My First Prenatal Visit
Well it may come as no surprise to some that my ideal birth would be a home birth. I haven't spent much time envisioning myself giving birth but when I do, my intuition takes me home and not in a hospital setting. I simply can't picture myself strapped to a table laying on my back with lots of beeping. In fact just thinking about a hospital brings me a lot of anxiety. I can't help but associate hospitals with sick people, disease, and medical emergencies that sometimes end in death. Hospitals flat out scare me!
The idea of a home birth is too much for my husband to cope with (that's fair) and apartment living doesn't seem like the right fit for my ideal home birth, but that's just me. So this time around I gave up on my dream of a beautiful home birth. So after doing lots of research and interviewing a local birth center and midwife, we decided on the Midwifery at Community North Hospital. Fun fact, this is actually the same hospital I was born at many years ago and before they had the Midwifery option! How special is that? The first step was a virtual meet and greet with our primary midwife Jill. She's what sealed the deal for us. She answered all our questions (believe me we had a ton of questions like can I not be strapped to a bed) and assured us that she is only there to guide us along the way. She actually made a point to say "I am not your boss". It's like she was in my head and realized that I don't tolerate the typical western medical setting where the white coat doctor might have a my way or the highway approach to pregnancy and birth. She made it clear that she isn't there to tell us what to do or to force us to do anything we don't want to do. Let's just say she was speaking my language! She was giving me the freedom to take charge of my pregnancy. I get to be an active member in making decisions about my health and the health of my growing baby. A top priority of mine!
For those of you that aren't familiar with a Midwife, they typically line up better with a natural Mamas values. They often share the belief that birth is a natural and healthy process and should not be treated as a medical emergency unless absolutely necessary. I will make a separate post all about Midwifes later on as I describe my pregnancy healthcare team. But I am confidant that Jill will help me push this precious baby out with as little interventions as possible which is our main goal! And for my husbands peace of mind, should our birth turn into a medical emergency, we are right there in a hospital for the quickest transfer possible. Yes, this means I will need to work hard to change my mindset about the anxiety that hospitals give me. Something that wont come easy to me but worth it for my husbands sake and my baby. After all, it was really nice to be able to get my blood work done at the same place as my exams which is not possible if we would have went with the birth center option.
**Me attempting not suffocate in my proper PPE & to stay calm during my first prenatal visit.
At week 12 of pregnancy, it was finally time for my first prenatal office visit. Most offices will require a visit closer to 8 weeks, but with COVID lurking around, I had no intention of stepping into a hospital anytime soon. Pregnancy naturally lowers our immunity to help our bodies not to reject our baby since it's a new foreign object to our body. Lower immunity and a pandemic is not an ideal combo if you ask me but hey we all do the best we can with what we have. So while I was waiting to feel comfortable enough to step into a hospital, I was hard at work putting everything I learned on my own into practice. I was taking years of holistic health research that I've collected over the years and applying it to pregnancy. I focused on moving my body, balanced diet, proper supplementation, lots of resting, natural readies for nausea, and most of all tapping into my Mama intuition. I put my full trust into my body (luckily something I am already used to doing) and had faith that my body already knows exactly what to do if I let it.
But now that it's time to actually go to Community North, I am a ball of nerves! On top of my hospital anxiety, my husband was not aloud to go into my appointment with me. Thanks COVID. Thankfully one of the nurses called me ahead of time to collect a very through health history. This saved me from having to fill out loads of paperwork upon arrival which actually helped me to relax a little.
Yay it's finally my turn to go back. The nurse started the visit by taking my weight. She had me pee in a cup (something I hear I will get very used to doing) for a drug and STD screening. Next, she took me to a room where she documented my blood pressure and temperature. Everything was going smoothly so far. I only had one minor panic attack before the midwife came in. I believe it was due to missing my husband and I could hardly breathe with my N95 mask on. It also hit me like a ton of bricks that I'm actually growing a new life inside my very own body!
Once the midwife came into the room, it was not Jill due to the changes in schedules from COVID. But I liked her a lot too! She also gave me the freedom to make decisions about my health and baby's health. The first decision I made was declining the anatomy ultrasound. They told me it would help calculate a better due date but if my periods were normal (within a week) before pregnancy that my due date should be pretty accurate. Luckily after quitting the pill and having the copper IUD removed my periods became so easy and normal! Thank goodness I gave my body time to normalize for roughly a year post birth control to allow for healthier menstrual cycles! The Midwife agreed that I could do without this first ultrasound. Why would anyone pass on a glimpse of their baby? You might be thinking my crazy. But I mostly chose to forgo this ultrasound due to radiation. Being a dental hygienist I had already been exposed to low amounts of radiation during the early weeks of my pregnancy and I didn't find it necessary to add more. I also prefer to let nature run its course as much as possible. My baby is hard at work growing in there. Why disrupt them for no real reason at all?! It's too early to really check for abnormalities and we aren't finding out the sex so no real need for an ultrasound with our situation. Actually if you ask our parents (yes I have asked all of mine) how many ultrasounds they had while pregnant you may be shocked what you hear. My family members had some births with zero (YES, ZERO) ultrasounds and maybe one at most. They told me that "we only had them if something felt wrong". I will consent to a 20 week ultrasound to check for abnormalities but I don't plan to have more unless my midwife truly needs it or if I get moved into a high risk pregnancy category.
