With a home birth midwife on board, my husband and I would meet her at her office, a little detached structure behind her house, every two weeks. Unlike the OB visits with my first son when a nurse would have me pee, stand on a scale and offer an arm for blood pressure and pulse, all in less than five minutes, time with the midwife was more relaxed. Altough the appointments were scheduled for an hour each, they often ran over, sometimes by 30 minutes, as we talked. Yes, I peed in a cup in the private bathroom, but the midwife showed me how to take a special dipstick, put it in the Dixie Cup, and watch it change colors; the test would check everything from protein to sugar in the urine. She even encouraged me to perform the test myself, which I did. (I often showed her the results to make sure I was doing it right, though she never asked). This was not laziness on her part. Clearly she had me do it myself as a way of making me feel empowered about my care. There was nothing paternalistic about these visits. She trusted that I could read a dipstick! Alas, I could!
Of course the visits also included weighs-ins, though she would ask me if I wanted to step on the scale -- again a subtle but nice gesture. I did not have to get weighed, and a couple times, I skipped it. She could tell by looking at me if my weight was in check or if I was retaining too much water. She took my blood pressure, and listened to the baby's heart using a fetoscope. She would also measure my belly and feel the baby's position. There were no internal exams, except for one, at the very end.
For the most part, the time was spent talking about how I was feeling, not just physically, but emotionally. She asked about my family, the other kids, if I was stressed out at work. Was any of this relevant? Maybe, maybe not. But my midwife and I were getting to know each other.
Two hundered years ago, if a midwife was called to attend a birth, she likely would have been a member of the extended family or a woman who lived in the village. Everyone would have known her. Trust would have been inherent. It is important to feel comfortable and trust your birth attendant. It takes away the fear and helps you to relax.
I watched the movie "Knocked Up" recently and there is a scene where the expectant mother interviews all these OBs and settles on one after he tells her (falsely) that he would be there for her birth, not someone else in the medical practice. Of course, he was not there when she went into labor and she flipped out.
I was getting to know my midwife. And one of the first things I came to know: She would be there for me.