Doulaing in COVID-19 times.

Yesterday Governor Cuomo signed No. 202.25 which “allows any patient giving birth to have present with them: a support person, who does not have symptoms of COVID-19, for the labor, delivery and also the remaining duration of the patient’s stay; and/or a doula, who does not have symptoms of COVID-19 for the labor, delivery, and the remaining duration of the patient’s stay.”

I personally feel that it is great news! It means that when people unite, they have a voice and can push for change! It means that laboring people’s struggles have been heard: they need support, they need care especially in a context that is genuinely stressful and filled with anxiety.

My heart aches for laboring people who did not have a choice and had to labor alone and are still alone in postpartum.

I am proud of all the doulas who have risen up to the challenge and adapted very quickly (for some of us with an interesting learning curve in technology) and have started to support their clients remotely.

Some of us have made themselves available night and day via FT and Zoom to answer every question or even been with you in the room throughout the labor whenever possible.

We have always been essential workers. Countless studies have proven that we affect birth outcomes in a positive way. That is why we are in high demand even more so in COVID-19 times. We have always worked to inform, educate and alleviate anxiety. Most often we are the only constant throughout someone’s pregnancy and we are needed now.

So now that we are allowed back in hospitals, should we just go back to where we were at? And because it is an executive order, laboring people should expect all of us to go back to in person birth support?

Doulas are in very close contact with their clients throughout their labor and now labor support will most likely look like the picture above. Despite that, are we going to feel safe? Are our clients going to feel safe?

I remember the first time I went grocery shopping with a mask and gloves on, I could not believe how anxious I was (and I am not an anxious person) how hard it was to breathe, how surreal it all felt…

Doulas interact with hospital workers (even though people keep their distance), we step into a birthing room where someone else had a baby before you; of course it was disinfected, but what about the nurse who was just in another room? There are so many variables to take into account.

And yes maybe we have all been in quarantine and not seen anyone. And the first client we work with we feel ok… But what about the next one?

While there are tests, not every hospitals test people when they come in. As we know one can be negative when they arrive and test positive when they leave the hospital. So as a doula, you potentially could work with someone who was negative and/or asymptomatic and later they may inform you that they are now positive…

My point here is that the decision to go back to in-person birth support should be a personal one. A discussion between the clients and the doula. An understanding of people’s boundaries and comfort zones. If anything I would hope that this crisis as shown us our humanity and compassion and that sometimes putting the community’s needs before our own is what is necessary. We might not all feel safe yet and that is ok.

Photo courtesy of Active Birth Doula, Chantal Traub  IG: @chantal.traub

Photo Credit: Itay Paz

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