got through it somehow.” But I don’t want to just “get through” the birth of my child. I’ve heard so many stories of women feeling like the whole process was something that happened to them, where they felt like they had little control and everyone else was managing the whole process.

And of course, if you’re feeling humiliated or stressed, that is not good for labor, which is a process that fundamentally involves surrender. Not surrender to others, but surrender to yourself. Random nurses coming in and poking you every now and then as you sweat and breathe and grit your teeth under hideous fluorescent lighting… It just doesn’t sound right to me. In general, being in labor is not a sickness that needs to be managed. It’s a natural process that may need to be tweaked, but only if things go wrong. And in general, they shouldn’t go wrong. You shouldn’t go in expecting them to go wrong unless you have a good reason to expect that.

Now, I’ve already committed to birthing in a hospital because legitimately bad things can happen, and a hospital is the best place to be in those circumstances. But I’m still hoping for as natural a birth as possible, and doulas are one element that is shown to reduce interventions significantly. Which makes sense. One of the key indicators for being more likely to have a c-section is the number of nurses you have while in labor. The more different people are taking measurements, as opposed to one person staying with you through it all, the more chance there is for error or just impatience (not to mention stress).

I happen to have a long cervix, for example, which might make my labor go longer than usual. A nurse might take a look at the stats and decide I should be induced or sectioned or have my membranes artificially ruptured. Not necessarily even for health reasons but just because it better fits the hospital’s timetable. Hospitals like to be able to time things, to be predictable and efficient.

The human body in labor doesn’t necessarily work that way.

A doula is more likely to say, “Women’s bodies have many natural variations, and this one might cause slightly prolonged labor.” If I have someone like that in my corner, who has experience and isn’t a first-timer like me, I’ll be less likely to cave in when someone suggests an unnecessary intervention. Even a seemingly minor intervention can throw your body’s whole rhythm off and put the baby in distress and cascade all the way up to the Big Slice in no time, and I’d rather avoid major abdominal surgery if I can.

(Obviously, if an intervention is genuinely medically necessary, I’ll do it.)

Labor is all about oxytocin, a hormone that is aided by comfort and relaxation and inhibited by fear or stress. Makes sense — if I was giving birth in the wild, and I smelled a leopard, labor should stop so I could get the hell out of there. If I’m basically tied to machines while a bunch of people are coming in and out of a harshly-lit room telling me to lay on my back so they can stick their hands up my business and saying jargony things I don’t understand, it’s not really conducive to opening like a flower. Yet that’s pretty much the current model. No wonder interventions have skyrocketed.

Luckily there is such thing as bodily autonomy, and I can turn down pretty much anything I want to turn down. I won’t go nuts or anything, but I’m not interested in frequent cervical checks (they can inhibit labor not just because they’re uncomfortable but also because they can be really discouraging if the nurse clucks her tongue and shakes her head like you’re failing, not to mention they can introduce bacteria into a place where it shouldn’t be) or constant monitoring where I’m literally tied to a machine unless there’s a good indication for it.

Having one person who knows what I want and knows exactly how things have gone so far and really knows what she’s doing in that room for the whole time I’m in labor and can help me get my preferences across when I’m, ya know, kind of in the middle of something… Yeah, it sounds like a luxury, but like a common sense luxury. Like something that should come standard, but just doesn’t in our society. (Kinda like universal health care…) My husband and I can focus on “right brain” stuff — being in the moment, going inward, feeling this incredible thing we’re going through — while the doula keeps track of all the “left brain” stuff we learned in birthing class and the exponentially more that she learned to get her doula certification.

And if you look back not that long ago in our society, you have truly insane methods of childbirth. Like the so-called “twilight birth,” in which morphine and scopolomine were given to women to essentially cause them to forget the entire experience of childbirth. Sure, this high-class birth method was “pain-free” (or at least free of the memory of pain), but it turned laboring mothers into raving lunatics who had drowsy, depressed babies who sometimes could barely breathe.

Now we just see that as madness. Not having a doula isn’t as bad as all that, but it does seem a bit crazy to me. In most traditional societies, somebody’s there through the whole of labor, and it’s usually not just a (relatively) clueless husband, much less a procession of strangers.

Doula 1 said, “You have an entire generation of people whose mothers weren’t even present for their births. And now…”

“Now they’re voting for Donald Trump,” I said grimly.

She laughed. “Right?” She sighed. “In Oklahoma, you have to be careful before you say those things.”

I was aware of that. But if she hadn’t laughed, believe me, it would have been a deal-breaker anyway 🙂

She had a strong personality and a lot of thoughts and opinions that we appreciated. She also assured me she’d dim the lights and decorate the labor & delivery room with Christmas lights and LED candles if I wanted, and that sounded awesome to me.

I left feeling like we’d be in good hands even if Doula 2 was a complete bust.

But I also knew Doula 2 would be anything but. She comes highly recommended by several friends-of-friends in town, and she used to live in New York (I’ve been listening to the Birthful podcast, and she was mentioned on one of the episodes about a vaginal breech birth in NY!), and she’s also a massage therapist and teaches what looks like a wonderful birthing class geared toward natural birth. Doula-ing with her would involve massages during labor and a discount on her class. Score.

We met at a coffee house, and sitting around a table on a sidewalk sipping drinks was much less awkward than the couch set-up. She was bubbly and sweet, and we were talking 90 miles an hour. A truly lovely woman. She has not given birth yet, but she’s attended about the same number of births as Doula 1, which is about 50. The c-section rate of the births she’s attended is about 19%, which is much lower than the 30-odd% national average and not far from the WHO recommendation of about 15%.

I had forgotten to ask Doula 1 about her c-section rate. I’ve since emailed her and she didn’t get back to me yet. (In fact, neither has been particularly responsive over email.)

It’s a really tough decision. They are both great in their own ways. Doula 1 has a gravity about her that I appreciate, and Doula 2 has a lightness. A part of me thinks Doula 1 will be more fiercely protective (and maybe more simpatico, since we’re both a little guarded at first — I’m generally not a bubbly person, but I can fake it, especially after a happy ultrasound), but… Doula 2 is a professional masseuse! And everyone loves her. And she has that awesome class. Will it be awkward if I take her class but go with a different doula?

And it’s just so hard to gauge a person in 40 minutes for something this momentous and personal, especially since I was so high-strung and miserable before the ultrasound (with Doula 1) and so, well, bubbly afterwards (with Doula 2).

(I am really letting myself enjoy this pregnancy now, by the way. I turned a huge corner with the ultrasound. I’m even telling myself that if, God forbid, the worst happens, there’s still no reason not to enjoy this as much as I can. I could not get to this place before the ultrasound, and I’m very glad to be here now.)

I guess this dilemma is a good problem to have, especially in a place like Tulsa. (My prenatal yoga teacher also mentioned something about being a doula, but I’m having a hard enough time deciding between these other two.) Even in our humble burg, we have more options than I could have hoped for. Another indication, maybe, that having a doula isn’t so nutty after all.

Thoughts, as always, are welcome.