Bringing Support People Into Your Hospital Birthing Space [for mamas approaching birth mid-pandemic]
One of the biggest challenges unfolding for women birthing in these turbulent times are the restrictions on the number of people you can have to support you through a hospital based labour.
Indeed, the news out of NYC that even birthing partners will not be there to support their women and see their babies born hit me in the heart like some kind of primal deep injustice.
I can feel these measures are a huge blow. And I have been thinking about it endlessly this past few days.
And in the middle of the night I hit some gold for you, birthing mamas.
First off: I am not writing here from a place of your powerlessness, or from a place of How To Trick The System. I am not writing to you out of rage at the circumstance. Because if you are just about to face birth, I don't believe these are the most immediately useful tools.
I’m not saying what you wanted doesn’t matter. What I will do is simply to offer up some simple truths with examples about what we can create from where we find ourselves currently standing.
And whilst I am not sugar coating this tough news,
I do want to open up the conversation in an entirely different direction. A necessary direction to allow you to find your footing in this changing birthing environment.
So from my own birth experiences, and from supporting thousands of women as they approach childbirth - here is a tender message about who gets to decide who is with you in your birthing space.
'I close my eyes so I can see'.
It's one of my favourite quotes. And mama, in a very real way I want to say: if you close your eyes, you can have whoever you want in your birth space.
Because the work of labour truly does not take place In This World. Not In This Room.
Any woman who has experienced physiological childbirth will refer to some kind of alternate or parallel place. A place so often referred to as 'labour land'.
It is a time and place like no other. And we have a power to create what fills that space.
That is to say, the people who are witness to your birthing work are not necessarily the same as the bodies that are standing in the room.
I understand I might sound a little bit crazy. Before I experienced birth I would have thought this idea was crazy too. But let me explain further by offering up some examples.
I have heard stories of women whose mother / sister / friend that have passed away have filled their birth space. (And is that really so hard to believe? That on the cusp of creating new life we could be open to those that have passed?)
Same goes for loved ones separated by distance. Labouring women able to feel them present.
In the early stages of my own first labour, I called in a whole linage of women to stand beside me. My entire body washed over with the images and warm intentions of women from different times and heritages. Women I have never met.
And those women felt as real to me in that labour as my partner who was applying pressure to my back.
This Is Holdings Space For The Things We Can't Explain.
Here are some more examples:
Two years ago I was pegging out washing one evening. I looked up at the moon, and somehow knew that my dear friend was in labour. I grabbed my phone and took a photo of the moon for her. This was when her son was born.
Two months ago I was driving my car when suddenly every single hair on my arms stood up. I looked at the time and wondered what it could be about. The next day I found out a woman I had been supporting with acupuncture and birth preparation support had her baby At That Time.
My almost 2yo son spontaneously broke out into 'Happy Birthday' as I birthed his baby sister, suburbs away.
And people I have worked with in the lead up to their birth have told me that they have felt my quiet, calm presence in their birth space too.
The most telling experience of this foggy blur of the unexplainable came to me at 3am last night.
I know I felt the presence of my continuity of care midwife as I birthed my son. As I grabbed him in my arms, pulled him up to my chest, and collapsed in the happiest tears I have ever experience in this life. She was there. I could swear she was right beside me in those fresh postpartum hours too.
And yet, she wasn't there. She had been beside me for so many hours of that labour, but after many exhausting hours supporting me she had gone home. I was in the capable hands of her colleague for those final hours of that birth.
And yet, even though as I birthed him, she would have already driven home and fallen wirily into bed, she was also, somehow, with me.
She was with me, she was with me.
She had physically left, and yet she was with me.
So I will say again, the point that we're missing: the bodies that are in the room for the physical process, are not necessarily the only ones witnessing your process.
(The inverse is also true: there will be people in the room that don't at all penetrate your labour space. They are not part of your story, and simply wash into the background.)
For all the beautiful humans you wanted physically in your birthing space, but you cannot have, I am So Sorry.
For your own mamas, your sisters, your best friends, your kids, your doulas...
I am so sorry, and also:
Bring Them With You. Wear their necklace. Their t-shirt. Take their photo. Something. Call them in and I promise you will feel them right beside you as you navigate your way.
And it of course comes down to this. We are complicated creatures. Our souls and our bodies are not the same thing.
For birthing mamas who can't take in the physical bodies of their supporters, They Can Still Be There.
Just like we can reach back in our memory to grab facts for an exam, so too can we reach back and find love. Find support. Find the will and grit and power to go on through those who love us.
If you want someone in the room, call upon the cellular memory of all the thousand moments you have shared with them. Call upon the shared tears, the deep hugs, the celebration and the holding. Call upon all the glorious facets of your relationship with them. Bundle it all together. Carry them into your birthing room and carefully unpack them. Fill the room with all the support and strength they offer you in life, and trust that it will continue to hold you though.
Feel their strength as if they were standing beside you.
We are all beside you.