We all know this will affect us, and there are people on every end of the spectrum of speculations on how deeply. Regardless of where you stand, if your a birthing mama or family, you likely will run into some issues in your birth planning during this season.
Many hospitals are putting extreme regulations into effect, limiting the number of people able to support you, limiting any and all postpartum visitors, even banning doula and photographer support.
I'm here to share some helpful tips, to help you navigate this trying time, and to remind you YOUR STORY STILL MATTERS. YOUR BIRTH STILL MATTERS. Your rights still matter, your care still matters. Don't let anyone tell you differently.
We can't control this virus, or the actions of others. Here's some ideas that I hope others expand on, of what you can still control, how you can still have a supported birth, and how you can protect your birth space from hysteria.
1. VIRTUAL SUPPORT
I'm putting this as #1 because its going to be invaluable if this continues to escalate. Many doulas have been offering virtual support for years, yet now more then ever may be a great time to utilize this. Doula support during birth is shown to lower mortality rates, cesarean birth rates, ptsd rates, and more. Education is priceless, and support is priceless. Your doula may not be able to get you a glass of water or fluff your pillow or hold your hand, but she can still provide you with accurate information on evidence based care, help you make the best decisions every step of the way during your birth, and coach you through the hardest moments. She can provide emotional, spiritual, and educational support all virtually. Can we say amen to the invention of the smart phones? Please please please, do not ditch your doula because of this outbreak. you hired her for a reason, let her serve you! And if your doula is not comfortable supporting you in this way, reach out to others. I personally know of several amazing virtual doulas I would be happy to connect you with!
2. ASK YOUR DOCTORS AND HOSPITALS
Yes, precautions are necessary and were glad people care about protecting our mothers and babies. But ask your doctors the hard questions. Remember that you are hiring them to service you and your labor, not the other way around. You are in charge, you must be comfortable with advocating for yourself during this time. If you are uncomfortable, speak up. If your not ready for something, speak up. If you want delayed cord clamping, don't let them rush you. The best questions to ask in moments of uncertainty:
- What will happen if I decide against this plan of treatment? (cesarean, meds, induction, whatever it is your discussing)
- What will happen if we wait?
- Do you have stats to back up what you are presenting?
- Can you explain it again? Or in a different way?
- Can I call my doula? Can I get a second opinion?
And, birth plan aside, its okay to ask them how they are handing this crisis too. Ask them! If they don't have answers your comfortable with consider switching hospitals before birth if you are able.
-Are you limiting staff as well as my support team members?
-What is your staff's sick protocol during this time?
-How do you plan on supporting laboring women during this time?
-Do you have a plan in place, to fill in the gaps that these restrictions create? doula care, caring mothers/sisters, and other labor support?
-How do you plan on protecting the mental health of your birthing mothers during this time?
These are important questions. And outbreak of a virus does not make your birth space any less sacred mama. It doesn't make support any less vital. And it doesn't make your mental health matter any less. QUITE the opposite.
Exciting update since writing this- Many hospitals, including some local to us have changed their policy because of the advocacy of patients, midwives, and nurses, to include doula's as part of the medical staff. That means a doula does not count toward your visitor limits in these hospitals. This is a beautiful step in honoring mothers and speaks volumes. (doulas attending births has lowered mortality rates and increased healthy outcomes for mothers, staff, and babies around the globe.) So don't stop advocating birth people! You are making a difference!
You have the right to support. Be it virtual, in person, or otherwise. You have the right to birth on your terms even in such a time as this. Do not stop being your own advocate, advocate for yourself, for your birth plan, for your vision, for your mental health, for your baby, for skin on skin, for your birth team. If you can't see yourself birthing alone, find a way to include your team. Facetime them all if you need to! You can do this. Practice standing your ground in the mirror. Memorize your birth plan. Do not give anyone the opportunity to walk over you, cut corners, or capitalize on this time. This is still YOUR birth. There are no good reasons, even due to a virus, to diminish your care rights or overstep your bodily rights. Be safe, be smart. Advocate. Remember, when a hospital puts a policy in place, or makes a decision- they are thinking of what is best for everyone, including themselves, their pockets, and their doctors. What is best for them, will not always line up with what is best for you and your child.
4. EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS
It is never ever too late to switch doctors, switch providers, or switch where you are birthing. Home birth is still an option. Alternative hospitals are still an option. Find a place, a plan, that makes you feel safe. There is NOTHING more detrimental to birth process then fear. Do not go into your birth with fear mamas. Birth where you feel safest, where you feel heard, where you have the least risk. For a LOT of mamas, this is the time to change your mind, your history, your expectations- and choose an new path. New options can be scary at first, but education can conquer fear, explore, learn, grow, choose. Own your birth.
