21 Weeks


We just got back from an appointment with our midwife, and I think that 21 weeks will be remembered as the week of what-if’s, of worst-case vs. best-case scenarios.

My attitudes towards birth have changed a lot since I became pregnant, something I didn’t anticipate. Pre-pregnancy, I thought that if anything, heading along the road to this experience myself would serve only to solidify my resolve about natural birth – I’d read the books and watched the movies and just knew that it was right for me (and, by extension, for everyone of course).

In the beginning I believed this, and this line of thinking was a huge factor in why we chose to work with midwives instead of doctors. (It wasn’t the only factor, because contrary to popular belief, you can choose to have a hospital birth with an epidural and all of the trappings while still working with a midwife.

Other factors included the hour-long appointments where they focus on how you’re dealing with the pregnancy emotionally, how you’re feeling physically beyond there being something “wrong”, discussing each diagnostic test with you and trusting that you are intelligent enough to weigh the risks and benefits on your own. The quality of care is incredible and beyond what I would have expected going into this. I wouldn’t change it for the world.)

But as this pregnancy progressed and we first heard the heartbeat, then saw those little feet, then began to feel movements from inside – hesitant at first, now incredibly strong thumps right beneath my ever-more-shallow belly button- something in me shifted. I became less militant, I loosened. I began to see how the issue of “natural” birth vs. hospital birth wasn’t, couldn’t be, so cut and dried.

Even beforehand, in my extremely pro-home-birth stance, I was aware that it was wrong to equate natural with good – we forget that it’s not, always.

We forget that death is natural. Disease is natural. There are natural poisons and toxins and yes, babies and mothers dying during birth is sometimes, unfortunately, natural. So the argument for home birth can’t simply be because it’s natural, you see?

It’s just a choice, and one that everyone and their uncle seems to have an opinion about because as soon as you become pregnant some ancient community instinct comes over people that inspires them to protect that baby, your baby, at all costs.

This protection often manifests itself in the form of observations (in the past week I have been told that I’m tiny for 21 weeks, and huge for 21 weeks), advice (most of it unwanted) and those lovely cautionary tales which often do little else than terrify the listener.

I can’t count the number of times I have heard the following response when I  have said I was planning on doing a home birth, “Oh god no, don’t do that! My cousin’s friend had a home birth and her baby died.”

The last word is whispered apologetically as if to say, “So sorry but I just thought you should know.

It’s infuriating and it cuts to the crux of the issue about pro-life/pro-choice, home birth/hospital birth, breast vs. bottle; this pervasive idea that you as a woman are not intelligent enough nor well informed enough to make good decisions about your health or that of your child.

And this is where I have become less militant, less black and white.This is where I have loosened.

There is no best, what remains is only what is best for you. Your child.

I would hate to have options erased, taken away. I would no more try and convince someone to have a home birth than I would accept the terrifying advice of these well-meaning strangers. It’s my decision.

And this was my new viewpoint, my softened stance. I had decided what I felt was best for me. It was, I rationalized, just one choice among many choice. My choice.

Aaaaaaand then it became abundantly clear that it’s not my choice at all, not really.

I am now in the position where there is a small chance that not only will home birth be out of the question, but so will vaginal birth period.

If this ridiculous placenta doesn’t move, it’s c-section time. Today our midwife walked us through all of the potential situations that could arise from placenta previa. Her intent was not to scare us, but to inform, yet as I sat beside Adam and listened to all of the different scenarios involving pre-term bleeds and surgery and hospitals and premature babies and complications breastfeeding and and and…It became very clear that all of this is just so completely out of our hands, it’s laughable to plan at all.

Standing here at 21 weeks, where I have seen the sentient profile of our son or daughter, where I have begun to feel this strange distinct feeling of being more than one person, standing here, all I want, ALL I want out of this is a chubby, giggling baby; healthy, happy and strong.

That’s the goal.

And if to get there I need a c-section or a hospital or an epidural or formula in a bottle, fucking go for it mama, I just don’t care. Do what it takes. At this point if they told me I’d have to pull this child out of my left nostril then that’s what we’d do.

That’s the shade of grey I’ve discovered.

Choices look different for everyone and we are all special snowflakes, no two the same and sometimes, unexpectedly, the options disappear one by one and somehow you have to find a way to be happy with what you end up with,  without feeling disappointed. Without being judged. 

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit worried. More so now than a few weeks ago.  There was a lot of information to take in today, and for someone who likes to be in control, being told that you can’t do much more than wait is a bit difficult. But what can you do?

You wait, you visualize, you remind yourself that all of this (the c-section, the potential preemie, the hospital in the city an hour away) all of it is just a small possibility at the very end of a long line of what-if’s and worst-case scenarios.

You sit here and type out a too-long post filled with a nonsensical jumble of words that tries desperately to give shape to the swirling mass in your head and in your heart.

You remember how two nights ago your husband lay with his head resting on your belly and received a kick to his cheekbone so strong that he jumped up, clutching his face and hyperventilating with shock and laughter.

You talk mountains back into molehills, take a deep breath and push away the what-if’s and simply go back to enjoying being pregnant in all of your bulbous glory.

(Because I do enjoy it, I am enjoying it, more than anything.)



(P.S. I also realized why all pregnant women do this pose – because otherwise your torso just looks like one massive blob. Doing the obnoxious belly-cupping motion you see above is like saying “Hey! Look! Above my hands? Those are boobs! And between my top and bottom hands, that’s where the ole baby resides, and then below my bottom hand is where my legs begin! See, I haven’t let myself go- there’s three distinct parts!”.

Internets, I am learning ever so much)

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