How to Take Control of Your Birth Experience During a Pandemic
If you’re expecting a baby in the next few months, you’ve been pregnant throughout the entire Covid-19 pandemic. First, give yourself a pat on the back because this hasn’t been easy. You’ve probably had to let go of some of what you envisioned for your pregnancy, and perhaps you’ve started to think more about your upcoming birth experience.
#1: Learn and Prepare
In this climate it’s more important than ever to know your birth options. Learning about what to expect and practicing different ways of coping through labour and delivery provides a much-needed sense of confidence.
Hospital policies have changed, and some families aren’t able to have the additional support they were hoping to have in their labour suite (for example, a doula or a loved one). It can feel like a lot of pressure on your partner to support you throughout your birth. For this and many other reasons, I highly recommend taking a prenatal class. Prenatal classes are equally helpful to both of you and can be as comprehensive as several weekly sessions or as condensed as a one-time virtual meeting.
It will also be helpful for you to brush up on relevant policies and resources in your local city and hospital. Your partner may not be able to leave the unit you’re on, for example, so add food and snacks to your hospital bag. Thinking about the postpartum period, look into what community supports will be available for breastfeeding. Some clinics have been closed throughout the shutdown; if this is the case in your town, ask your prenatal care provider or your doula what options are available for feeding support.
#2: Stock up on What You Need
It’s always a good idea to stock up on the essential items you’ll need in the first couple months after the baby arrives. Stocking up makes sense especially now as shipping times are a little slower these days.
Newborns truly are a full-time job. You just don’t have the time for errands between feeding, changing, and soothing. Also, remember that when baby is settled, that’s your window of opportunity to sleep! Rest is what you’ll need more than anything as you transition into your life with a newborn.
Some products I often suggest for mom are the Earth Mama Perineal Balm and the Haakaa Silicone Breast Pump. Other essentials are a large water bottle (you’ll be very thirsty!), and plenty of snacks that are easy to grab on the go and eat with one hand.
Beyond this, my other top suggestion for stocking up is to cook and freeze as much food as you can. Some of my favourites are protein pancakes, breakfast burritos, muffins, energy balls, and slow cooker dishes.
#3: Consider Virtual Doula Support
A doula is a trained professional who supports expectant parents throughout pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. Amidst changing hospital policies, most birth doulas continue to work virtually to support their clients with labour and delivery. Although it’s different from the hands-on assistance that doulas typically provide, virtual support has proven extremely useful to parents birthing in the pandemic. The doula is a vast source of information, guidance, and encouragement for both the birthing person and their partner even if they’re not able to join you in the hospital.
Postpartum doula support is another service that is easily translated into the virtual space. Especially with your smaller social bubble, you’ll love the comfort of an expert who can consult with you on newborn care, feeding, sleeping and other baby topics.
#4: Find Calm in the Chaos
Above all, I can’t think of a better way to reclaim your power right now than to than to make space for self-care. Pregnancy is always a time of both excitement and uncertainty, but the pandemic takes it to another level. Taking some time to slow everything down can have a significant impact on your anxiety. This could look like practicing meditation (there are many guided practices tailored to pregnancy and birth) or journaling. For some, exercise is what helps the most. I find that prenatal yoga and barre are particularly great preparation for birth.
Finally, I would be remiss not to mention therapy! I often remind clients that they don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental illness to benefit immensely from therapy. It’s so common to feel overwhelmed in times like this. Therapy is one of my favourite tools for decompressing and re-connecting with your heart. It’s what I refer to as “real deal self-care” – better than any bubble bath or face mask, it’s medicine for the soul. I can’t think of a better way to head into your birth feeling calm and empowered. You most certainly deserve that!
Jaklyn Andrews is a birth and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, and mom of two from Oakville, Ontario. She’s passionate about supporting families through pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period and strives to promote compassion and connection in the local parenting community.