Author: Debs Neiger Independent Midwife.
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 a lot of the time, our lives have changed, and uncertain times are ahead.
And yet, babies are still being born, people transition into parenthood and families are forged. And this is still as beautiful as it ever was. But, women due to give birth have had their plans altered, be that regarding 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 etc…..this is stressful, unsettling and the continuous evolving of the situation makes it hard to truly plan.
This blog will go into what you can do practically to protect your emotional safety in this time of change and uncertainty as best you can.
GRIEVE IF YOU NEED TO
- It is OK be upset and grieve for what is lost, even more importantly…. processing these disappointments NOW as much as you can and letting yourself feel them can go some way in not having a delayed stress response to this situation.
- Being upset over uncertainties and things that have 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 and 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. And your emotional safety is AS important as your physical safety.
- Talk to your loved ones. Talk to your midwife/Health care professionals if you are able to. Talk to others in your situation. But, also be mindful that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by other people’s worries and upset.
FIND WAYS TO DIFFUSE STRESS
Remember the basics…..stress can be overwhelming, and it’s common to forget the fundamental things that support your wellbeing and help your body produce good juicy pregnancy hormones instead of being in a constant state of stress:
- Eat and drink well and in a way that feels nourishing to you.
- Take care of your own personal needs……move your body, get some fresh air, look after your physical needs like showering/resting/napping/taking a bath. It’s easy to forget the normal things we do when in this most peculiar lockdown situation.
- Keep your immediate environment to your liking and comfortable if you can.
- Access your normal pregnancy care if you feel it will serve you (or work out an alternative with your midwife if necessary).
- Find ways to keep your mind busy, preferably with 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 even access superb quality birth preparation programs online……shop around and see what might work for you!
- You can also 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. The external circumstances have changed……your biology has not, but you might need to work a little harder to give your biology the best chance to work well under the current circumstances.
Working on ways to enable your body to enter a lovely oxytocin infused labour land is still key, as it always was:
- Know what your plan is when it comes to birth/childcare/supporters. It might be different, but it is what it is.
- Take familiar-to-you items with you……with smells from home. A photo, affirmations, blanket, a pillow…. whatever works. A blanket can also double as a means to block out light, sights and sounds in the hospital.
- Good headphones as well as 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 pop out to stock up on stuff.
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.doula.org.uk or call around local doulas to see what they can offer, even if they might not be able to be physically present, though of course some NHS trusts as well as independent midwives are counting doulas as an invaluable part of the birth team and therefore facilitate doula presence if desired.
SET YOURSELF UP FOR YOUR BABYMOON
- This is where social distancing might come in quite handy as you can remain in your little family bubble without too many disturbances. However, I don’t want to minimise 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, shopping could be done, perhaps washing could be taken with appropriate hygiene measures, grandparents could do story time via Facetime/Zoom etc for older siblings to give parents a small break etc etc.
- Do your community midwives still visit? Some trusts 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) and breastfeeding counsellors 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, so you are prepared.
- Again, if you find it helpful mobilise some peer support remotely. We are all in the same boat just now.
Hopefully this will go some way to making you feel a little more centred when it comes to planning for your upcoming birth……I think it’s important to remember that this is somewhat 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 might 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. Stay well!