Doula basket

Second Wave

Planning for tighter restrictions

As Boris announces yet another round of Covid soundbites and strategies, I’ve been really preoccupied with what this means for the families I support.  My local hospitals had already been implementing draconian (and not evidence based) restrictions on partners attending antenatal scans and appointments, supporting women in early labour on induction wards, and spending time bonding with their babies and helping their partners on postnatal wards.  Surely it can’t get any worse?

Thus far I have been able to enter people’s homes with my mask on and my hands clean and offer the reassurance and information they need to be able to build their resilience and  find their parenting feet.  I know I CAN do that over Zoom, I’m teaching antenatal courses and seeing some clients that way, but I’ve spent several hours recently with a remarkable new family with a brand new, caesarean-born baby.  I’ve been welcomed into their bedroom sanctuary and knelt by the bed as this mother cried about out her nipple and wound pain.  I’ve supported her to express and collect her colostrum and held their baby while his Dad syringed the precious fluid into his tiny mouth.  I’ve demonstrated the way breast milk changes throughout a feed with a bowl and a sponge in their own kitchen and I’ve rejoiced along with all three of them when they found a way to feed comfortably without the nipple shield.   I’ve heard and validated this father’s concerns about safe sleep and I’ve witnessed their exploration of the pros and cons of bed sharing and how to adapt the room and the sleep space to make it work for them.  Some of this I could have done over zoom, or via What’s App, but not all of it and not as well.  I will continue to visit this family as long as they want me and as long as we all feel comfortable with the arrangement but I know that it’s only a matter of time.

As our neighbouring town of Nottingham enters tier 2 and we scramble to digest and understand the current and impending guidelines, I know that I will be able to support families in person less and less if I want to keep them and my own loved ones safe.  Against the backdrop of more restrictions and the necessity to protect lives and vital services, I know that some doulas are finding creative, innovative ways to run their businesses and support families.  I’m loving the sense of community and shared purpose that I’m finding with other birth folk in my NCT and doula networks as we share resources, tips and ideas, but we are all so painfully aware of how hard it is to build real rapport and trust via technology.

Birth and parenting are primal processes.  We need to engage all our senses to communicate with new babies and new parents alike.  It’s so hard to pick up the subtle nuances and the untold story behind a facemask, let alone a computer screen.  But we will continue to try and we will succeed.

I have some clients whom I am supporting with regular Zoom calls and it’s working brilliantly.  No travel, no parking, no need for them to prepare their homes or themselves for a visitor.  We have the privacy and intimacy of headphones and, for some, a degree of separation that actually helps them to reflect and open up to me.  I’ve found, in particular, that relaxation and mindfulness practice work well over zoom, as does the 3 Step Rewind process for birth trauma release.  Maybe it’s because they can fully relax, effectively alone, without giving any thought to my comfort or needs because I’m not actually there?  I hope so.

I have supported mothers who just wanted company while they paced back and forth with their fractious baby, into and out of the frame on my screen, telling me all about their day and just glad to have someone there in the room but who takes up no space.  I’ve had evening chats with sleepy, PJ clad mums, culminating in them chilling out to my voice reading a relaxation script before they drift off to sleep as I silently end the zoom call.  These things are a revelation and deeply moving at times.  Whatever this pandemic throws at us I know I will be able to do my best to support new-born families in any way I can.