16 weeks

I woke up this morning to a cacophony of birds singing and squawking outside my window, thinking, “How does anyone sleep through this???” But also noting the cool breeze wafting through the open windows, the peaceful breathing of my sleeping boy beside me, and the delicate morning light. It felt too early to wake up, but I did anyway. I guess sometimes I need only eight hours (particularly if I sleep through the night with no middle-of-the-night snack and internet session).

I’m pretty sure that the baby woke me up, for the first time. I’m at the point where every muscle spasm or digestive click in the region of my belly feels like it could be the baby squirming, and I wonder but don’t feel quite sure. This morning, I felt more precise swift kicks and thought, “There you are!” as I woke to my peaceful 5am scene.

The need for sleep has kept me from my early-morning writing hour, but I’m dying to get back to it. I need to finish my book before we layer in a bombshell of a new routine on top of the existing one! It’s going to be wild. Or, who knows, maybe it’ll be easy and smooth and I’ll write while E is at school, rocking the Rock ‘N Play with my foot…

This week, I finally settled on where to give birth. This was such a long-term decision and at no point in the info-gathering process did I feel clarity. It was a murky process. You guys know that I planned a home birth with my first baby and worked with a home birth midwife whom I adore to pieces. I loved everything about her and my doula and their home birth community where I made so many friends. Even though I ended up being induced in the hospital at 42 weeks, I had a beautiful birth that I would like to replicate in almost all ways. (For the record, I’d like to put in an order for going into labor naturally, shaving some hours off of the pre-labor, and no post-partum hemorrhage, please.)

Once I got here to Illinois, I found a completely different birth scene. For one thing, home birth is much more restricted so there are few above-ground home birth practices. One, though, is in my exact village, and has a good reputation. But from the beginning, my gut was saying no. I can’t fully unpack why. I didn’t like that it was a “team” and you couldn’t know who would be at the actual birth. I couldn’t imagine building the kind of trust I had in my SF midwife, which felt crucial to an intimate home birth experience. The women I met with seemed very competent but inexperienced in that they were very young, which made me nervous. And their transfer hospital was thirteen miles away. And everything (as it was in SF) would be entirely out of pocket, not covered by insurance (a bigger consideration now that I’m trying to afford two kids). There were so many nice aspects to the practice and yet I was just not feeling it.

I visited a state-of-the-art hospital in a gorgeous new building with a friendly team of midwives who promote natural birth in the hospital setting, but they insisted on inducing me at 40 weeks, which was a dealbreaker for me.

I met with a local team of midwives who catch babies at a hospital but I was scared off by anecdotal stories of local moms who ran into long delays at their appointments and billing screw-ups. My free consultation started almost an hour late, and, I get it, someone was at a birth and they were running behind, but I didn’t want to risk taking a half day for every checkup.

I landed on a nonprofit family health center that includes a midwife practice and a birth center (the first in Illinois). The midwives are all former home birth midwives. The woman I met with in my free consultation was warm and gave me glimmers of my SF home birth community. The overall clinic seemed great and the two birthing rooms were painted unfortunately bright colors and had no windows… I couldn’t quite feel that it was the right place either. But I liked the fact that they transfer in an ambulance and the hospital was just 5 minutes away.

I started up prenatal care there, and, sure enough, my first appointment started almost an hour late. But once I was in, everyone was so kind and attentive and the midwife was fantastic. She spent so much time with me and we talked everything through at length. She took down a crazy amount of details about my medical history and requested all the medical records from my fertility process and E’s birth at UCSF. I felt like I had found my people.

However, the insurance coordinator could not get a straight answer from my insurance on whether a birth center birth would be covered in-network which could be a huge difference in price. She did explain that half of the midwives do births at the birth center and the other half at the hospital- I hadn’t realized this was an option, so I stayed right on the fence about which way to go.

I walked into my appointment last week thinking, “I don’t think I’ll be giving birth here.” And, sure enough, when I met with the same midwife again, she said she’d read through my birth records and was concerned about the postpartum hemorrhage. The records said that I’d lost 1.5 liters of blood (a visual estimate), which she felt was underestimated given that they had to give me the maximum meds to get the bleeding under control. Also, my blood pressure was dropping and my pulse rising, a sign that my body was struggling. She said she felt that I should be in the hospital where they could best handle this if it were to unfold the same way again. (Also, all is well with the baby.)

I felt relief. I realized that when I visualized a home or birth center birth, this was my underlying fear. The truth is, after all the fears I had about the hospital, I had a beautiful hospital birth. And I wanted to replicate it. It was a long road, but I finally landed on my decision.

This hospital has a low C-section rate and Alternative Birthing Rooms where they pretty much leave you alone to labor naturally. And it’s less than 2 miles from my house. We can do this.

I’ve been joined on the couch by a little rugrat who is watching Clifford on my phone while I wrap this up. As soon as we turn it off, he will want me to throw him a ball to hit with a tennis racquet. (It’s a padded ball so won’t do too much damage in the house.) He insists on being called Roger Federer, and I am Serena Williams.

We’re headed to the pool today. Happy 4th! xo