Giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic
We are proud to offer the following resources, a labor of love from members of the Philadelphia birth community. Start below with a welcome letter from local doula Elizabeth Weinstein and continue on with suggestions and resources that she has compiled, along with a link to a free Comfort & Confidence eClass / Interactive Comfort-in-Labor toolkit crafted by birth educator and doula Elizabeth Varaso. Doula Hana Slipakoff has put together a Postpartum Maternal Health Quick Reference that you will find under "Preparing for early discharge." You also find Postpartum resources for breastfeeding, postpartum mental health, postpartum doula services and new parent support groups.
If you are reading this, you may be an expectant parent, grappling with the rapidly changing realities of giving birth during a global health pandemic. You may be struggling to reconcile with the ever changing policies and visitation protocol at the place you have decided to give birth and you are likely facing a lot of disappointment as many of your anticipated birth plans feel farther and farther out of reach. From where I am writing in Philadelphia PA, all birthing hospitals have decided that only one support person can attend a birth. For families who planned to have a doula, they will now be relying on virtual doula support and for others it may mean that a partner cannot attend the birth of their own child due to preexisting health conditions or due to lack of viable childcare options. This is unsettling, heartbreaking, and not what any of us ever expected or planned for. This is also the reality we are currently living in. As a doula, I take seriously my job to ensure that families have access to all of the tools, information, and resources needed to have safe, empowering, and educated births and to be ready for them on the other side to create spaces of sanctuary, healing, and recovery if things do not go as planned on the journey to bring new life into this world.
This collection of resources is intended as a toolkit for families who may be birthing without the physical support of a partner or doula, for those laboring parents who may find themselves in the hospital without the hand of a beloved and known person to squeeze. What I want you to remember is this--you are not alone, you have at your side an army of committed and hardworking healthcare workers and beyond the hospital walls a family that cannot wait to welcome you and your new babe home, and beyond that a community of birth workers, perinatal health professionals, breastfeeding counselors, reproductive psychotherapists, and other new parents who are putting their hearts and minds and hands to work to be sure that you have everything you need to survive and thrive during your birth, your postpartum period, and beyond. In the words of Emily Oster, “parenting is a long haul. You can be a great parent from afar for delivery and [the first] days, and then in person from day [2 or 3 or] 4 through infinity.”
This is absolutely a new paradigm that we are being asked to adjust to at an unprecedented speed. But you know what? We were made for these times. In the words of Petra Kuenkel, "what has worked well for me in crises (the typical events that ask us to adapt) is asking the most difficult question: What if this is the best thing that could have ever happened to me? Why would it be so?" So I invite you to let yourself, if only for a moment, imagine what if? What if this is the best thing that could have ever happened to me? What if this is a moment to find strength and resilience and connection in ways I had never before thought possible? What if. What follows is a collection of tools and resources to support you in laboring at home as long as makes sense, instructions on how to birth in place in an emergency, a strategic list of ways for partners and loved one to support virtually and from afar, a comprehensive and interactive set of comfort measures for labor to inspire comfort and confidence, virtual breastfeeding resources, strategies for making peace with an unanticipated birth experience, mental health and postpartum support resources, and maternal and newborn health assessments for the first days postpartum. Please enjoy. - Elizabeth Weinstein