It’s eight AM. I’m on my way to my first prenatal appointment of the day. I’m already lost. Holding my google map in one hand, steering with the other, I squint and brake as I pass street signs. I know I’m annoying the driver behind me, most likely on their way to work.
I arrive barely on time, all nerves and paperwork. With my manila folder in hand, and a decanter of coffee (I promised I would bring coffee), I sit down at her kitchen island. I pull out forms and articles to discuss, her medical history, her expectations regarding labor.
It was all going just fine. Lots of nods and polite smiles. My index finger traces the top oval of my coffee mug – my nervous twitch. I’m thinking about how I don’t even know her, I mean I know what’s she’s told me through client forms.
Being privy to medical history means that I get to know some things that perhaps her best friend won’t even know. But, she wrote that down, filled out a chart, and that’s different from the way you would share something with a friend because you trust her.
So, what I mean is I don’t really have her trust. I struggle feeling awkward. I’m about to help her journey through one of the most significant moments of her life, this is not the time to feel like a stranger.
I think of this as I make mention of a good book to read. I slide the book across the counter and point to the chapter that I think will be most helpful and wonder what I can do.
Then it hit me, and with ardent conviction, I say to her, “I want you to know, I believe in you 100%. You can do this. I absolutely believe in your ability to give birth to your baby.” I pause and look down for a tiny second and then look up at her and say, “I know that you are going to do this.”
She looks across at me, breaks into the biggest smile I’ve seen her give me yet, and with heartfelt gratitude – like the kind of gratitude that grabs you by the shoulders and gives you a shake, she says, very simply, “Thank you.”
It’s true. I do believe in her. In fact, the day before our meeting as I was reviewing material and going over notes, I was struck with how none of this book knowledge really mattered. What she needed from me was my absolute confidence in her abilities, and then, as if on cue – a ton of belief-bricks hit my heart; I was gifted with a deep inner knowing that she is able and strong.
The reality is, though, that me saying how I believe in her doesn’t change what she already knows about herself. However, she needs to know that I know it, too.
Everything was different once I told her this. I crossed a border. I was no longer an immigrant to her trust. My complete belief in her abilities unlocked her heart. From that point on the prenatal visit went from just fine to – we’re in this together, heart and hands.
I will never forget this lesson: my belief in a woman’s innate ability to birth her child must be alive inside me if I’m to gain her trust and respect and serve her with dignity and compassion.