Extraordinary Prenatal Care


When I go to my prenatal appointments, my midwives check my urine and my weight, my blood pressure and my pulse, my baby’s heartbeat and the height of my fundus. They’ve tested my hemoglobin levels, taken a thorough medical history, and supported me as I had a 20 week ultrasound to ascertain, among other things, the location of my placenta.

I am receiving good prenatal care.

But I am also receiving extraordinary prenatal care.

My midwives have sat with me and listened to my hopes and dreams and fears about this birth. They have spent at least an hour at each appointment getting to know me, and my husband, and my children. And because of this time, and these conversations, they know how important my family is to me.

They know how close I am to my parents and my siblings and my grandparents.

They know how difficult it is for me to see my grandfather, who suffered a severe stroke just two weeks ago, so sick and frail and vulnerable, caught in between life and death for the time being.

And so one of my midwives has checked in on me every single day since my grandfather’s stroke. To see how he’s doing. To see how I’m doing.

On Friday evening, she sent me the following text message:

“Talk lots to him…soak all the conversations in [that] you can! Put his hand on your belly…close your eyes and let him connect with [the baby].”

I wept at the beauty of that thought: allowing my grandpa to connect with my baby as much as he can, while he’s still here, in case he’s not here come January when my baby is due.

But I also wept at the seeming impossibility of it all: my grandpa suffered an absolutely massive stroke, and there have been hours upon hours where he can do little more than breathe and attempt feebly to cough and attempt even more feebly to mutter a word or two.

There have been moments where I’ve feared that he’s too frail for me to even lift his hand to mine. Most times, he can barely struggle to open his eyes.

This, the grandfather who just three weeks ago was doling out bear hugs, singing boisterously to my children, sharing stories of his own childhood.

There seems to be an impassable river between the Grandpa then and the Grandpa now.

And as I prepared to leave the hospital on Saturday night, I felt the immensity of that river, and the distance between its shores, so very acutely: Grandpa was so weak, he hadn’t spoken a single understandable word in the entire three hours Tim and my sisters and I had been at the hospital, and nothing, absolutely nothing, seemed to be improving.

I leaned down to kiss him, to tell him that I loved him, and that Miles and Alec loved him. And then I saw his eyes open. Grandpa is still “there,” his mind seems not to have been affected by the stroke at all, and in this moment I could see him through the tears that filled his eyes.

Upon this recognition, my instinct was to open up my coat and show him my belly -- his great-grandson.

In any other circumstance, it would be a very odd instinct. But in these circumstances, it was the right instinct.

For his eyes opened wide, and with audible, crystal clarity, my Grandpa exclaimed, “Ohhhhh myyyyyy.” And then he giggled.


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