Every pregnant woman should receive the skillful, compassionate care that my daughter is getting during her sixth pregnancy and home birth. Last night, I was present at a prenatal visit. These vists take place weekly during the last month or so before delivery. I wish I had a picture to post of the idyllic scene, but my camera was in the car, and I didn't want to miss one minute of the visit so I'll do my best to describe what I saw.
When the midwives arrived for the visit, 3-year-old Mary Autumn had just awakened from a nap and was cuddled in Jennie Lou's lap. Children accompanied the midwives—Andrea's eldest son, 5-year-old Huck and Dodie's granddaughter, 4-year-old Gwendolyn. Within minutes, the two kids had joined the other Tippett children playing outside. The front door stood open, and kids wandered in periodically to quietly watch or ask a question. Andrea wrote notes in a fat file containing the records of all of Jennie Lou's previous pregnancies and deliveries. The birth tub stood nearby, clean and ready to be filled for the latter part of labor.
The conversation was easy with Andrea asking how Jennie Lou felt and if there had been any changes she wanted to report. Jennie Lou talked about the mild cold she and a couple of her kids were getting over. There was a brief discussion of Mary Autumn's birth and the ways it was similar to another birth that one of Andrea's friends had recently attended. The calculation for the due date was rechecked and the conclusion was that baby was indeed about a week overdue.
When Mary Autumn was more awake and ready to get off her mother's lap, the midwives performed routine tests such as blood pressure. One of the kids offered to help Andrea squeeze the bulb to tighten the cuff. Jennie Lou's blood pressure was 90/65, following the typically low pattern in our family but also indicative of her relaxation in the moment. She left to pee in a yogurt cup that Gianna had retrieved from the dishwasher. Next, she laid down so they could measure her belly and feel for the position of the baby. Mary Autumn climbed up beside Mama and cuddled against her shoulder.
The midwives explained that they were going to chart the baby's heartbeat and movement for a period of 5 minutes, a procedure that checks on the health of an over-term baby. At the sound of the heart beat pulsating through the Doppler, the children trickled in from outdoors. All were reverently quiet as Dodie counted heartbeats announcing the count every 5 seconds for Andrea to record. Gwendolyn stroked her grandma's back as she tapped thumb and forefinger together counting each beat. Every once in a while Jennie Lou said, "Movement," and Andrea marked the chart accordingly. Mary Autumn reached above her mother's head to gently part the curtain when she heard Papa's truck in the driveway.
"A healthy baby with a healthy heart," said Andrea at the conclusion of 5 minutes.
Jennie Lou sat up and the children drifted back outside. The special moment had passed: We all had the opportunity to enjoy a little in-utero time with this child who will soon "come out of Mama's belly."
In the case of a homebirth, pregnancy and birth are truly a family affair. I am fortunate to be a part of this family and this event.