Every Woman Needs an “Anna”

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If you’ve read any of my past content you’ll know that, when it comes to pregnancy, I’m in the high-risk boat. I have trouble getting pregnant, and once I’m pregnant, it requires a lot of intentionality, monitoring, and care. It’s basically a full-time job. For both of my pregnancies, I used maternal fetal medicine (MFM) instead of an OB. When you use a MFM, you do not have an assigned doctor for delivery or appointments (at least this was the case with my particular provider.) During my first pregnancy, this made me nervous going in to it because I craved some level of familiarity during this first-time experience with pregnancy and motherhood.

Enter Anna.

Serendipity

I’ll never forget the day we met. It was my first appointment at my MFM clinic during my first pregnancy. I had driven an hour from where we lived in Tuscaloosa for this appointment, and I was beyond nervous. I had no idea what to expect with anything, especially at a MFM. This was in 2017, pre-COVID times, but my husband wasn’t able to be there that day due to scheduling conflicts. I remember being so anxious and I just needed any kind of comfort or a familiar face, even though I didn’t know anyone there yet.

I didn’t know it at the time, but it was Anna’s first day back from maternity leave after having her second child. As much as I was hoping for a comforting presence in my anxious state, she was equally hoping for a sincere patient interaction that day.

We both needed each other that day.

We’ve had a special bond ever since. High-risk pregnancy (and pregnancy in general) can be scary, and first-time pregnancy is scary enough as it is. Anna was my bright spot during a time of uncertainty. She talked to me like a friend, a person, instead of just another patient. She always validated what I was feeling while guiding me through this uncharted territory with the professional expertise and knowledge that she has. My most recent pregnancy in 2020, she did the same, just on a whole new level.

Pregnant in a Pandemic

My 2020 pregnancy with my son was obviously during the ongoing pandemic, which added another layer of uncertainty on top of what already exists. I found myself, once again, craving familiarity. Anna was one of the first people I told that I was pregnant, and she was also pregnant at the time. We were able to walk through pandemic pregnancies together.

This pregnancy was pretty low key for the first two trimesters, but once the third trimester hit, we encountered some blips, as baby boy began to fail most biophysical profiles and non-stress tests (come to find out, he’s just a chill guy.) This resulted in extended monitoring and some unexpected visits to L&D which, in the time of the pandemic, is not ideal.

It was a bit wild but fine, until October 12th when it took a sharp turn. I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and had to be admitted immediately for the remainder of my pregnancy. In normal times, this would be inconvenient of course, but manageable, as I would be able to have visitors. Unfortunately, I was not able to have visitors (other than my husband) while admitted due to the pandemic. This meant I would be separated from my two-year-old daughter. It may sound overdramatic, but I was genuinely devastated. I had so many fun plans for the last few weeks of being a family of three, and, suddenly, I was abruptly separated from my family.

I was grieving the end of a chapter that I didn’t even expect to close yet. I was confined to a room/wing until further notice, looking ahead to the future excitedly while simultaneously navigating the inevitable sadness and shock of it all . . .

Enter Anna.

The Turnaround

Since she works in the hospital, she was able to come visit me on the high-risk floor. She made time in her busy schedule of seeing patients to come sit and talk to me for however long I needed. She brought me some of my favorite goodies. She listened to me, she talked with me, and provided a sense of normalcy that I was aching for in the midst of such an abnormal situation. I don’t think she fully understands how much that meant to me, but it was just what my soul needed: familiarity. After Anna’s visit, my emotions started turning the corner.

I still had many moments of tears and processing, but that was the defining time of turnaround for me in that experience, and it was all because of Anna.

She ensured I was well taken care of by the nurses and staff, and that’s a post for another day because, wow, my nurses were literal angels on earth. Birmingham is blessed with amazing nurses and healthcare heroes!

During the newborn and postpartum fog, she checked in frequently, sent my family meals, sent baby Simon and me some “happies.” Anna has always been a resource and source of comfort for me. Most of all, she’s always empowered me to be the mother I desire to be by helping me learn to trust my intuition, that “mom gut” we all naturally acquire but have to attune to.

Don’t Settle

Women need support during vulnerable times like pregnancy and postpartum. We need to know what we’re experiencing is normal, common, and we need validation in our struggles. Sometimes, we just need comfort, or a warm presence. Charisma and relatability are so important in a provider. Vulnerability and humanness go a long way, especially within a clinical setting.

It is my prayer that every woman has an “Anna” during their infertility, pregnancy, and postpartum experiences. I struck gold with my Anna and know that not everyone will have the same experience, but I hope you find your person — your Anna — that will walk beside you, hold your hand when needed, and cheer you on in pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond. Your Anna is out there, and you have the power to make changes in your care until you find the right fit. It is so valuable and such a game changer to find that person or that facility that suits you best. Don’t settle, Mama.

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Audra Smith did not spend her childhood in Alabama, but got down here as fast as she could! Originally from Ohio, Audra met and married her husband (of nearly 6 years now), Brian, while in college, and they decided to move to Alabama on a whim a year after graduation, resulting in the best decision ever made. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Family Studies/Child Development. Audra spent the first few years after the move working for The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa within Early Childhood Education. After years of working in close proximity to Big Al, it’s safe to say now that she is a faithful Tide fan. Audra is an Army National Guard wife due to Brian’s military service and dedication to the great state of Alabama and our country. After enduring years of infertility, Audra and Brian were miraculously blessed with their daughter Nora Jo, who was born in March 2018 in the heart of Birmingham. Audra now resides in the Chelsea area (Sterrett) with her husband Brian, daughter Nora Jo, and living security system (lab/hound mix) Hamilton. When she’s not wrangling and chasing after a spunky toddler, Audra enjoys a good book, just about a million cups of coffee a day, embracing/celebrating the wild ride of postpartum, any DIY crafty project, and being on the water. She initially went to college for Vocal Music, and still enjoys music and singing very much as an outlet (even if she’s mostly singing “Baby Shark” these days.) Audra is passionate about raising awareness for Type 1 Diabetes, as she lives with this disease every day. Audra is currently a stay at home mom who makes it a priority to cultivate side projects related to her passions. She enjoys connecting with other mamas, women, and anyone who needs someone to talk to. Instagram has become a virtual tribe for her, and if you’d like to participate, head on over to @audrashoupesmith whenever you need a dose of “real life.”