We have entered a new birthing paradigm. This shift is unwelcome, confusing, and nuanced. Pregnant women everywhere are reevaluating their birth plans, managing their anxiety, and shifting their expectations, all while trying to maintain a positive outlook. There is a heavy feeling in the birthing world right now, I can attest to that, but there is also so much good that a birthing person can focus on. You are bringing forth this new generation of humankind. You are strong, and you are worthy of this challenge.
As a birth Doula, my goal right now is making sure that families have up to date information about policies at their place of birth, and that they have unbiased and continuous support through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. This means a partner, and/or a Doula, therapist, or trusted non-judgmental friend that will pick up the phone when anxieties are running high, or when questions need to be answered. Doctors, especially OBGYN’s, are extremely busy, and many have moved to Tele-health. The lack of physical contact can be jarring for pregnant women who are already feeling sensitive. Having a support person you can either FaceTime, ZOOM, or call, can make a huge difference. Finding support can be simple. Ask friends, check Facebook, or reach out to someone you follow on Instagram, (I’m always available for questions!) Many of us Doula’s are helping families that weren’t previously planning to hire one. But, the reality is that everyone needs multiple layers of support right now, and having someone in your corner is crucial to your well being, as well as your partner’s. So, turn off the news, and turn into your primal self to create a support system that will guide you through this special time in your life.
As you near the time to give birth, whether you are birthing in a hospital, or at home/birth center, having multiple plans in place is critical. The goal right now for birthing people is not only to eliminate extra “surprises” but to help you take control of your birth experience, even amidst such a daunting time. Most of my clients have a birth plan written out, with explicit information, and instructions, on what they expect from medical personnel. If you are having a home/birth center birth have a transfer plan written up, as well as a succinct plan of action with your team, detailing what you expect to happen should you transfer. Know exactly what your transfer hospital policies are. If you have other children, make sure you have multiple layers of support lined up. Plan appropriately for postpartum, and know who is offering virtual lactation, postpartum Doula support, and PMAD (Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorder) support services in your area.
When it comes to hospital births, most hospitals are not letting the partner leave once you have been admitted. If it’s a longer birth, or induction, plan for things to pass the time. Your partner should also work with a Doula virtually, or should know what to expect from a birth. Take an express education class if you need to brush up on stages of labor, or need to learn how to provide pain management tools. During this shift in our birthing culture, the partner will be THE person to rely on, as most Doula’s cannot get into hospitals any longer, and nurses are overloaded. This means your partner is your advocate. He/she is also your mom, your sister, and your best friend. Maintaining open communication, and vocalizing your needs to your partner will be a huge part of how successful your birth, and postpartum will go. Lean into your support people whole heartedly.
For those in areas where partners are not allowed in, I want to wrap you up in a big virtual hug right now. There are many of us working around the clock to help change policies to include the partner. It is morally imperative. No one should birth alone unless they choose to. Have mother’s birthed alone in the past? Of course. For centuries. Women have birthed through war, famine, floods, fires, you name it, but in our modern culture we have a different perspective than ever before, and we know that separating a mother from her partner will cause greater harm to the birthing process. So, if you are someone being faced with this currently, or if you have just gone through this, please know, you are not alone. Bring music, make a video of your partner talking to you, have him/her on Facetime the whole time, as well as your Doula, or anyone else than can provide support to you. You do not need to deviate from your birth plan, unless medically warranted. Stand your ground, ask for clarity, or a second opinion anytime you need it. Above all, trust your body, and your baby, to know how to birth in this unique way.
I do think it’s important, and relevant for me to shed light on the push for out of hospital birth right now. I want to recognize that the safest place to birth is where a woman feels the most supported, and comfortable. For some, this may mean flipping the whole script and moving to home, or a birth center. Maybe this global crisis is just what you needed to recognize that you would rather birth out of the hospital anyways. But, for some of you, that may not be the case. For various reasons, whether emotional, personal, or medical, you may need to be in the hospital, and I want to honor that too. What is most critical here is that mothers are supported in every capacity, in every place, in every way possible right now.
Imagine this: You are being held by an energetic rope. Many Doula’s, birth activists, and maternal health care workers are hanging on to this rope too, and we will hold on as long as you need. Through contractions, through postpartum, through isolation, through happy tears, through long nights, and sunny days, we are all here together. As my colleague Sam from Carriage House Birth in NYC said earlier this week: Doula’s don’t drop the rope. You don’t let go either. We’ve got this, we’re going to make it together.
Words by Kimberly Zuleger