Some Blessings for the Homebirth Community during Covid-19 Times
Midwifery Today, Issue 135, Autumn 2020.
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In these most interesting times, on March 19, 2020, I had to cancel the last two days of my Art of Birth workshop, in which 34 women and one man gathered with me for two weeks, in deep, eight-hours-per-day immersion.
The intensity and depth of all the changes and transitions that our lives have gone through since that date have been astonishing and, in all truth and with all compassion, it has been quite fascinating to see how each person and the whole of humanity has had to reinvent ourselves creatively and, many times, with an imperative to change our perspectives.
I would like to explore and point out some of these surprising turns and creative spins, in which we have migrated and expanded into doing and adopting new belief systems. These systems are, simply, ways to make humanity more human, more humble, less materialistic, less proud, and more open to consider other points of view, as well as creating opportunities, making decisions, and considering other ways of living—for which we may previously have been prejudiced in favor of, taken for granted, or never unquestioned.
Homebirthing—We all know the incredible prejudice that homebirth has suffered since birth was forced to migrate from home to the hospital setting. This was done through unfair and unfounded campaigns directed toward women in the 1940s and 1950s, in which homebirth was made to seem unsafe and even gained an undeserved reputation as a sub-standard birthing system.
With Covid-19 ravaging the human population, all around the world we have witnessed not only pregnant women seeking the refuge of homebirths, but also health professionals who were previously reluctant or even against homebirth, starting to recommend it to the pregnant women under their care. We homebirth midwives have been curious to see the rates at which women would begin seeking our services. We have found that Covid-19 has brought people to reconsider the meaning of “safety,” “health,” “self-preservation,” and, most interestingly, the meaning of autonomy in their personal decisions. Recently we have had many women expressing that before Covid times they might not have given homebirth a real thorough consideration, but now they see it as a very attractive option. Learn more about “Feminine Power in Birth.”
Since the beginning of the 1900s, the technocratic medical system has worked strongly to preserve itself as an emblem of superiority and authority, as a caretaker of human health. In the face of the pandemic, the medical system as a whole has shown itself to be meek, bleak, utterly unprepared, and astonishingly unscientific in strategies and preparedness. Homebirth is coming back into the spotlight for many more people as possibly safer than hospital birth, at least for now, and hopefully it will remain so in the future even after the medical system regains stability.
Empowered Prenatal Care—As soon as the Covid-19 pandemic was declared, many birth workers and health care providers around the world began to explore our creative options for doing consultations online, which has come to be called “telemedicine.” Right away, we produced new Homebirth Protocols for Covid Times, as well as strategies to oversee pregnancies so we could accompany women in a clinically accurate and safe way, maintaining social distancing, and prolonging the time between in-person consultations. This came as a very positive opportunity to help women and their families become even more empowered. We teach them in minute detail how to perform some evaluations themselves, such as: the measurement of fundal height for fetal growth, listening to the fetal heart rate and assessing variability, checking for babies’ vitality, and measuring their own blood pressure. We also provide other resources for assessing specific risk factors in pregnancy.
I believe that prenatal care is returning to a position in which it is rightly understood as the care the woman does in her daily life—rather than the occasional consultations that birth professionals carry out in-office. Women have begun to observe and sense with greater attention all of their babies’ daily vital expressions, their personal diets, and their own well-being. This all pours back into them as a concrete sense of empowerment. It is the women themselves who perceive their babies and their health before anybody else.
If you are interested in both teaching and learning how to carry out an effective prenatal consultation online, I have made an educational video entitled “Empowered Prenatal in Covid Times.” This is part of my recently created Midwifery Workshops Online program, which covers a wide variety of topic videos. Learn more.
Medically and socially “required” protocols questioned—For the last three decades and more, pregnant and birthing women, as well as their families, have taken for granted the “requirements” suggested or demanded by the health authorities—which are protocols generally imposed to serve diverse purposes. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into question the timing and frequency of doctor visits, vaccinations, routine ultrasounds, and laboratory testing. All of a sudden, the things that were considered “highly necessary” and “a must” have come to be “optional”—not at all “urgent” or “necessary”—in order to make a diagnostic evaluation. (See my invention and detailed teaching of The Natural Ultrasound used as an alternative to an unnecessary routine ultrasound.)
I have always believed that doing occasional and punctual laboratory testing and ultrasound exams, in appropriate situations, is what works best. Now I am not alone, as these alternative, looser midwifery protocols have all of a sudden become the official recommendation. These protocols are being backed by the same science and medical system that previously may have frowned on them. This change in thinking brings clearly to light what many a person, midwife, sociologist, anthropologist, or social scientist have clearly and sorely observed: economic and power interests over the masses determine the norm. Living in a time in which everything has been brought to question is a highly refreshing opportunity to revisit the actual need of any given procedure. When we question the status quo of standardized procedures required by a system established so many years ago, the very act of questioning allows for reevaluation and adjustment—whether it is personal or systemic.
Limiting materialism—People also have received a marvelously well-appointed blow to their shopping and acquisition impulses by having all stores closed from one day to another. We had to learn to reuse, recycle, and re-appreciate things such as a simple brown paper bag—which became the valuable item to store our precious, hard-to-get masks for three days (for the Covid-19 virus to die) before reusing them. With the exception of the essentials such as air, water, food, shelter, warmth, and a loving atmosphere at home, we have stopped saying “I need this or that,” and we have begun to realize we really don’t need all that much more than we already have.
As a Mexican midwife living and working for most of my life in rural Mexico, I used to have two lists of things to get for pregnant women to prepare for their homebirth. One was for people who had the capacity to spend money on buying more things; the other was for families without the capacity to buy anything. I have always loved the second list, as it brings to light the absolute unnecessity of the items in the first list. Families who received the second list still had beautiful births full of care and safety. Nothing was lacking in those births. Instead of baby receiving blankets and disposable items to soak up the birth juices and bleeding postpartum, more humble families placed clean clothes (cotton t-shirts, skirts, and a diversity of other clothes) folded up into a clean bag for me to use to protect the bed, to wrap the baby in after birth, and as postpartum pads. Everything would end up beautifully washed down at the river.
During this pandemic, when many stores were closed and people truly hunkered down at home 100%, I have had a few couples who did not have the possibility to buy clothes for the baby or items to prepare for their homebirths. Creativity and humility have gotten highlighted as we all turned ourselves toward the deep appreciation of what is and what we have and share solicitously with each other in warmth and solidarity.
We are all one together on this planet earth—In spite of the still quite foggy predisposition factors, anyone and eventually everyone can potentially acquire the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. This has brought us together as the human race. We have become vulnerable as a species and are hopefully realizing the catastrophic mistakes humans have made (not for decades, but for centuries) in relationship to our planet—our Mother Earth. We have tragically misused the lands, rivers, ocean waters, and inhabitants—the vast macro and micro life systems of the forests. Our focus on mass-production, regardless of the effects on life, are all coming to a dramatic showcasing during this unforeseen and surprising pandemic.
Undoubtedly, many of us have gone into deep reflection pondering our place in this life, our fragility, and our mortality, and contemplating possible ways out of this human predicament.
Our capacity as individuals and collectively to reflect and to reinvent ourselves is a glorious blessing, and the Covid-19 pandemic has brought to us all a heavy rain of blessings in disguise, if we are able to consider our possible death and the human demise as part of the life cycle.
The least we can do is to hold deep gratitude and humble acceptance while we are still living on this earth, learning profound lessons, and doing more good than harm while we breathe, walk, work, enjoy, and hopefully love all and everyone more than we ever have.