Take it one day at a time. One parent who had a positive experience giving birth on the first day of NYC’s reopening remembered feeling a lot of anxiety during the peak of the pandemic in April, but finding solace in her partner’s advice to take things one day at a time. A couple months ago, we never could have predicted what things would look like today, so as difficult as it may be, keep reminding yourself to stay in the present.
Let go of expectations. We’ve said it before, but it bears saying again. Disappointment manifests in the space between your expectations and your reality, so if you close that gap, then anything that exceeds your expectations will be a happy surprise.
Hospitals outside NYC are following NYC’s lead. One parent left Brooklyn in March for DC and kept things open-ended as to where they would deliver. Ultimately, the baby was born in DC, but she felt that the experience would have been largely the same no matter where it took place, as hospitals outside the city seem to be taking cues from New York when it comes to safety protocols. Plus, since NYC is rockin’ with how they are handling social distancing it may be safer to stay in town. (That said, everyone giving birth right now has said that they felt safe.)
Hiring a doula? Check in with them about their protocols and comfort levels. Folks have had a range of experiences with doulas. Some felt safe enough to come to the hospital wearing a mask; some got tested for the coronavirus to help ensure the safety of the new parents and baby; some did not get tested, going with the idea that doctors in hospitals are not getting tested every day either. If your doula is joining you at the hospital, they’ll likely need to bring along their certification, as many hospitals are requiring credentials to be on hand before they let outside doulas come in. Once inside, there may be some additional restrictions; one parent reported that her doula was not allowed to accompany her to Methodist’s Mother Baby Unit, although this wasn’t a problem because there were plenty of in-house doulas on hand as well.
Pack light! Parents continually report that less is more, especially since you may be discharged earlier than is typical in non-pandemic times. Check out the PSP Birthing Toolkit for more info on what to pack. A big bottle of water (to cut down on how often it needs to be refilled), phone charger, power strip, and nursing nightgown are items that have come up over and over.
Fewer and fewer people have to wear a mask when pushing. Most parents reported that they were tested for the coronavirus upon arrival and that the results were rapid, often within about 90 minutes. After testing negative, parents found that their care teams relaxed the masking requirement, particularly when it came to the pushing stage. This, varies by hospital, but we’re hearing fewer and fewer people discuss this. If you’re birthing with a partner, they may or may not be tested, meaning that they may or may not be asked to keep a mask on when other folks are in the room.
Doctors and nurses continue to get high marks. During her stay in the hospital, one mom remembered thinking about how her care team had been there during the very worst times of the pandemic, but that they were so positive and fully focused on her that she never would have been able to tell how much trauma they’d recently been through. This speaks to the high level of professionality and care folks in NYC hospitals continue to provide.
The need to quarantine and limit visitors can be a blessing in disguise. Flying solo with only your nuclear family in the postpartum days and weeks can actually be a huge relief. This is particularly true if you have challenging relationships with some of your relatives. One mom noted that her husband had to go back home during the immediate postpartum period, and being alone in the hospital with baby was unexpectedly lovely, as she got to know him in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if visitors had been constantly coming and going. This also allows you (and your partner, if you have one) more time and space to work with your care team and get up to speed on things like diapering and swaddling. Fewer visitors also means less noise in the hospital hallways. And don’t underestimate the joy of having folks meet the new baby over video chat—you may be surprised by how much love and care can radiate through the computer screen.
Take time to think through your comfort levels around visitors and isolation. Whether to have visitors, how many, and how strictly to social distance from them are extremely personal decisions, and there’s no one right answer. Seek out opinions from your OB, your doctors, and your pediatrician. Emily Oster gives you a framework for these decisions in her piece How to Think Through Choices About Grandparents, Day Care, Summer Camp, and More, and PSP also has a piece called I had a baby. When can I start seeing relatives in person?
If you’re partnered, check in with them and find ways that they can help. For non-birthing/non-breastfeeding parents, it can be challenging to navigate the postpartum period and find ways to feel useful and have positive and helpful interactions with the baby. Feeling a huge sense of new responsibility can be especially overwhelming when it’s coupled with a sense of helplessness. Remember that partners can do pretty everything except for breastfeeding, and remember that non-birthing partners can experience postpartum depression too. It’s crucial to care for yourself, but remember to check in with your partner and care for them too.
Huge thanks to our new parents for volunteering to share their experiences. We’ll be having more of these Zoom-ups in the coming weeks, so stay tuned—and check out the PSP Birthing Toolkit for ~50 pages of advice and wisdom on birthing during coronavirus. We’re also compiling a growing library of birth experiences HERE. You’ll need to be logged into your PSP membership account to view this resource.
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