When I found out I was pregnant, I was ecstatic! However, being new to the area, my 2nd day of knowing I was expecting, was spent researching doctors, midwives, and hospitals. After a long afternoon of surfing the web and remembering some old conversations with colleagues… I decided I wanted to see a midwife at a particular practice in this area, that delivered at the hospital I wanted to have my baby.
When I first called to make an appointment I was surprised to find out the first appointment wouldn’t be until I was 8 weeks pregnant! I found out as early as possible, which meant I still had another month to wait and see if everything was ok. Torture! However, the month went by and I had my first appointment that indicated all was going well. At that appointment I was asked if I wanted to participate in their Centering Pregnancy Group. I was familiar with the model due to my own job, but always thought that would be something I would never be interested in. I surprised myself when an enthusiastic “Yes” came out of my mouth. I was pregnant for the first time, far away from family and friends, so the idea of getting to know other women that were going through the same thing appealed to me at that moment. So my first trimester went by with the regular appointments, testings, and ultrasounds and once I hit my second trimester, it was time to start these so advertised group visits.
Before my first appointment I was anxious. Why did I say yes to this? It’s going to be so weird to have my medical appointment with a bunch of women I don’t know! How do they even do the medical piece: do they take you into another room? All these questions were bubbling through my head while I headed to the medical building. When I nervously walked into the room, I said hi, quickly sat down, and browsed the room. Everyone seemed nice and equally reluctant to be there. The session started and we were taught by the Nurse Midwife and Nurse that co-led the group how we would proceed every session. They taught us how to measure our own blood pressure, track our weight gain, and where to document it. Then, each pregnant woman had one-on-one time with the midwife in the corner of the conference room, where we would hear our babies heartbeat, get our bellies measured and discuss any concerns or specific healthcare needs. The rest of the 2 hour session was spent on different topics from pregnancy symptoms, labor, newborn care, etc.
At the end of the first appointment, I have to confess, I hated it! I kept thinking why I had said yes and if I should just switch back to the regular appointments. I felt awkward sharing with the group some of my questions, I felt uneasy with my “medical” appointment being in the same room where everyone else was, and thought that a group format was just not for me. I had a month before the next appointment and time to think if I wanted to go back.
After giving it a lot of thought, I went back to the second visit. I thought I should give it another try since any first group session is always awkward. This time around, I felt a bit more at ease to participate and share, but still not convinced with my individual part of the visit. However, something kept driving me to come back. The following month I started enjoying other women in the group and hearing other people have the same concerns, questions, and symptoms. I started feeling more connected with the other women and finally saw what the benefit of this format could be: sharing experiences and fears with people that are experiencing the same as you.
After a handful of a lot of emotional moments and people sharing their most intimate fears and expereinces, an unimaginable bond blossomed between all of us and tears were shed at the last group session. People were now connected and wanted to keep it that way. Contacts were shared and online groups created, so this bond could endure after the group had ended.
The last month of my pregnancy I went back to my individual medical appointments. I have to say, I appreciated having more individualized medical attention, which is something I always missed a bit during the group sessions. However, not seeing all the women in the group was harder than expected. Every time I went for an appointment I would ask how they were doing, if they had delivered, etc. When we would coincidently cross paths at the office, we would spend as much time as possible chatting in the waiting room to find out how the other one was doing. All of a sudden, centering had gone from “never again” to “I will forever remember these women that shared such an important experience with me”.
One by one we started hearing about each person having their baby and saw pictures of these little people that sat in our bellies while we all talked about what it would be like to meet them.
Funny enough I delivered my baby on a cold October Thursday. Friday, two of my fellow pregnant centering mamas had their babies too! So, they both found my room and how surprised was I when I saw them knocking at my door with their little boy and little girl! Tears of joy and tiredness could be seen in our eyes as, without words, we connected and empathized with each others labors and deliveries and rejoiced in getting to know each others little ones. I will never forget that moment and how it made me feel so much better in my own recovery!
To close the circle, our facilitators scheduled one last meeting, known as “Meet the Babies”. We all went back to the office with our little ones and shared our experiences, processed as a group our labor stories, and most importantly finally introduced our babies. It was such a happy moment to see all our babies lying on the floor next to each other, healthy and joyful, while all the mamas sighed in content with the end of one journey and beginning of another.
The promise to stay in touch, was not one that was just said. So far, the group remains in touch and has met several times for walks, coffee, and talks. Now that some mamas are going back to work, it might be harder to keep the meetings going, but I have a feeling we will all continue to be in touch and continue sharing our joys and fears, as we raise our little ones in the upcoming years!
So, from reluctant to convinced, I would 100% recommend trying out this group medical visit if it is offered in your healthcare providers office. As any group, the connection that is established is truly dependent on the group members. I found myself to be incredibly lucky to have crossed path with these magnificent women and their babies. I believe that nothing happens by chance, and we were all meant to cross paths at that given moment in time. My pregnancy and postpartum might have been experienced in a completely different way had I not met them. My journey was blessed by having known each and every one of them. And for that, I thank you all!