Spring is blooming! and so is panic, fear, and misinformation. I'm starting out with this beautiful peaceful image of the cherry blossom trees here in North Carolina to remind us, this too shall pass. We must prioritize finding peace, beauty, and love within every day of our lives. Even, no, especially in times such as this. The little moments count for everything.
Take the time to care for your own mental health, protect your peace and family, and then come back here and explore the deep issues we are facing with birth within the coronavirus times.
Disclaimer-- I will relay both facts and opinions here. My mind is open, I am always learning and evolving and changing my point of view. To the best of my ability I try to speak truth and light into every situation, and this is no different. Sometimes those truths are hard, and not universally accepted and that's okay. I am here to raise questions, to encourage creative problem solving, and to relay one important message: That birth matters. It matters now, It matters tomorrow, and it matters forever.
Mothers matter. Fathers matter. Birthing people matter. Protecting the mental health of the humans that are responsible for raising the next generation is vital to our future. Serving, protecting, and honoring the birth space is where it all starts.
The majority of parents in the world today have dealt with at least one, more likely multiple of the following things:
-Maternal care disparities
-PMADS (perinatal mood and anxiety disorders)
-Postpartum depression, anxiety, ocd, and psychosis
-PTSD from birth trauma
-Birth violence and abuse
-Sleep deprivation (extreme)
-Childhood Abuse that effects their birth
-On going home abuse during and after birth
This list goes on.
Even without these issues, birth is a vulnerable place. Especially for the birth mother. Our society has done a poor job when it comes to protecting our mothers, honoring them, and giving them the support they need to thrive. More mothers are struggling then thriving, and that's not on them, its on us- all of us.
So much good has been done over the last few years as mothers, mother advocates, and birth workers have attempted to foster an environment where change is possible. Support groups and conversations are thriving, Doula care has become standard in many areas, birth options are widening, disparities are being addressed, and birth photography is showing all of the progress and beauty in it all.
During this isolation, and social distancing, so many new protocols have been put in place. Weather they are right or wrong is not my debate, but how we can prevent them from wreaking havoc on our birth mothers. A mother cares for everyone else first, and herself last in our society. We need to care for them now, especially.
We need to safely and from an educated place question protocols put in place due to fear, because some of them may be causing more harm then protection.
Lets jump into the restrictions and practices, and note how they could cause harm.
-Limiting support people allowed in the birth room
This is a big one that almost every community is dealing with. In efforts to prevent spread hospitals are lowing the number of people allowed to attend the mother's birth. This is great in theory. However, its being taken to extremes. Some hospitals are allowing 2 support people. Some only 1. And in some, they are requiring the mother to birth alone- not even her spouse allowed. We have to ask, how are you (the hospital) going to fill the gap in care and support, that these protocols cause? How will you protect your patients mental health? How will you address the strain this will put on the nurses? How are you caring for your staff who are suffering from childcare shortages? With a lack of staff, and personal support, how is a mother going to be properly cared for?
This is dangerous ground. I do not believe that taking away support form the MOST vulnerable population, is the answer to our problems.
A mother, during birth, can not always speak up for herself. She needs someone to be there with her to stand up for her rights when she can't. She needs someone to tell he she can do this. She needs someone to hold her hand.
Taking away her support, is going to induce fear. Uncomforted or unmanaged fear in the birth space is so dangerous. It can cause moms to be unable to enter their primal instinctual space, which messes with the flow and ebb of the birth process. Fear disrupts hormones needed to safely deliver baby. Fear creates panic. It can and will physically, emotionally, and mentally damage a mother and her child. Our mothers fears are most likely already on the rise due to the virus.
Taking away her support is going to exasperate the mental capabilities she has to deal with those fears. Taking away her support is a breading ground for uninvited and unnecessary intervention, labor stalls, birthplace violence, heart decels, disparities in care, and more.
Some hospitals this week (including one locally!) have seen their midwives and nurses and birth workers band together to change these protocols. Allowing doulas to be a considered a medical team member, to protect these mothers mental and physical birth spaces. This is HUGE. Doula care is shown to drastically lower mortality rates for both mother and child.
A birth stays with a mother for the REST OF HER LIFE. It affects the way she parents, the way she evolves, the way she sees that child and herself for the rest of their earthly bond. This is important. Birth matters. Her mental health matters. SHE matters. and we are telling them, by removing their support team, that it doesn't. Or simply that it matters less then other things. There should be MORE support (doesn't have to mean more people) put in place to support the vulnerable in times of stress, not less.
