Planning for the Unimaginable
BY LAURA MAXSON, LM
The COVID19 pandemic is in its initial rise as this article is being written. Life is changing with shutdowns, shortages, social distancing and more. It is hard to know exactly where we will be in a few weeks when this article is published. However, it seems likely that normal life will be quite altered, as everything is put on hold.
Childbirth, however, is one thing that is not going to be put off, pandemic or not. Planning for birth and postpartum can feel pretty unsettling with the current state of affairs.
Here are some considerations for this challenging time:
A labor tool kit packed full of options is going to be extra helpful in this time of uncertainty. Planning on an epidural as soon as possible is fine, but perhaps you’ll want to stay home longer than you had anticipated. Hospital visiting restrictions will likely extend to doulas in the very near future, leaving partners with more of the hands-on support responsibilities. Birth doulas can provide plenty of education and tips before labor begins and attend parents in early labor at home. Care will continue with on-call support through phone calls, texts and virtual support during labor.
Home birth midwives will come into the home for labor and birth, plus provide home visits for mother and newborn after birth. Staying away from the hospital, unless a higher level of care is indicated, may feel like the right choice for many families.
No one really knows how this will play out. There may be more inductions offered to get babies born while moms are still feeling healthy. Or, as hospitals get more impacted, perhaps there will be fewer inductions as hospital beds become more in demand. Recommendations and directives are changing day-to-day and hour-by-hour. Take a breath and remember that your body knows how to give birth. It is time to be flexible.
Most childbirth classes have been cancelled. Double-check with local childbirth educators and doulas to see who are now offering private or online classes. There are online options from national childbirth organizations as well. Do your own search, but here are a few to get you started:
- Lamaze International (lamaze.org/lamaze-classes-online)Birth Boot Camp birthbootcamp.com/online-childbirth-education-classes
- Evidence Based Birth evidencebasedbirth.com/resources-for-parents
You don’t need a class to read a book, order from a local bookstore or try a Kindle or audio book. Or ask around; once the baby is born many people are happy to pass on their books.
Here are a few suggestions:
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin, Birthing from Within, by Pam England, The Birth Partner, by Penny Simkin.
Social distancing places a roadblock in the path of those craving connection and support in the postpartum period. Many breastfeeding and parenting support groups have gone on hiatus, so it is important to find other support. Do call to find out what services may be available from local hospital programs and WIC. Luma (lumayoga.com) is going online with their classes and postpartum support; it seems likely others will, too.
Tried and true breastfeeding support can be found here:
- Kelly Mom: (kellymom.com) a wealth of resources for specific breastfeeding issues.
- Nursing Mothers Counsel: (nursingmothers.org) phone help and more.
- La Leche League: (LLLI.org) – resources and info on getting help, including facebook groups.
- Breastfeeding USA: (breastfeedingusa.org) – information and support.
Be sure to take care of yourself. Childbirth relaxation techniques can help with stress before and after birth. Check in regularly with friends and family who may also be feeling isolated.
- There are lots of ways to video-chat; here are a few:
- Zoom offers a free basic plan (zoom.us)
- Facetime offers group video chatting for those with Apple iOS 12.1.4 operating systems
- Skype offers free group video calling (skype.com)
- Facebook messenger has group video chats
- Check your apps, there must be more.
If isolation and stress lead to feelings of depression, there is support for that, too.
- Postpartum Support International: (800) 944-4PPD (4773) offers a warmline for anyone experiencing postpartum depression (or for concerned family members) with calls returned by trained volunteers.
- Online resources are also available locally from the Perinatal Mental Health Coalition of Santa Cruz at SpeakUpSantaCruz.org.
Finally, if not washing cloth diapers at home, check in with Tiny Tots (tinytots.com) or Earth Baby (earth-baby.com) diaper services about their compostable diaper delivery services. Diapers (and wipes, too) can be dropped off and picked up weekly, without needing to go out. As an essential service, they should continue delivering through the shutdowns.
At this time we can be thankful that it appears this virus is not a serious problem for most babies.
Birth Network of Santa Cruz County offers listings of local providers including doulas, childbirth educators, midwives, breastfeeding support, therapists and more birthnet.org.