5. CHOOSE YOUR SUPPORT PERSON
Assuming you only have one person allowed in the room, as many hospitals are advising or demanding, you need to make sure they are prepared to support you. If the person who is supposed to be at your birth, be it spouse, mother, friend, or doula, can not be who you need them to be in this time, don't be afraid to change your plans. A birthing support person should not bring fear, or pain into the delivery room. There is no room for emotional abuse, or negativity, or "you can't do this" vibes. Maybe this means making a really hard decision, and telling someone close to you that you want someone else there instead. That they can "be there" via facetime or not at all. Even in regular circumstances sometimes the best decision a mother can make to protect her birth space is to not include someone else. Your choice matters here. Who is in your birth room matters deeply. It should be someone you are comfortable with. Someone you trust, who knows you, who can be what you need in this moment. If you let someone be that person just because you feel obligated to, you will regret it. Birth hormones can be affected by stress, by pain, by loneliness, and can cause complications that jeopardize not only your mental health, but the health of your baby during delivery. Maybe the best person for you, is someone who can protect you and help you advocate, someone who brings information to the table. Maybe its someone who's touch helps you calm down and feel safe. Please choose your support person wisely, and don't be afraid of hurt feelings right now. I'll say it again, Your birth matters. You matter. This is your decision, no one else's.
6. EQUIP YOUR PERSON
Whomever you choose to be your support person, equip them! If its a doula or birth worker, make sure they know you, and know all the things a husband or friend or mother would. Do you like to be touched? Do you hate loud noises? What do you do when you are afraid? What do you do to relax? Let them know!
And if you choose your husband, mother, or friend, equip them too! Have them meet up with your doula and learn birth pain relief techniques. Ask about rebozo wraps, and labor positions. Make them take notes. Make them recite your birth plan and memorize it too. Make sure they are ready to be what you need in this time. Make sure they are willing to advocate for you and your child in case of emergency, if you are unable to do so for yourself. Make sure they know where you stand, and what the hospitals policies are on everything right now. Be prepared and make sure anyone on your team is prepared also, not just for your plan, but for every variation of what could happen.
7. BUTTER EM UP!
Consider gifting your nurses, or nurses station. Do what you can to stand out to them. Stats show that nurses and patients who connect, have better outcomes and experiences. Your nurses and doctors will likely be dealing with their own fears and stresses, from childcare to sick care, and showing them the love for the time the are dedicating to your care, can go a long way. Often it is not the nurses who are creating hospital policy, and not even the doctors, they can be advocating for change just as much as we are, give everyone a chance and show kindness before you make a judgment of character. Of course if there IS a problem, you have to also be willing to revoke consent, and request a change of nurse, dr, etc.
9. BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHY
Still important. Still healing. Still powerful. If you can't have your birth photographer there, consider inviting them into your home when you are discharged for an extended family lifestyle/settling in session. These moments deserve to be captured and cherished, not in spite of, but because of these crazy happenings. Your story still deserves to be told. You can still have powerful beautiful photos.
You can also ask your photographer to coach your partner on tips of how to best capture certain moments if you will be having them take that roll. Some photographers may even be willing to help you edit the photos taken.
10. PRIORITIZE POSTPARTUM SUPPORT
PLEASE! Mothers already forget to plan for this period, now its going to be more important then ever. Many family members and usual babysitters may be unavailable now. Hire the postpartum doulas, the photographers, the housecleaners. Line up people to cook for you. Anything and anyone that can help you make this time easier. Prioritize your mental health and realize that you may have unforeseen conscious or unconscious obstacles to overcome before during and after birth. In my opinion anyone can benefit from therapy, and birth mothers especially. Invite opportunities for growth and stress relief, don't be afraid to reach out. There are great resources out there for online therapy, in person, any type of care you need. Contact me for more info on how to make a successful postpartum plan. Don't forget to make space for healing mamas. The impact of your birth and postpartum period will last much longer then this hysteria.
This one is a given. But hear me out! The best thing for any birth space is peace, peace of mind and body. Maybe this a good time to start meditating, or practicing gentle yoga. Pick up a new novel series. Anything that can get your mind off of the hysteria, and into the zone your baby needs. PUT DOWN THE PHONE, stop googling, stop reading facebook. Take a break in the moments before, during, and after your birth to dedicate to your families moments. Create a safe space in your home, where nothing but good vibes are allowed in. You won't regret a little peaceful isolation. Find a way to find your peace, to center in. During birth, let yourself go out of that frontal lobe mind thinking space, and retreat into an instinctual place. Don't let fear control your life or your birth. We want this baby born into a space of love. Breathe deep and full with every breath, now and until after your baby is here. Birth affirmations are fun to make, or print, or order, and can help a ton. Spend time in the bible or in prayer if that brings you comfort. Rejoice in the little joys of the day. And of course, keep washing your hands LOL.
Bottom line, this time will come and go. But your birth story will stay with you for the rest of your life. America greatly underestimates the power of birth, and what effect it has on every single one of our families here. Don't let this time take anything from you. Be creative. Find solutions. Make this day, count. YOU MATTER. YOUR BIRTH STORY MATTERS. Your birth worker community cares about you and your birth during this time.
I believe in you, and am here for anything you might need.
Please don't hesitate to reach out.
Faithfully yours community,