-The separation of mother and child upon delivery
Another big one. Some hospitals, purely out of caution and fear, are separating mothers and babies the second they are born to prevent the virus. It is EVIDENCE based care that keeps birth safe. This is not evidence based, this is fear based. This is bananas. Evidence says that babies NEED skin to skin. That mothers need their babies. That this virus may not even effect babies strongly. Evidence says that babies and mothers are healthier when they stay together. Evidence says that breastfeeding is the best defense against EVERY sickness, and many many medical issues including: jaundice, blood sugar issues, low birth weights, heart conditions, temperature issues, and more. Evidence says that successful breastfeeding starts and birth, and relies heavily on how much time and bonding mother and baby are given. Evidence says that the first hour after birth is critical to the life of the child. Even if a mother is sick, EVIDENCE says that the best place for a baby is on her chest. Scientifically, our kisses pick up signals to what our baby is exposed to, our breast milk changes to create pathogens and defenses against those exposures, our touch reads our babies temperature and regulates it. Breast milk heals. Skin to skin heals. Biological instinctual bonding heals. Better then any medicine. So why, in any circumstance would we take away our babies best defense to this virus?
From ACOG and the CDC:
"No infants born to mothers with COVID-19 have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus"
"We do not know at this time what if any risk is posed to infants of a pregnant woman who has COVID-19."
"Breast milk provides protection against many illnesses. There are rare exceptions when breastfeeding or feeding expressed breast milk is not recommended.”
“Outside of the immediate postpartum setting, CDC recommends that a mother with flu continue breastfeeding or feeding expressed breast milk to her infant while taking precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant." The same recommendations are in place for almost every respiratory illness.
From a COVID-19 website:
"Considering the benefits of breastfeeding and the insignificant role of breastmilk in the transmission of other respiratory viruses, the mother can continue breastfeeding, while applying all the necessary precautions."
The CDC also currently recommend newborns and mothers consider separation, but that all risks to separation should be Deeply considered, and the health care providers should consult with the mother to decide what is best.
”If a mother and newborn do room-in and the mother wishes to feed at the breast, she should put on a facemask and practice hand hygiene before each feeding.“
from WHO (World health organization)
“Yes. Close contact and early, exclusive breastfeeding helps a baby to thrive. You should be supported to
Breastfeed safely, with good respiratory hygiene;
Hold your newborn skin-to-skin, and
Share a room with your baby
You should wash your hands before and after touching your baby, and keep all surfaces clean.“
There are so many resources on why mothers and newborns should not be separated during this time. At the very least it should be considered a right to let the parents be a big part of deciding what is best for their child. It is not okay to take a newborn from a mother without consent. Doing so can cause more damage physically and mentally then it prevents.
-No photography below the waist
This one cracks me up. A fellow photographer (at a hospital where such visitor restrictions are not in place and she was still able to photograph this birth) was given this new restriction in under the list of protocols to 'prevent spread of the virus.' LOL what? (the hospital did not previously have this rule) (Don't even get me started on hospitals deciding what a women can and can not have photographed on her own person(her body her choice, am I right?)
This is not the only one that makes no sense. Many new rules are being put in place for everyone, as people act out of fear. Fear makes people feel out of control, and controlling those they are in charge of helps them take that control back in a tangible way.
I do not judge the rule makers, or those putting such protocols into effect. But I do pose questions for them, for all birth workers and families, to consider. In these issues and many more. I get that this is a big deal right now. But so is birth. So is mental health. These moments, these people, these stories matter. A mothers birth story will stay with her forever, this virus will come and go. I do not come from a place of anger, but a place of inspiration. We are AMAZING creative human beings. Let us not let fear cause undue harm. Let us protect the beautiful sacred vulnerability of birth and birth mothers. Let us come together in this time of isolation, with our minds, to come up with different answers. I strongly believe we are capable of coming up with creative solutions that keep everyone safe AND cared for.
Don't stop changing, evolving, and growing. Don't stop asking questions. Don't stop advocating.
Here for you, believing in you birth community AND birth mothers!
-Your birth keeper
2 Timothy 1:7
For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but one of Love, of power, and of a sound mind.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. Psalm 23:4
Tell everyone who is discouraged, be strong and don't be afraid! God is coming to your rescue! Isaiah 35:4
But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don't worry or be afraid of their threats. 1 peter 3:14
God is within her; she will not fall. God will help her at the break of day!
2 Timothy 1:7
For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but one of Love, of power, and of a sound mind.