Another point worth noting ... working in the healthcare space as a dental hygienist for almost a decade and working at many different offices, it's blatantly obvious to me how production driven healthcare can be. More disturbing to me is how everyone gets treated the exact same. I've taken x-rays yearly on patients that could get by without them. I was forced (for the sake of keeping my job and paycheck) to encourage fluoride treatments to everyone!! I have to pretend I don't know about fluoride use and thyroid health. I recommended fluoride, per doctors request, to people like me who have never had a cavity before. I can only assume that the production driven mindset carries over to all healthcare industries. Especially those that accept insurance. If you hear the words "well your insurance covers it so you might as well do it" from your healthcare provider, it's time for a new provider!! At this time in modern medicine it seems ultrasounds are all too common and you bet it's another code to submit to insurance to collect payment and for more production. I respect all Mama's decisions but I think it's time we ask more questions so we can truly make an informed decision about our health. When you are an active member making choices about your health that you feel good about, you feel completely empowered and in charge of your health!
**Alyssa & I working together as dental hygienists, which gets harder everyday as our values change around healthcare.
The next decision I made at this first prenatal visit was all about lab work. They have routine blood work that is used to check things like iron levels which is super important. Blood is the best way to check iron levels so I felt good about this lab. It's important to note that blood is not the best way to check for everything when it comes to health. For example minerals get tested by hair. I digress. I chose to speak up and request that my vitamin A and D levels be checked as well. Please visit our blog post about pregnancy supplements to learn more! Testing my vitamin A and D levels was not something they gave me the option to do on their own. There was going to be no choice to be made. I had to do my own homework ahead of time as to why my vitamin A and D levels were so important. If I didn't do my homework, I would have never realized that I needed to up my supplementation of these two vitamins.
The other lab I asked about was checking my mineral levels. They did not have an option to do that. Maybe because it's best tested by hair and not blood. Luckily, I can test my minerals on my own for less than $250 (and so can you). Minerals are equally as important as vitamins!! Most of all, baby will suck all the nutrients it needs from Mom and can leave us depleted causing other troubling symptoms. I want my baby to thrive but I want to thrive too since I eventually plan to have more than one baby! Let this be a lesson to us all that no mater the healthcare professional, there are limitations to what they can do for our health. This is why at Balanced Friends we think it's so important to build a TEAM of healthcare professionals around you. So you have the freedom to get as much information about your health as possible. Knowledge really is power! Once we know better we can do better. I will share more soon about what my pregnancy healthcare team looks like so stay tuned.
About 7 vials of blood later, I am able to adjust my supplements as needed and WOW I feel great! I am loving pregnancy far more than I ever thought possible. Last on the prenatal visit to do list was using a Doppler to check for our baby's heartbeat. I called my husband (who was in the parking garage) to listen to the heartbeat with me. This was going to be huge! Our first baby and hearing the heartbeat for the first time ever. How emotional!? Well up until it wasn't. Baby was hiding under my pubic bone. The Midwife was able to faintly hear the heartbeat but I couldn't hear a thing and neither could my husband with his poor cell reception. The Midwife used the Doppler to hear the heartbeat only as long as I wanted her to. Again, having full respect that I am avoiding radiation and do not want the Doppler on me any longer than it needs to be.
**Excited for our first prenatal visit with a twinge of sadness about leaving Daddy behind in the parking garage.
My Mama intuition was telling me that baby was hiding because Daddy wasn't there to share the moment with us. I heard once that Mama's are perfectly made for our babies and our babies are perfectly made for us. It gives me goosebumps to think that baby could have sensed my anxiety about Daddy not being there, my attempt to feel calm at a hospital, and coping with the first time we both have been away from Daddy for this long. Since COVID we have basically spent every hour together and honestly we like it that way! It's also proven that Dad's touch naturally releases the hormone oxytocin. This is our cuddle, love, and bonding hormone. Something that would have made both me and baby more at ease during our first big visit!
As always, thank you for being here and letting me share my pregnancy journey with you. While it may not click with all Mama's, I hope it inspires others. You are your own health advocate and at Balanced Friends we are always rooting for you! We think you deserve nothing but the best! You deserve to be treated like the individual that you are. You deserve to be a key player in making decisions about your wellness. Should you find yourself completely overwhelmed with all the decisions of pregnancy, know that we just launched a pregnancy support option on our website designed to help support you in anyway that see fit! We are here to support you with diet, supplements, lifestyle, functional medicine lab testing, or just to encourage you and provide you with another perspective! Whatever you need, we got you covered. You can learn more here!
In good health,
Sam- Balanced Friends