Ryan and I also finally made a decision that we had been tossing around for months now, and we hired a doula. We had actually decided against doing this a couple of months ago, and then started talking about it again a couple of weeks ago, and now that we've met our doula and signed the contract, I think it was the right decision and I feel so much more comfortable about labor and delivery. Our main concerns were if we would labor at home for as long as we intend to or if we'd get nervous and go into the hospital too soon, and if we'd be able to stick with our plans once we're at the hospital (barring any medical emergency). So we'll be having a couple of prenatal appointments to talk about what kind of birth we're hoping for, and she's also available for questions and to let me borrow something from her lending library (which is good, since I only have a couple more books I want to read and I can't seem to get them from the regular library). She'll then meet us at our house once I start having regular contractions, and will provide support for me at home and then at the hospital, both during and after delivery for a couple of hours. With the Bradley method (which are the childbirth classes we're taking), Ryan is considered my coach and the doula will be my assistant coach, so basically I should have my own personal two-person support team at all times - pretty cool, and hopefully this will help us have the birth we're hoping and preparing for. And even if I end up needing a c-section, the doula would still be able to stay with me while Ryan goes with the baby, which is a comfort to me to have someone with years of experience sticking with me throughout all the parts that I'm assuming will make me the most anxious.
I've also gotten a question about the midwives' role, which is a good question and one that I didn't mean to gloss over. Simplistically speaking (and hopefully this is all accurate), midwives can work with OBs in a single practice so that the patient can see an OB or midwife at their appointments, or they can have their own practice (hospital-based or homebirth-based). The certified nurse-midwives I go to are hospital-based midwives who have their own practice with an OB on backup, so all of my routine appointments are with one of the five midwives and they replace the role of an OB for my care. If I end up needing a c-section, then the OB backup will do the surgery itself, but otherwise, I do not expect to see a regular OB again and I wouldn't be seeing any doctors at all if I weren't also going to the high-risk doctor. Once I'm in labor, the midwife on call will meet me at the hospital and will stay with me through delivery. One of the concerns we had with getting a doula is that it seemed a little redundant since the midwife will be with me for most of labor as well, but the way I understand it now, the midwives will be supporting me at the hospital but will be focusing on the medical aspects of labor (and may not be with me the entire time at the hospital if they have more than one patient in labor), while the doula's sole focus will be to support me and help with my comfort at home and at the hospital.
All of that said, here's the comparison picture for this week :) Slightly bigger than last week, but it's a little hard to tell since I'm so much closer to the camera for the 22-week picture and my belly appears to be a different shape because of the way I was sucking it in and attempting to stand up straight.