I had my first visit with Pamela Hunt, CPM at The Farm Midwifery Clinic on Saturday.
I am in love.
I have to say, on our way up there, I was really hemming and hawing about this decision. I had just found out that my health insurance is twice as crappy as I had understood when we chose it (our already-high deductible, from what I thought, is actually TWICE that much), and there are less expensive options here in town. In addition, the drive to The Farm is long at 4+ hours, and The Farm won't offer me the same homebirth postpartum care that a homebirth midwife here in town would. But more than that, Scotty and I were sufficiently freaked out about money after this recent discovery, and weren't sure we were making the right choice.
We left the house at 9:15 a.m. and it was about 4.5 hours later that we started to see the little homemade white wood signs that said "The Farm" with an arrow on them posted at our last few turns. When you first enter the gate, there is a red brick house with white latticework, and a little metal swingset behind it with a peace sign on the end facing the street.
We grabbed ourselves a map and headed in to the community, taking our time because - thanks to the unexpected 1 hour time difference - we were about a half an hour early.
The property is, as you may have heard or read, beautful and beucolic. Several pastures of happy-looking horses, a few chicken coops, a well-loved garden, and of course The Dome and The Farm Store were all along the way. The part that made us giggle were all the different "Caution! Slow down!" signs on the main road. Some said it was because kids were at play, some said it was because there was a speed bump. But our favorites were the little yellow caution signs with a golf cart hitting a speed bump and the people in the cart tumbling wildly out of the cart. We were in no hurry, and heeded the signs without issue.
We arrived at the Clinic and called Pamela at her home number. She met us there about five minutes later, smiling her warm smile and welcoming us. She immediately addressed Zoe, and was happy to lead us in to the Clinic building, which is just about 1,000 square feet or so nestled in the woods and right next to what is undoubtedly a small cabin for birthing mamas. The place has a warm feel to it, and although not fancy or modern in any way, made us feel comfortable and at ease upon entry. Without my even asking, she directed me to the bathroom immediately, knowing that we had just been on a long drive.
We entered the 'examination room,' although there was no medical office-y feeling to be had to it at all, other than the exam table with the stirrups. But even that had a pillow with a flowery pillowcase underneath the protective paper covering. Zoe settled in with some toys, Scotty and I settled in on the big couch with a chaise lounge at one end, and Pamela arranged her chair at the end of the couch, facing us. And removed her shoes. Silently thanking her for the invitation, I did the same.
She asked about what Scotty and I did for a living and we chatted about that for a while, her face lighting up upon hearing that I am a postpartum doula and lactation counselor, along with a classcal flutist. Apparently, she grew up with classical musician parents, and has a baby grand piano in the house she rents on property. She even had a connection with Scotty, as her husband does the accounting - and payroll - for most of the hundreds of businesses in the community. Yes, I said hundreds!
I'd like to step back for a moment here. As I recall my first appointment at our original hospital in SF (which wasn't where we ended up), I was sitting on a stark white exam table, with Scotty in a chair next to me. We had to wait in the cold exam room for at least 15 minutes before someone arrived to even take my vitals, weigh me, and take a urine sample. And this was all before I had even ever *met* my hospital midwife. No one ever asked us what we did or anything about who we were as people, and the whole appointment was rushed and filled with 'we want to do this test and that test, we're concerned about your weight, and no we can't guarantee that any of the midwives will be on the floor when you go into labor.' A little different, eh?
We went on to discuss the details of Zoe's birth, and to nail down my due date based on a Harvard Study of 2,000-3,000 women that was done which indicated that most first-time mamas had their babies 1-2 weeks past their traditional LMP-based due date, and most second-or-more-time mamas had their babies up to 10 days past their traditional LMP-based due date. These mamas were healthy and well-fed, and their babies were similarly healthy to those that were born at or closer to the mama's due date. [Forgive me if I'm quoting incorrectly. I'm going on memory. But I know the day count is correct.] My due date would normally be January 14th. My due date with Pamela, based on this study and my LMP date and my suspected conception date, is January 25th. BIG SMILES ALL AROUND. (For background on why this is so spectacular, check out Part I of Zoe's birth story here.)
