A Doula's Response to COVID-19
No matter where you are or what your circumstances, you have been affected by the global pandemic of COVID-19. For me the amount of uncertainty and broad change to everything familiar is overwhelmingly unsettling. Chances are if you are reading the blog of this little doula you may be pregnant. If that is indeed the case then you are feeling these odd times in an extreme way too. You should be joyously planning baby showers and excitedly packing your bag for the hospital. Instead I bet the mere thought of taking a hospital tour (if they haven't already been cancelled) incites anxiety. My purpose in writing this is NOT to increase your fear but to show you that we can adapt and overcome!
Most hospitals in the country (world even) are restricting the number of support people allowed to accompany a laboring woman to ONE (if any). I have many clients who now actually have to ask themselves, "do I bring my doula or my husband?" Which really isn't even a question I know, but the thought that are denied the support they enlisted is heartbreaking to me.
If you want to read more about what it is like for women giving birth in hospitals in this current environment read the recent Propublica article which lays is out pretty clearly, "the birthing experience you expected pre-COVID-19 is likely to be very different from the one you actually get. Your postpartum period will be even more isolated and stressful than it otherwise would have been. Obstetric providers are having to reinvent maternity care in real time to protect you and your baby as well as themselves."
So, if you were expecting a low-key hospital birth where you have the support of your spouse, your doula, your mom....then this whole global pandemic thing totally derailed all of your beautiful plans, DON'T LOSE HOPE. You have a couple options:
1.) Consider having your secondary support person join you virtually. This includes having a virtual doula. It's a thing, I promise. ((And I offer it)) The doula should customize your support based specifically on what you need most (I.e. prenatal or postpartum planning, birth preferences, breathe work, etc.) and be available to support you virtually as needed through birth.
2.) Consider birth at home with a trusted Certified Professional Midwife. Home birth is not for everyone, but if you haven't taken a look or done any research now would be the time (start here, here, and here). Many CPMs are taking late transfer, low-risk, clients due to this crisis. Every CPM I know will offer you a free consult and can answer all of your questions. If you birth at home, you get to choose (pretty much everything, including) who you want present.
3.) Minimize your time in the hospital. Stay home during early labor until you've established a good active labor contraction pattern (of course after talking with your care provider). In the case of a perfectly normal/healthy birth you may ask to be discharged asap and see if they will let you do the 24hr pediatric followup with your personal pediatrician. This would be a great prenatal question for your CP and may take some coordinating on your part but it's worth checking into!
Just as obstetrics is having to reinvent maternity care in real time, doulas will adapt in order to provide birthing women with the best possible support. If anything I believe the support, education, and advocacy offered by doulas has never been more important. If you're interested in this work we do and believe that we are an essential part of the mother's care team (v. visitors), here's a lil' ol' petition you can sign :-)
Now, friends, breathe. This is not permanent and in the meantime we are here to help! Choose hope, not fear.