Imagine being pregnant. This is your second pregnancy; you have a 20 month old daughter. You are young, low-income, and not sure how best to get care for yourself during your pregnancy. You have no or insufficient health insurance. You want to be an active participant in your pregnancy care and you want to be the one making the decisions (instead of someone who does not know you getting to decide what and how things are done to your body). You are unsure of what all of your options for care and for birthing might be. You see an ad for a D.I.Y. clinic on the bulletin board at Planned Parenthood.
Now, imagine this clinic is a place where you can go to that is staffed with friendly care providers and assistants. There are various staff members at this place: traditional midwives, nurse-midwives, doulas, massage therapists, yoga instructors, childbirth educators, herbalists, chiropractors, and even a physician. Imagine this place is close to you, on the bus line. Imagine that you will not be turned away regardless of your in/ability to pay or where you plan to give birth (or if you plan not to give birth). Imagine being fully informed about what kind of care you need, how to get it (or do it yourself), and being able to share your experience with other expectant parents.
Imagine you walk in and are warmly greeted. There is nourishing herbal tea, biscuits, and fruit on a sideboard. There are comfortable couches, rocking chairs, and floor cushions to take a break on or to nurse your toddler on. An area for toddlers and older children is within view and there is a nice young adult engaging in play with the littler ones. Your daughter runs over to join them. You recognise a few faces from last month and have a sweet chat or two. The walls have helpful and friendly posters with all kinds of families and parents depicted on them. You walk down the softly lit and warmly decorated hallway to another room.
This room has various stations where you can weigh yourself, measure your fundal height, find a variety of equipment (low-tech and high-tech) to listen to your baby’s heart tones, test your urine for possible early signs of complications, and fill out your own personal prenatal flow chart. There are several other parents in the room moving around from station to station, some are helping each other, some are comparing charts, and some are visiting with staff members. You grab your chart from your cubby and start filling out questions about how you are feeling. Once you are done in this room, you walk across the hallway to another room.
This room is a very cosy and comfortable classroom. This is where you have discussions about parenting, what to bring with you to the hospital if you decide to birth there, how to cope with non-stop night time nursing, and how to ensure you get the most from your homebirth experience if you choose to have one. You look over the schedule and sign up for a prenatal yoga class that is scheduled later in the evenings and for an early Saturday morning Mother’s Brunch Salon. You can not wait to visit with some of the other parents you have started developing friendships with since you started coming to this place.
Today you decided that you needed to talk to one of the staff members, because you are feeling a little uneasy about how bad your morning sickness still is at week 14 in your pregnancy. You also want to sign up to interview some doulas, because you have decided that this time around, you want that extra support person at your birth. Before you leave today, you will make an appointment with the chiropractor and sit and have a lovely conversation with a teen mother over a cuppa.
You know that you are empowered with knowledge about your body, baby, care, and you have the skills needed to monitor your own progression into Parenthood for the second time. Your time at the D.I.Y. prenatal clinic is the best part of your month. Every time you leave, you walk away with so much more wisdom and confidence. You tell all of your friends about this wonderful place.
You have not completely made up your mind about where you plan to give birth, but you are leaning towards having a homebirth. You have an appointment next week with a couple local traditional midwives (one of which works at the clinic) to discuss your options. You do know that no matter where you decide to give birth, you will have a chart to hand your care provider with important information about your pregnancy and that this will ensure you have the best treatment and appropriate care offered to you by your care-provider of choice.
On your way out of the clinic today, you and your daughter stop in the garden and collect some wild mint and red raspberry leaves for some tea later on this evening.
This is my dream. I want to find a way to bring this dream into reality for Pittsburgh. It is lofty. It is a logistical and legal nightmare. But, it is what the people need. It is what my soul sings out about.
Similar concepts are being implemented in other places.
As a traditional homebirth midwife that focuses my practice on low-income, Queer/LGBT, and POC communities, I see a need for this kind of facility. I see the potential a place like this has to save lives. I see the potential for parents to really be the ones in charge of their care (as they should be) and being empowered with the knowledge and skills necessary for them to take care of themselves and each other. Every person has the potential to be their own midwife.