Last Wednesday marked Bingo’s last visit to the midwives’ clinic: her first graduation.
After my first visit to the clinic last April, I wrote that I was just “another November” to them: one more patient somewhere in the middle of a long stream of pregnant people. It’s still true that we’re just one family of many– the fairly small clinic had thirteen patients deliver the weekend was born and one of those thirteen babies shares Bingo’s (not that common) name– but it didn’t feel like that by the end.
I think I really began to feel like I had a relationship with our midwives beyond blood pressure checks and fundal height measurements when Bingo was breech. When I sat on the medical table, made up to look like a B&B bed with its paisley sheets, and cried in their office for the first time (though certainly not the last); when Diet Coke’s voice softened and she told me that birth was a doorway, not a destination; when she hugged me with such genuine excitement after Bingo magically flipped.
I had other moments too, with Herbal Tea and the student midwife.
Herbal Tea wasn’t working when I was in labor, but happened to be nearby. She appeared in our hospital room, wearing her coat and smelling like the outdoors. She sat by the bed, smiling her perpetually serene smile. And while I had sensed judgement in many of our prenatal appointments, her preference for home birth clear, there was none as she sat next to the tubes and monitors tethering me to a highly medicalized delivery.
Herbal Tea’s visit happened during the day. The student midwife was the first to appear that night, when the nurses paged the midwives and told them that Bingo’s birth was coming closer. The student midwife came into the room, smiled, and looked at the monitors with total calm and confidence. I was comforted by her presence then, and again when she guided me through two hours of pushing. When Bingo was born in the operating room, she took the camera from an overwhelmed Sea and made sure there were photos of Bingo’s first moments. When I sobbed after a sleepless night with Bingo she hugged me, told me and Sea how well we were doing, and patiently sat in our bedroom until Bingo was fed and asleep.
Our midwives became more than our medical practitioners. The comfort and support they provided was more like the comfort and support you might find in lunch with your best friend after a breakup, in venting to your partner after a terrible day at work, in seeing somebody you love at your bedside when you’re sick. Their experience and medical knowledge was amazing too– the ability to detect a breech baby by touch when all I could feel was a lump– but that care is really what mattered most. It was hard to leave.
Bingo’s final exam, done by Diet Coke and the student midwife, was a mixture of questions, measurements and goodbyes. Bingo showed off, cooing and smiling through the whole appointment. Diet Coke commented that Bingo will likely be a laid back extrovert, and the student midwife wrote “Healthy baby!” all over her discharge paperwork. At the end of the done-too-soon appointment, we gave the midwives small, homemade gifts. They gave us long hugs and an exit package that, unnecessarily, included a brochure on birth control. And then we left the warmly lit clinic, already feeling a little bit lost.
Yesterday we brought Bingo to see our own doctor, now Bingo’s doctor too. The perpetually cheerful doctor (blog name Dr Cheer?) admired our baby, took measurements, administered vaccines. She was efficient and as cheerful as ever, but her office felt cold and too bright. Hours later, Bingo was screaming. I called Dr Cheer’s office to ask how much of the recommended pain relief medication I should give her. Call the pharmacy, the receptionist told me, the doctor is too busy to answer. I missed our midwives painfully then.
When Bingo was first conceived, Sea and I talked long and hard about whether to leave prenatal care to a midwife or an OB. I am so glad that we chose the former. Knowing that there was somebody on call 24/7, somebody who actually cared, meant everything. We came across a lot doctors in our journey to have Bingo, and received good medical care from many of them, but that care didn’t even come close to what we found in the hands of Diet Coke and her friends.
After leaving their warmly lit clinic, Sea and I walked to the bus stop and wished aloud that midwives followed their patients for more than six weeks after a baby’s birth. Ten weeks, maybe. Or six months. Or a year. Or five years. Really, we decided, midwives should be for life. For nine months our midwives cheered us on, reassured us, comforted us, and celebrated with us. Pregnant or not, couldn’t we all use that?