Having my checkups at Joanne's house has been so nice. She lives in the tiny town of Hampshire, TN, about ten minutes away from The Farm. Her small, cozy home is tucked in a little valley, shaded by trees and greenery. She and her husband have an abundant garden behind their house, with a grape arbor, ornamental plants, and a vegetable garden. During today's visit we were offered freshly-made grape juice from their Concord grapes, tangy and pulpy, bright purple and delicious.
We begin the checkup sitting on the couch in Joanne's living room, which has a relaxed atmosphere and is filled with tiny Buddha statues, arrowheads found locally by her husband while working in the fields at The Farm, and tapestries and fabrics from around the world. Joanne always takes a minute to make sure Maggie is comfortable, bringing her books and toys to occupy her while we chat about any questions or concerns I have. Joanne asks how I've been doing, making sure all is going smoothly, and asks about my diet is going and whether I'm making sure to exercise. Having Maggie along at these checkups means that I have a tiny accountability partner -- this week she got onto me about how I needed to be walking because "Joanne said so!"
As I've shared about my pregnancy, I've heard stories about Joanne's pregnancies (she's had six!) and how those went. While in the throes of my own first-trimester nausea (debilitatingly bad, I lost 12 lb because I could not stand food!) she shared her own pregnancy nausea story: during one pregnancy she also had severe nausea, but since everyone on The Farm ate only what they grew themselves, she didn't have much choice in what she had to eat. She said it took years for her to be interested in eating eggplants and sweet potatoes again, as that was what was in season during her nauseous period.
Once we've asked all our questions, we go into a back room of the house that's set up with a bed, a desk, and a rocking chair. The bed is covered with a beautifully-made Amish quilt that Joanne got as payment for attending the birth of an Amish baby. The rocker is also Amish-made and was also payment for a birth. Josh takes the rocker while I sit in the desk chair for Joanne to take my blood pressure.
I then lay down on the bed and she measures my belly to see how the baby is growing and checks the baby's heartbeat. Today she started out using something called a Pinard horn, a fetoscope that's commonly used in Europe but is rarely used by US doctors. It's a primitive-looking instrument but is actually more precise than the Doppler device that most US obstetricians use for detecting fetal heartbeats. Joanne also used the Doppler this afternoon, which meant we got to hear Wendell's heartbeat out loud, galloping along like a racehorse. Today I also got my cervix checked, something that usually Joanne won't do until a woman is close to term, but as I've had some worries about preterm labor and bleeding, she checked me out to give me some peace of mind.
Our visits usually last around an hour and we leave feeling happy and cared-for. It is great to be building a relationship with the woman who will not only catch Wendell as he comes out into the world (my OB with Maggie was in the room for only the last 20 minutes or so of my labor), but who will be with me through the entire labor and delivery process, no matter how long that takes. Building that trust in Joanne over the course of my pregnancy will only help the labor process go more smoothly, as I know she understands the type of birth I want, knows my fears and concerns, and will be with me from start to finish.
Though we've got an hour and twenty minute drive to get to Joanne, our visits have felt like mini-vacations because Josh has been able to take off work and we always stop somewhere fun along the way. Today after my appointment we went to Davy Crockett State Park in Lawrenceburg, where we ate a picnic lunch and spent some time by a waterfall, splashing in the shallow creekbed. It was gorgeous and the weather could not have been more perfect. During our time in the park we saw wild turkeys, deer, crawdads, fish, and butterflies.