Is There a Possibility You’ll Have to Birth Without Your Partner? Here’s the Advice You Need

When expectant mom Emily D. imagined the birth of her second child, her husband was always in the picture. “I wrote up an ideal birth plan months ago, but I never thought I needed to explicitly state that I wanted my partner with me. It seemed like such a given,” she said. Now Emily, like countless moms-to-be across the country, is facing a potentially empty labor room as hospitals scramble to create new guidelines amidst this global health crisis.

Cue the collective panic of pregnant women everywhere (and rightfully so). 

The good news? For now, a blanket ban on birth support is still a worst-case scenario. However, as hospital policies evolve, partners may find it trickier to stay with a laboring mom for the duration of her birthing experience.

But no matter your situation, there are plenty of ways to gather your strength and plan for an empowered, peaceful, and ordinary birth even if you end up going it alone. To help you prepare for giving birth without the support you had planned, we gathered advice from midwives, doulas, and birth educators across the country. Here’s what these wise women had to say.

 

Create a Flexible Plan

In these unprecedented times, a flexible birth plan is more important than ever—especially when it comes to expressing your stance on interventions such as an episiotomy or frequent cervical checks. Writing a few bullet points down today can help advocate for the birth you want when you’re in the throes of labor later on. 

However, Amanda Cagle, a doula and birth educator based in California, cautioned women against drafting a list of birthing goals. “Writing up a specific birth plan lays the groundwork for intense trauma on the other side of birth,” Cagle said. “When things don’t go as idealized, comparing the reality to the perfectly laid out intentions on the birth plan can be heartbreaking.”

 

In these unprecedented times, a flexible birth plan is more important than ever … Writing a few bullet points down today can help advocate for the birth you want when you’re in the throes of labor later on.

 

What’s more, our hospitals are in crisis mode, and they may not have the resources available to support every point in a detailed birth plan. 

“Ultimately, what’s important to hospital staff is unlikely to align with what’s important to birthing consumers right now, except that everyone wants everyone to be as healthy as possible,” Cagle said. The lesson learned? Decide what’s most important to you about your birthing experience and jot down a few notes to share with hospital staff when you arrive. 

 

Source: @z_khawaja via #sharetheeverymom

 

Speak Up

A support partner can be an invaluable resource when it comes to communicating with doctors, nurses, and hospital staff. Without this go-between, the onus is on you to advocate for yourself, which can be a tall order when riding the waves of contractions. 

Jhilya Mayas, PhD, a full-spectrum doula and public health strategist, encouraged laboring patients to be proactive. “Ask questions! Any time a provider wants to do a procedure, start a medication, or even touch you, exercise your rights and agency over your body,” Mayas said. She encouraged moms-to-be to inquire about benefits versus risks, ask for alternatives, and even request 10 minutes to think before providing consent. 

 

A support partner can be an invaluable resource when it comes to communicating with doctors, nurses, and hospital staff. Without this go-between, the onus is on you to advocate for yourself, which can be a tall order when riding the waves of contractions.

 

It’s also important to remember that the laboring brain operates on its own wavelength and the thoughts you can assemble with ease today may seem like Quantum Physics in the delivery room. “Due to the hormonal bath washing over [pregnant patients] in labor, they may not have easy access to their normal eloquence and communication skills,” Britta Bushnell, PhD said. Bushnell is a veteran childbirth educator and author of Transformed by Birth. She advised clients to put simple words into practice such as “no,” “not now,” “wait,” and “I need a minute.” 

“One of the best things to do is to try and slow the conversation down so that it moves closer to the pace of the laboring brain,” Bushnell said. 

 

Opt for Screentime

These days, everyone is turning to FaceTime—including doulas. Allison Molinski, a hospital-based midwife, invited laboring women to use video apps to bring partners, doulas, and birth support into the birthing suite. Her practical tips for making virtual support work? Instead of relying on your small phone screen, bring an iPad or computer for video chatting.

Prop up the device on a stack of pillows or a tripod and crank up the volume so you can simulate the experience of having your remote partners at your side. And because childbirth is a marathon times two, Mayas recommended creating a schedule of on-call support to help keep the encouragement coming at all hours of the day and night. 

With technology on our side, there’s little reason to go into birth completely on your own. In fact, Cagle cautioned against it. “Laboring people are vulnerable by the very nature of being in labor. This is especially true if unmedicated because the hormones of birth impact the ability of the person to think rationally, logically, or linearly,” Cagle said. 

 

Prep and Practice

When it comes to giving birth, there is no substitute for doing your homework. Molinski urged all expecting parents to enroll in a comprehensive birthing course to help them understand the stages of labor, pain management options, interventions, and more. A good class will provide coping techniques that can carry you through even the toughest parts of labor—with or without your support person around. 

 

When it comes to giving birth, there is no substitute for doing your homework … A good class will provide coping techniques that can carry you through even the toughest parts of labor—with or without your support person around.

 

And it’s never too soon to practice. Mayas recommended parents-to-be get into a groove practicing the breathing, physical movements, and mantras that can ground and empower them through their birthing experience. 

 

Source: @mrskaylahovey via #sharetheeverymom

 

Freak Out

Now for some truly refreshing advice: you are not expected to stay calm during labor. “Freaking out is common and can be exactly what is needed to birth a baby. Sometimes we need to scream, make demands, cry, or moan. Letting go of being polite is often helpful to birthing strongly,” Bushnell said. 

To help you ride the emotional roller coaster that awaits, our experts recommended bringing a few comforts from home to your hospital room. Molinski invited laboring women to dim the lights, play relaxing music, and use aromatherapy. Mayas added that grounding mantras can help push you through challenging moments. And Cagle recommended pillows, coloring books, and handheld games to take the edge off during early labor. 

 

The Last Word

While our global situation is ever-changing and hospital policies are in flux as a result, Mayas offered some comforting words to hold onto. “While you are preparing for the least desirable scenario, you can also plan for the possibility of having in-person support.” Nothing about childbirth has ever been black and white—not before our current crisis and certainly not now. 

 

Read More: The Tried and True Korean Secrets to a Smooth(er) Postpartum Recovery

 

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