People who are pregnant right now are facing a fear that has only been imagined in movies. They have happy endings and a hero. We are now asking expectant parents to be their own heroes.
In the United States, our wholly inadequate midwifery laws and support for this valuable skill have left us as a nation scrambling to support families all over our country. We raged a battle against midwifery care, one that still rages even though the facts are on the side of midwifery and the safety of homebirth. But this isn’t about midwifery, and it is about filling in the gaps for parents who are facing it and facing it head-on.
As a doula trainer and the Director of Birth Arts International, www.birthart.com, I am scrambling to support students all over the world, who’s only desire is to serve families safely.
They are learning that their support may not be accepted in hospitals as they have to tighten down to keep everyone safe. They are supporting distraught parents who are learning their partners may not even be with them to support them.
We as a nation are leaving these parents alone, hanging off the precipice with no answers. As their fingers claw into the dirt to try to hold on, one protection after another is dissolving around them. What do I mean by protection? Protections are the resources; they used to have access too.
- Doctors or CNMs who may have been supporting them may be helping patients in other ways. They may have been seeing this doctor since day one.
- Nurses will be over-tasked, let’s face it, in the best of times nurses are overworked and under-appreciated.
- Doulas, who some parents have worked with for months, may not be able to assist them. Let’s face it; now it the best time to have another set of hands. Our students know universal precautions and what to look out for. Although doulas do not deliver babies or act as midwives, their experience and education alert them to issues like excessive visible blood loss, and other warning signs to look out for. Most also offer immediate breastfeeding support, which may be essential in this time of scarcity. Breastmilk also provides what could be life-saving immunity for the baby, and breastfeeding can help the uterus contract and help keep the parent safe. Even if a hospital has a lactation professional, will they even be able to enter the facility?
- Access to healthy food may be harder to get than it has been in most of our lifetimes. Can parents safely get food? If they are on WIC, is anything left?
- Access to fresh air and exercise may be particularly limited for them.
- They may have a partner who still needs to work. They need the money to live.
- Parents who are pregnant may also have other children to attend too. No one they can call in to help.
- Parents may find themselves lonely, not being able to socialize, go to classes or connect with others. Social media can help, but it doesn’t replace human interaction.
Parents who are pregnant are carrying a heavy burden.
Like everyone else, they are worried about issues like access to food, job security, sick leave, maternity leave being honored and paid, insurance issues, now mix it all into the Covid-19 nightmare many of them see themselves in.
- They are worried about getting sick, their partners getting sick, or their babies getting sick.
- They may be experiencing anxiety levels as they have never felt before. This may make them also experience physical symptoms like diarrhea or sleeplessness.
- They don’t know if, for any reason, something goes wrong that they will have access to the care they need. What if their baby has special needs after birth? Will the equipment be available?
- Will they be able to get diapers? Basic afterbirth supplies?
- Parents are feeling all of this and so much more.
What can we do?
As a society, we can check on our pregnant friends.
We can call them.
Video chat them.
We can have food delivered to them.
Have vegetable and fruit/meal planning services delivered to them.
We can acknowledge their fears.
We can let them vent if they need too.
We can make them laugh.
We can help them find resources.
If we have the money, we can help them if they are struggling.
We can make donations of diapers and infant formula for parents who need it to food pantries.
We can make sure if we share information that it is fact-based.
Let’s do this for all of our friends, acquaintances, coworkers who have babies at home too.
Doulas all of the country are available for all types of digital support and ready to help parents on their road to parenthood.
As a Doula, this situation is also personal for me. I was asked to be at my niece’s birth. I was so honored to drive on out, park my RV, and hang out until she needed me. Now, because I value her and treasure her safety, I know I can’t travel cross country and keep her safe. She, on the other hand, is learning about tighter and tighter hospital regulations. So many of us have a family member dealing with so much uncertainty; the least we can do is love and try to make it better.