When I found out we were pregnant with our fifth baby, I had little anxiety about pregnancy and birth since I had done it four times before. As I grew closer to our due date in March 2020, news of a novel coronavirus started spreading, and I instantly felt anxiety over all the things, especially labor and delivery.
Immediately, hospitals began changing their visitor policies. Panic coursed through my veins when I realized I could only have one support partner, essentially forcing me to choose between a doula and my husband.
I have been blessed to have multiple pregnancies and to have my husband at my side for most of them. We had to make a tough decision whether to have my husband with me and have a babysitter who may unknowingly expose us to coronavirus, or make a plan that included a trusted doula at the hospital while my husband stayed home to care for our children.
“MY DOULA EASED ALL THE ANXIETIES I HAD ABOUT LABOR AND DELIVERY, ESPECIALLY DURING THE HEIGHT OF THE PANDEMIC.”
In my heart, I knew I needed the support of a doula and my husband, so I included the best of both worlds in my birth plan. I would labor at home as long as possible with my family and our doula, then make my way to the hospital with the doula when the time was right to birth my daughter.
If I could describe my experience birthing with a doula and without, let me just say it is life-changing! A doula is the mother’s support partner during labor and delivery, there to provide motivation, coping mechanisms, and copious back massages.
Another great benefit to having a doula in a hospital setting is that the doula can advocate for your unmedicated birth so you can focus on birthing your baby. My doula eased all the anxieties I had about labor and delivery, especially during the height of the pandemic.
“A doula is the mother’s support partner during labor and delivery, there to provide motivation, coping mechanisms, and copious back massages.”
One thing my doula and I did prior to delivery was meditation, affirmations, and visualizations. Using the Marie Mongan method of HypnoBirthing, the doula had me doing ‘rainbow relaxation’ visualizations, creating positive affirmations and mantras, and practicing deep breathing to breathe my baby out.
Breathing Baby Out
The first time I heard this concept in an Ina Mae Gaskin book, I laughed at the thought. There’s just no way! I am now walking and breathing proof that you can actually breathe your baby out and have a relatively pain-free labor and delivery. This works by using visualization and relaxation techniques to relax your muscles during labor, allowing mother nature to do its thing.
In an effort to calm my birthing fears surrounding the pandemic, I did daily meditations and deep breathing weeks before my due date. My favorite visualization would be to imagine myself opening up to birth my baby like a flower blossoms. This technique proved helpful in advancing labor once I got to the hospital.
With the doula’s help, I used my breathing techniques and visualizations to get me through the last few centimeters. Speaking of the last few centimeters…
Too Calm To Be In Labor
I spent the early stages of labor at home with my doula, husband, and kids. Laughing in between surges, and relaxing through them as much as possible. Finally, my doula had to urge me to get to the hospital so I didn’t end up having the baby on my couch!
“I AM NOW WALKING AND BREATHING PROOF THAT YOU CAN ACTUALLY BREATHE YOUR BABY OUT AND HAVE A RELATIVELY PAIN-FREE LABOR AND DELIVERY.”
When I arrived at the hospital, the doula and I both knew I was very close to meeting my daughter, but the hospital staff had no idea how far along I truly was. We had to go through the temperature screening process, which was new at the time and a bit intimidating.
Using the power of meditation and visualization, I managed to hold myself together enough until my midwife checked me and I was 8cm dilated. I have always felt anxiety in my past births around 8cm, knowing the crowning phase would soon come. This time, with my doula at my side, I was more excited than anything.
My doula almost caught my daughter, as the midwife thought I had more time to progress than I actually did. I credit that trusty flower blossoming visualization, and my doula’s handy work putting pressure in just the right spots on my back during surges.
“I didn’t think it was possible to have such a positive birth experience during a pandemic…”
Before we knew it, the midwife was flying in and my daughter entered the world as I ripped off my mask, eager to kiss my newest baby. Our hospital policy would not let visitors come and go, and I could only have one visitor a day. Unfortunately my husband and kids had to wait to meet their new family member until we were discharged.
I am forever grateful for my doula staying by my side, before, during, and after. She gave me the support only another woman can give during labor and delivery. I didn’t think it was possible to have such a positive birth experience during a pandemic, but with a doula by your side, anything is possible!
Are you an expecting mom, and interested in locating a doula to support your birth? DONA International is a great place to start your doula search. You deserve to be supported!
Kristin Casper Burke is a crunchy mom to 5 kids under 8. She’s also a writer, gardener, Autism advocate, labrador Mom, and Marketing Manager for a Market Research Company called Eyes4Research.