We discussed Zoe's birth, and what that was like for us. She was shocked to hear that a) I pushed for 6 hours, and b) her head was 16". She actually took out a tape to see what that looked like and was in a bit of disbelief. But I have a picture to prove it. When she found out that I had done the whole thing without pain meds - even with a vacuum extraction, and had managed a vaginal birth, she smiled. As she had said to me a few times before on the phone, she said, "This is going to be great. This is going to be so different for you. It will be much faster, and I'm not worried at all. Even if you have a breech baby."*
Um, what? NOT worried? That's all I had in the last few weeks of my pregnancy with Zoe. About four different OBs, all worrying over me. All trying to 'warn' me of the impending doom if I did not let them pump me full of drugs. What a wonderful gift this time around to hear, "I'm not worried at all." from one of the premier midwives the world over. What a gift. I have tears in my eyes as I write this. I am so grateful.
Pamela is not concerned about my weight, only wants to watch where it goes from here. So far, I haven't gained anything, so that's a good sign that I'm eating well and taking good care of myself. She is interested in having my check my sugars with my old glucometer to see where I am with that, so that we can nip any high sugars and potential gestational diabetes in the bud right away. I was pretty well on that until I became nauseated, and since then have been eating just whatever I could tolerate. I've not been gorging myself on sugar and white bread, though. So back on the wagon I go!
We figured that we would spread out my visits a lttle farther than one month apart because of the long car ride and the expense that incurs for us. We will back up my last few visits from the date that I will arrive on property to live (probably around January 15th) so that I'm not making that drive every week. We talked about postpartum visits, since this is a bit different than a homebirth with easy access to each other during that period. She said for the first four days she'll, "hover over us like a grandma," visiting at least twice a day each day. We'll stay on The Farm for at least that long, and then go home. We'll get a newborn screening within the first two weeks (standard and not a big deal), and come back at 6 weeks for our follow up visit. Of course, during the time between when I leave and the 6 week visit, we will be in phone contact.
After about an hour of chatting, Scotty and Zoe went outside to meet up with some family who had come to meet us at The Farm on their way from Memphis to our house. I stayed with Pamela and gave her my medical history. She took my blood pressure, tested my urine, and I weighed myself. That was the extent of the exam portion of my visit. Then we chatted some more.
Pamela and I connected from the very start, even over the phone. During our conversations and then again at the end, she looked at me and with such a warmth in her eyes said, "I'm really happy to be working with you." and, "I'm so glad that you're here." Amazing to hear that from anyone, much less such a lovely, lovely woman as she.
We left the clinic after several hugs, and were gong to check out (what I'm sure is) their beautiful swimming hole, but it was so darn hot, and getting late, that we decided to just head back home. My next vist is September 3rd, during a midwifery conference, I think. When we scheduled it, she picked that day because I would get the opportunity to meet the other midwives. I think for this one, I'll plan on coming by myself so that I can take my time and wander around a bit. I'm mad at myself for not taking any pictures this time, but I promise I will in September! When it's not so unbelievably hot and miserable to be outside!!
The end result of this visit is that there is no doubt I'm going to have this next baby on The Farm. Hands down. This is the place. I found that, energetically, driving onto the property was much like driving up that last stretch of Highway 1 to Mendocino, where you come around the curve after the redwoods and see the expanse of the ocean out to the West of you. Stress falls away, my heart rate slows, and joy and comfort settle in. The polar opposite of how I felt when I was about to birth Zoe, this time I will be awash in like-minded people, supportive women, and a community that believes in the power of nature and of a woman's body. Not to mention beatuful countryside. I can't wait to see what it looks like in the snow.
Another happy benefit, is that now I feel the...honor, of being pregnant. It's different the second time around. Life goes on, no one really treats you any differently (there have been exceptions, for sure, but I'm speaking generally here), and sometimes you just forget that you're busy supporting a growing new life in your belly. This visit gave me the chance to be cared for as a pregnant woman. It's kind of like going to a therapist. When you go to a therapist, their only concern is for your phsychological well-being. They're not concerned for anyone else, or about anything else. Going to Pamela was like that. Her concern is for me as a woman about to bring new life into the world, and for my family as we transition into a 4 person household from a 3 person one. It's nice to feel cared for. I feel seen in this journey toward being a mother of two, and that feels really, really good.
*I feel I should disclose what she said after that, which is that they deliver breech babies on The Farm to those families that have been under their care. They don't deliver breech babies for women at the last minute because, well, because they'd have women coming in from all over to do that, and that's not feasible or advisable.