The worldwide pandemic has brought new challenges for and policies from maternity services across the country. This uncertain situation brings new challenges and worries for families but it doesn't mean your choices and rights go out the window. As soon as it became clear we wouldn't be able to meet up in person for a while we switched to video call meet-ups. The topic of our first online meeting gives us the title for this blog. Here's part one of a round of up of some of the things we spoke about during the meeting that might help you feel more positive about planning your birth if you're feeling unsettled by all the changes going on in life at the moment.
What can you control?
Life is uncertain many things are out of our control. Take a deep breath and accept that this is life. Wonderfully uncertain and full of possibilities. Focusing on the uncertainties that are beyond our control can lead to feeling overwhelmed and start off our panic flight, fight or freeze reactions. This adrenaline cycle is the opposite of what we need when we labour and birth. For labour and birth, we need our oxytocin cycle, our self-calming safety cycle. So, let’s change our focus and concentrate on the things that are within our control that help to build these positive hormones we need for a positive birth.
Be kind to yourself, know that it's completely normal to feel anxious or upset about the news at the moment. Allow yourself to cry, to mourn the easy environment you expected to be birthing in. Then start to build up your thinking about the things you're grateful for the things that you can control that make you feel loved and safe.
You can still plan for your birth.
Making a birth plan for a birth situation that's changeable and uncertain might seem pointless to some. We think it's actually often very calming to logically work through the things that might change in your ideal situation and plan for what choices you would make in different situations. Make a plan B and a plan C and so on and then put them away and focus on expecting your plan A will still work out but knowing you're prepared if you need the other plans. Particularly in the current situation what choices will you make if your chosen place of birth (home or birth centre specifically) can no longer be supported by your midwife. What will you do in this situation to protect your own safety and comfort? How can you take your feeling of comfort with you from home to hospital? The other extra uncertainty is the possibility your planned for birth partner may not be able to be with you if they have the symptoms of coronavirus. Plan for what you will do if this happens, who's your back up birth partner, have you brought them up to speed on how to best support you and what choices you're making for yourself and your baby? Finally, just a little thought, is your car sitting on your drive not being used for the last few weeks, plan ahead to start it regularly so you aren't caught out by a flat battery in labour.
You Still Have Your Human Rights
Know that your rights haven't been changed by any of the events going on around you. You still have the right and can expect to be treated with dignity and respect and to make your own informed decisions and to be supported by your care providers. Know too that change of birthplace doesn't mean change of care provider or change to being higher risk. Your midwife is still your midwife and you will still be cared for by a midwife during your birth and you can still make the hospital birth room your own environment and expect the same support there as at home or in a birth centre.
Practical ideas for raising your oxytocin levels and staying calm and relaxed as you plan for and go through your labour and birth coming in the next blog.