These are scary, worrying, weird times for the birthing population worldwide. Mentions of viral spread, illness and death are omnipresent. Most of us are worried, anxious the majority of the time, our lives have changed dramatically, and very uncertain times are ahead. And yet throughout this pandemic, babies are still being born, people are transiting into parenthood and families are being forged. The creation of a new family unit is still as beautiful as it ever was.
Women due to give birth have had their plans altered, be that; their place of birth, how to access childcare in times of social distancing, who will be with them when in hospital or during birth, wherever this may be. This is stressful, unsettling and the continuous evolution of the situation makes it extremely hard to plan.
How you can protect your emotional safety during this pandemic:
GRIEVE IF YOU NEED TO
- It is ok be upset and grieve for what is lost, and even more importantly to process these changes now, as it may avoid a delayed stress response to this situation in the future.
- Feeling upset over the uncertainty of the situation you are faced with and things that may change or have already changed (place of birth/arrangements at home when you go to birth in hospital/difficulties with childcare/change of birthing partner/not being able to have a birthing partner) is appropriate and understandable. It is NOT a sign that you are not appreciative of what you DO have. Don’t let others gaslight you into believing that you are overreacting. Your feelings are valid. Your emotional safety is AS important as your physical safety.
- Talk to your loved ones and follow up with your midwife and health care professionals if possible.
- Talk to others in your situation as you may learn some new coping techniques. However you must be extremely mindful it is very easy to get overwhelmed by other people’s worries and upset.
FIND WAYS TO DIFFUSE STRESS
Remember the basics.
Stress can be overwhelming, leading you to easily forget the fundamental things that support your wellbeing and help your body produce good pregnancy hormones instead of being in a constant state of stress:
- Eat a well-balanced diet and keep hydrated by drinking a minimum of 2 litres of water per day. Keep your body moving, exercise within your limits, get out for some fresh air.
- Take care of your own personal needs like showering/resting/napping/taking a bath. These small actions can make a big difference to our wellbeing during this most peculiar lockdown situation.
- Keep your immediate environment to your liking and as comfortable as you
- Access your normal pregnancy care if safe to do so (or work out an alternative with your midwife if necessary)
- Find ways to keep your mind busy, be creative; practise some meditation, hypno-birthing practises and breathing, adult colouring books can be extremely therapeutic. Take breaks from COVID-19 news.
- Access online emotional support/meditation/mindfulness. There are lots of website that have support especially tailored towards pregnancy/birth. Some for free, some for a fee. See what you feel speaks to you.
- Find a group of people that share your philosophy of birth and support each other. We are lucky to live in a day and age in which connection with others (especially remotely) is easier than ever. This is definitely a huge advantage; a shared load can feel like a lighter load.
- You can access superb quality birth preparation programs online; shop around and see what might work for you!
- Explore alternatives to NHS care if you feel they might meet your needs better.
PREP FOR THE NEW NORMAL
Remember, your innate ability to birth your baby has not been affected by this pandemic. Yes the external circumstances have changed but your biology and anatomy have not.
Working on ways to enable your body to enter a lovely oxytocin infused labour land is still key:
- Know what your plan is (within government restrictions) for birth/childcare/supporters.
- Take familiar items with you when in labour. A photo, affirmations, blanket or pillow, whatever works for you! A blanket can also double as a means to block out light, sights and sounds in the hospital.
- Good headphones with audiobooks/beloved music/hypnobirthing tracks, all in one place might be incredibly useful in the absence of in person support.
- Make sure you have enough data allowance on your phone so you can keep in touch remotely if in a hospital area, where partners have no access such as antenatal wards/postnatal wards.
- Make sure you pack other comfort measures/snacks/medication/etc as it is likely to be less easy to go to the shops to stock up on items.
Your rights as a birthing person have NOT been affected by COVID-19 and new regulations/guidelines/restrictions. You are still able to query/decline any and all procedures and interventions. Your birth preferences are still relevant and important. To both you and your midwives/health care professionals. Don’t forget to pack them!!
You might find that you would feel much more reassured by accessing online doula support, have a look at www.doulacare.ie or call doulas who are local to your area to see what they can offer, even if they might not be able to be physically present, although some HSE as well as independent midwives are counting doulas as an invaluable part of the birth team and therefore facilitate doula presence if desired. (Please contact your birth centre/maternity unit to see if this will apply to you.)
SET YOURSELF UP FOR YOUR BABYMOON
- This is where social distancing might come in quite handy as you can remain in your family bubble without too many disturbances. However, we do appreciate the social/financial/emotional stress that this situation is bringing up for many families
- Take the time to hunker down with your new little human and really get to know them.
- Consider what type of support you can still access from friends and family. Food could be left on the doorstep, it may be possible that laundry could be taken with appropriate hygiene measures, grandparents could do story time via Facetime/Zoom for older siblings to give parents a small break etc.
- Do your community midwives still visit? Some maternity units have certainly gone towards minimal contact in the community, so it might be pertinent to consider other support. Local independent midwives are usually still happy to offer postnatal support, remotely or in person. Many IBCLCs (lactation consultants) are still offering services as are peer supporters, when it comes to breastfeeding queries and concerns. Note their numbers down antenatally, or even make contact prior to birth, so you are fully prepared.
- If you find it helpful mobilise some peer support remotely. We are all in the same boat and we will get through this with each other’s support!
Hopefully this will go some way to making you feel a little more centred when it comes to planning for your upcoming birth. It is important to remember that this is uncharted territory and that none of us truly know how to deal with this situation optimally. All we can do is our best, and even then, we may still hit some bumps in the road. That is ok. Be creative, resourceful and ask for help if you need to. Babies will keep on being born, and we as parents are still perfectly placed to meet their needs. We just have to work a little harder to meet our own needs during this time.