Blog by Jenni
Christy thought it would be interesting to reflect on what I felt was surprising having been a midwife and then becoming pregnant. Overall, I think the experience has been more about being a pregnant person, with my midwifery background not really coming up very often. Being a pregnant midwife has had its advantages and disadvantages. Like many people assume (as I did at the beginning of my pregnancy), I have enough experience of pregnancy and its variations to normalize my own experience, and sometimes this knowledge prevents freak-outs over symptoms that come at a different moment than expected or just catch me off guard. Well, sort-of. Pregnancy brain affects midwives too, and I have found myself several times telling Christy about a symptom that I’m puzzled or worried by only to have her say ‘yup, round ligament pain’ (or something similar) to my obvious chagrin. On the other hand, an episode of low blood pressure on a hot day that made me nearly faint may have been less worrying to me than it might have been for someone else. I know that it is possible and I just lay down, drank lots of water, and waited until it passed.
Overall, I think my midwifery background has made me more tolerant of aches and pains (intermittent leg cramps and heartburn). I have been able to find alternative remedies that are cheap and that I can put in place without too much fuss (homemade slippery elm lozenges by Aviva Romm!) because I am familiar with what the common concerns in pregnancy are. I think all of this would have been very different, however, if anything clinically significant had been happening in the pregnancy. I’m very clear that the absolutely straightforward conception and pregnancy with this baby has so far totally reassured both Christy and I. It has felt so normal to have reached 37 weeks with no interventions and no extreme physical symptoms. That’s not to say that emotions haven’t been very volatile in our house with two teenagers, and our stress levels have been significant at different points over the last several months. Still, the huge privilege of a job that I do remotely (from home), and the relative stability of our lives here, have allowed me flexibility and the ability to find a bit of money for body work, alternative therapies, and acupuncture. I know the benefits of these are so amazing in pregnancy to temper the hormonal changes that happen and to help the body stay aligned and open for birth. I feel great, and I am so grateful for it.
It is a crazy part of being human that, in the midst of feeling so good, I can still have the same fears as anyone else. When we tried to listen to, and could not hear the heartbeat with a doppler at 10.5 weeks, I was really worried that my pregnancy had ended even though I was still feeling very nauseated and tired. I reviewed the stats (geek that I am) and found that there was less than a 30% chance of hearing the heartbeat at that stage, and was reassured enough to wait until 12 weeks when we heard the heartbeat easily. Lucid horrible dreams for about three months also made all my fears be present in a much stronger way than I had ever imagined they would. I’m glad that has dissipated somewhat, even if lucid dreaming hasn’t. Reading Everyday Parenting by John Kabbat-Zinn, a book about mindfulness practice and parenting, has also really helped calm my brain, consciously and unconsciously. Also forcing myself (with a little prodding from Christy) to be outside and be active. Walking at least 3-4x a week, and now starting swimming in the warm weather has helped change my perspective at key moments, in a positive way. Even though I dreaded the summer and the impending heat, I was so grateful to be living this year in a climate where spring came at the beginning of March, where it is green and I have had a garden to be in and work in, well before I would have been able to in Toronto, my hometown.
Being a midwife of course does not make me immune to any of the societal experience of being pregnant. A friend and I were comparing notes about how relentless the comments are about appearance, whether it is to make predictions about the sex, or to talk about relative size, “you are so small!”. Or even to go so far as assuming something about my life because now I’m visibly pregnant; “is your husband being supportive?”. Our community here, half midwives themselves, is more insulating from these comments, (“you look amazing!” is way more common) but being out and about in the grocery store or the post office brings comments at least weekly for me. Even feeling as confident as I do in my pregnant body (I have loved being pregnant), I get so irritated with how public my body has become. I haven’t even had to deal with the worst negative comments that our clients and my friends report. I still feel exposed and a little defensive when responding, as if a friendly/positive response is required of me, along with accepting whatever people feel like they need to say. It has been especially annoying when I’ve spent time that morning trying to find not-ultra-feminine clothing that I feel comfortable in to go out in public wearing. I am so grateful for all the clothing I’ve been given, and I still feel like my choices are overwhelmingly feminizing, when that is just not how I always want to present myself, just because I’m pregnant. Ever expanding breasts don’t make this any easier, that’s for sure. Don’t get me started on maternity bras. I continue to wish for more clothing options for all pregnant folks that are comfortable in pregnancy but don’t overly emphasize the belly and breasts.
As a midwife, and now as a pregnant person, I feel like I get to expand my empathic sense of the huge variety of physical and emotional experiences of pregnancy, and I know that this enhances the language I have for supporting my pregnant clients. Mostly, though, I’m just excited about having and loving this baby. We are excited to welcome whomever this new person is into our lives.