“CenteringPregnancy incorporates the three components of prenatal care - education, risk assessment and supportive care - into one entity and encourages women to take responsibility for their own health...The CenteringPregnancy Model ‘centers’ the three components of prenatal care...into a whole and helps a woman ‘center herself as she moves through pregnancy.’” (Comparison of Selected Outcomes of CenteringPregnancy versus Traditional Prenatal Care)
Group prenatal care. Sounds a little weird, doesn’t it? That’s exactly what I initially thought. Little did I know the wonders of such a thing. Let’s start at the beginning...
....My pregnancy started off with a terrifying miscarriage scare. A trip to the emergency room and several trips to an Ob-Gyn later, I knew that kind of invasive, highly medicalized care was not what I wanted for my pregnancy. So I set up a “get to to know you” visit with a local midwife. I left the visit positive that she was “the one” for my pregnancy and birth. Before I knew it, I was arranging my first appointment and the scheduler enthusiastically asked me if I would consider doing Centering for my prenatal care.
My midwife also excitedly brought this “centering” up at our first appointment, and my interest was peaked. Everyone at the office seemed so excited about it. They acted like it was the best thing in the world.
Basically, they explained, Centering is prenatal care done in a group setting. I would be placed in a group of 6-10 women due roughly around the same time. I could bring a support person if I wanted. Appointments were 2 hours long. There were ten meetings; they started out once a month and later moved to every other week. At the end of our pregnancies, when we needed to be seen every week, we would make individual appointments to be seen.
I was hesitant to join. It sounded so...different. What if the women I was grouped with were really, you know, granola? I’m not exactly very crunchy, or much of a group person. Despite that, I decided to join. Everyone at the office seemed so delighted to have me - how could I tell them no?
To my surprise and delight, I quickly came to love centering. I was introverted in group, yes. In fact, the moderator often asked if I was enjoying my centering experience, but I looked forward to those Thursday morning meetings as the highlights of my very pregnant existence.
We started every session the same way. The six of us would waddle in and hit the scale. That was the most depressing part of the morning. Because centering encourages women to take responsibility for their own health, it was our job to take our weight and blood pressure, which our midwife monitored.
We snacked on healthy foods as we chatted while waiting for everyone to arrive. When our midwife showed up she would start “tummy time”. This was individual time with each of us to listen to baby and feel our tummies. She would answer any very personal concerns (aka, “pst, I think I may have a yeast infection - can you take a look afterward?”) but anything else she told us to bring up in our group discussion. The idea was that if one of us was concerned about something or had a question about a topic someone else was probably wondering, too. Such is the beauty and genius of centering.
Nothing was off-limits for discussion. Sex, birth control, whacky hormones, pain management, hemorrhoids, you name it - we talked about each problem and concern through...and then some! We shared a few tears, lots of laughter, and loads of support. The dynamic our group had was incredible. Groups of women (sometimes deservedly!) have a terrible reputation for being catty, but that was never the case with us.
Some weeks we had guest speakers come. We had a lactation consultant, a massage therapist, and a doula speak. For one of our later meetings, the moderator dressed up in a bathrobe, stuffed postpartum supplies in her pockets, and made us each take one out so that we could discuss them. It was a fun, laughter packed way to learn about the often not-so-fun quirks of postpartum life.
I went into my pregnancy terrified of birth. With the support of my centering friends and midwife, I came to love it. There was so much positive energy in all of our meetings. I couldn’t help but feel empowered. Our midwife gave us so much information about everything pregnancy, labor and birth-related in a fun, positive way. She made me feel like I could handle the challenges facing me in my pregnancy and birth, and I loved downing the information she gave us for those two hours every meeting. My husband would come home at night and I’d babble on and on to him about everything I’d learned at centering that day. He was quite an informed papa after all that!
Our last meeting, about two weeks before any of our due dates, was unbelievably sad. I felt incredibly let down when I continued to go to weekly check-ups. Thirty minutes or so - which is a generous time allotment by any standard - and I was done. No group of friends to chat with. No snacks. No funny stories. I couldn’t believe how much I missed it. I couldn’t imagine what my pregnancy would have been like if I’d just come to “regular” checkups for 9 months.
This centering story doesn’t end there, though. After almost nine months of regular get-togethers, everyone in our group was fast friends. We now get together on a regular basis with our little ones. We continue with our loving, supportive group atmosphere where we can say anything - and I mean anything - without fear of being judged. It’s amazing, special and such a blessing.
I look forward to doing centering with my next pregnancy. Midwifery care is amazing, yes, and so much more than the quick, medical checkups I got with the Ob-Gyn I started out with. But comparing “regular” midwife checkups and centering, there’s no way I could go back. It’s just that good.