One person (partner or other support people) only…or in some instances, zero support people. No doulas or photographers. No mums, sisters or friends. No siblings. No visitors.
This is the message that is being given to expecting parents in Australia (and across the world) right now, and understandably, women are upset and anxious. There is often anxiety and fear around childbirth. There is definitely anxiety and concern around COVID-19. And in their most vulnerable state, women are being stripped of choices and support.
Of course, we know why. We understand that it is for the safety and wellbeing of mothers, babies, families, the support people themselves and the general public. To stop the spread. To stop more people from dying as the health system is stretched beyond its capacity. It doesn’t make it feel any easier, though.
I’ve put together this list of ideas for mamas birthing in hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic, in the hopes that it can bring them a little bit of comfort, and help them feel supported and safe, even if from afar.
Have those you had planned to be with you in the room still be there, via Zoom/Facetime/Skype etc. No, it won’t be the same, but perhaps seeing their face and hearing their voice will still bring some comfort, and allow them to share in your special day, too. This can happen with doulas, mums, siblings or other support people you hoped would be with you in person.
Create a Unique and Positive Space
Get your friends and family to write/draw affirmations for you to put in your birth space, that you can look at and read during your labour. Get them to record video messages you can replay in the hospital. Have them send you a bead to make a necklace that you can wear/take with you, that reminds you of all the people holding your space and sending blessings from afar.
Have them record affirmations or words of encouragement and support over some relaxing/peaceful music, that you can listen to during your labour and birth. Maybe even get them to sing and create you your very own unique birthing soundtrack! Print photos of your other children or the special people in your life, and take them with you so you can see their faces as you go through labour.
Enlist a Student Midwife
Student midwives are currently not restricted, as they are classed as “staff.” A student midwife can provide continuity of care and a friendly, familiar face that brings comfort to you when you arrive at the hospital. They can act as extra support to you and your partner during your birth and will be aware of your birth plan ahead of time.
Take Pictures and Video
Ask your partner and/or the midwives to take photos and video, so you will be able to relive it and share your baby’s birth day with those special people who weren’t able to be there in person.
Stay Home As Long As Possible
Not only will this mean that your birth team may be able to join you during early labour to support you, but it also minimises your risk of transmission in the hospital and puts less strain on an already strained health system.
Go Home As Soon As Possible
This is something that is being encouraged by health authorities when it is safe to do so. You can have your baby and be home hours later, so your family can be together again. Of course, you may still choose to limit visitors (and practice social distancing), but this will be a choice you can make.
Plan a Homebirth
This is a valid option for many women, to reduce the risk of exposure and transmission of COVID-19 and take the pressure off the hospital system. There are many midwives, birth workers and doulas who will support you in this choice, and it means that you can still choose your birth team (although you should carefully consider the risks that may be present, and maintain social distancing and strict hygiene measures). It isn’t an option for every family, but it’s worth exploring if it’s an option for you.
Once In A Lifetime Event
There are other things to keep in mind, too. This is YOUR birth, your baby’s birth day, and a once in a lifetime event. It is no less sacred or special, no less worthy of being celebrated. If you are told that you can’t even have your partner with you – fight it, or change care providers. It is not evidence-based, nor recommended by medical and health authorities. You should NOT be left alone to birth without ANY support, and your partner should not be excluded from the birth of your baby.
You don’t need to be separated from your baby. Again, it is not evidence-based and has the potential to cause physical, mental and emotional harm. The World Health Organisation says mothers (even those who have tested positive) should still have contact with their babies, whilst following strict hygiene protocols.
If you are told not to breastfeed – this is simply not true. There is no evidence of the virus being transmitted through breastmilk. The World Health Organisation states that women should continue to breastfeed, even if they have tested positive.
There are SO many places you can reach out to. I highly recommend Mamatoto Support for Birth in Crisis – linking mamas with all kinds of birth professionals (midwives, doulas, hypnobirthing practitioners and more) who are offering all kinds of support to women birthing during the COVID-19 pandemic. We want you to know you can still be supported, that you are NEVER alone!
Everything you need to birth is within YOU! Of course, the people dear to you and the people you trust are very important, and there are many tools and external factors that can make you feel safe, comfortable and confident – all very important things in birth…but ultimately, all you need to give birth to your babe safely is YOU!
So many blessings to you <3