After experiencing my 3rd move while pregnant with my 3rd son to Alabama (Yes, I actually moved 3 times in ONE YEAR- twice while pregnant, once 2 months postpartum due to my husband’s job changes.), I found that acquiring the resources necessary to make a sound decision for birth was very difficult when you are new to a state like AL. I only had out-of-hospital births in Florida where I lived previously. It also didn’t make it any easier because we LITERALLY lived in an AL hotel for a month or so before moving into our apartment in late December 2013. I had to improvise and implement a clean-eating lifestyle while we made ends meet. I couldn’t afford to NOT eat healthier because I wouldn’t be able to receive any type of healthcare until I was approved for Medicaid. Meanwhile, the wait to hear back from Medicaid was estimated to take about 45 days or 6 weeks. I found out that if I was granted Medicaid, it could only cover a hospital birth so if I opted out of a hospital birth, I would have to come up with the funds out-of-pocket.
Ready to start comparing costs, I was unable to determine the costs of birth in a hospital because no one at the local hospitals could tell me the estimated cost. When I requested a guarantee that I would be able to labor as I please, no promises were made. My husband’s insurance would not cover midwifery costs or an out-of-hospital birth. It didn’t matter after all because we couldn’t even enroll in any plans because the premiums nearly tripled once Obamacare kicked in 2014. Needless to say, all of this was necessary for me to highlight the gaps in the American healthcare system that someone like myself can fill during a temporary transitional period. You just can’t afford healthcare when you are strapped for cash paying for rent in an effort to avoid breaking a lease while paying for hotel stay for an entire month because your partner’s job is subject to random changes in scheduling.
Hoping to find someone who understood the type of natural, low-intervention birth that I was accustomed to, I contacted some local doulas who could only tell me so much. One doula had little to no experience with births. Another doula could not recommend a doctor that was natural birth friendly. Too many doula support groups were tailored to a hospital birth. Some doulas were assigned by the doctor or hospital. I wanted to have choices but found that there were none. So I was stuck… a very unfamiliar place for me when it came to birth choices.
I had to “take matters into my own hands”, did my research and initiated self-care by purchasing the diagnostic tools necessary (my own urinalysis strips, a fetoscope, glucose monitor and blood pressure monitor) while I waited to hear from Medicaid and decided on an out-of-state midwife. I chose a Tennessee midwife with 20 years+ of experience, a wealth of knowledge and professional support in her practice that included a local AL midwife for some of my prenatal visits (my AL midwife has and continues to fight for legislation to change AL birth laws!). All I could do was just pray and hope that labor could wait until I arrived safely to my midwife’s home, my birth place.
I experienced pre-labor cramping that had me questioning what I felt and remembered from my previous 2 births. I thought I was in labor…but I wasn’t progressing. (Later as a doula, I would learn that it was termed “prodromal labor”). But back home to AL we went after 3 nights of walking down the baby, homeopathic interventions, and getting to know my midwife a whole lot better. (We met at 28 weeks so we had a lot of catching up to do!) Words cannot describe to level of care and support I received. At first I thought, “What kind of midwife hands over a book about her services to her clients and tells them to read it?” (no really it was a book, at least 40 pages long or so and she was serious about everything being in that book!). The kind of woman who provides the most extensive natural childbirth website (I think) as a resource does such a thing. I am forever grateful for it! I experienced the water birth of my dreams in my TN midwife’s home specifically set-up for home births. (More on that birth story coming soon!)
She’s the kind of midwife who asked the right question to ignite my desire to pursue this career as a doula. She could easily note at 5 weeks postpartum my need to be a fulfilled mommy. (I spent the first 5 weeks nursing all day and night but found room to get out to the playground for my kids sake. I absolutely loved talking to the moms there and couldn’t stop sharing knowledge and birth stories with them!) My TN midwife already thought that I was doing a “good job” but she knew what I knew – that if a “GREAT job” would continue to be done, I’d have to have all of my faculties and interests being fulfilled as well. That meant I must fulfill my desire to encourage and educate other women on childbirth.
It was a sheer miracle to have a positive birth outcome my 3rd time considering I was an uninsured, Haitian woman. Yet I did not become a statistics and received amazing support even though it was very late in my pregnancy (2 midwives for prenatal care, one very observant and relaxed midwife, a doulaing midwife assistant and my husband supported my pregnancy and waterbirth). When I think about the obstacles I overcame, I have to agree with her. I want other mommies to do great things with their mothering and feel great about doing it. Hence, why I began my quest to become a doula!
Let me know: What is/was the toughest part about being pregnant? How did you overcome your circumstances?
Thank you for reading my random thoughts about #lifebetweenthestatuses and just know that I hope is that #icanmotivateyouifyouwant!
ESTHER @ICANDOULA MCCANT
SPECIAL SHOUT OUTS TO: CAROLYN DRAKE-REISMAN (OWNER OF BIRTH WELLNESS IN TN) AND JENNIFER CROOK (AL MIDWIFE AND BIRTH ADVOCATE)