As pregnancy became more real to me, I had to face some facts and plan a little. Per my usual researching self, I began looking for ways to educate myself. One of the easiest was Netflix. It recommended I watch _The Business of Being Born_, a documentary by Ricki Lake (!) after her two very different experiences giving birth. It was a good film, with honest and conflicting messages, and I was convinced right there and then that I at least wanted to attempt a natural birth. My mother did this, Joanna has done this, and nothing seemed wrong about making the attempt at having as few interventions as possible. Once you intervene with your body, side-effects tend to necessitate more interventions. Some people call this the Waterfall Effect — you do one thing, and suddenly more and more rushes forward, with no recourse for turning back. For someone who doesn’t even like to take Advil or Tylenol, that was terrifying to me. And the fact that an epidural is injected directly into your spine just creeped me out, though I know it’s very safe, etc.

This led me to the library, where I read and read and read. I could give you my reading list, if you’d like. It was amazing that pregnancy turned me toward non-fiction, which is not easy to do. I delved into midwives and doulas and birthing centers and all of that almost-hippy stuff that I adore. Part of me wondered if I might want to have a home birth, but more of me wanted to find a good midwife and give birth at a birthing center, close to a hospital, just in case.

All of that was worthless, of course, because the next step was dealing with insurance and doctors. I signed up for Kaiser’s class about pregnancy procedures, etc., since we had Kaiser as our HMO. I came home crying to Chad. Kaiser, like most HMOs, simplifies medicine as much as possible. No way was a birthing center going to happen. In addition, I had no choices for hospitals — it was only St. Jo’s. I could meet with a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) for my pregnancy check-ups, but there was a 95% chance that she wouldn’t attend my birth, as I would just get whichever doctors were on call at St. Jo’s and, if it was her turn, the CNM on-call half the week. This was not what I wanted. I was shocked that I could get so little of what I wanted for what might be one of the most important experiences of my life. I was sad that something so intimate as creating and delivering a new life could be so institutionalized and sterilized, reduced to money and worst-case scenarios.

And that’s when my inner pragmatist started up. Mom had all of us in hospitals, my sister Jo was glad she had Peyton in a hospital, and the majority of births in this country are in hospitals. Chad and I decided to go middle-of-the-road with our baby. We would do the normal thing covered by insurance, but we would find a doula. Greek for (literally) “slave,” a doula is a birth attendant. Not licensed to deliver babies like a midwife is, a doula instead caters to the mother AND father throughout the birthing process, offering support to both and acting as advisor and advocate. As fate would have it, some friends of ours had had a baby the previous May. They were overjoyed to hear we were pregnant — and immediately recommended their doula, who was studying to be a midwife and so offered very affordable (ridiculous, really) rates. We called her up.

Sherri, our doula, was amazing. Amazing! We had an initial meeting with her and loved her big smile and gentle manner right away. She was down-to-earth and practical, with two kids of her own and a bevy of others adopted from Ethiopia. She recommended all of the books that I had been checking out from the library. She clicked with both Chad and me, and that was something that really meant a lot to both of us.

All of this happened even before Kaiser wanted to see me for an actual exam. I’ve already written about the first doctor’s visit, but I can still remember it so vividly — I was so anxious for the heartbeat, and cried when I heard that steady thump through the doppler. I did end up alternating between a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) and a regular OB, and though the visits tended to brief and simple, things seemed OK and I was comfortable with our decisions.

Lesson learned once again: too much research just breaks your heart. Good thing that I am OK at compromise — and pretty much used to looking for the silver lining. In this case, that would probably be Sherri, our lovely doula.