At a time of an unprecedented global pandemic, there is an increase anxiety in interfacing with any medical appointment. For some this means concerns in accessing medical care coming forward, fears of not being able to receive the treatment needed with hospitals over capacity. For others, it reflects a time of concern of contamination of getting COVID if one does not already have it. For a unique group, there is an intersection and special loneliness of accessing medical care in the time of pregnancy and delivery.
With the barriers in place regarding not having partners present for appointments, the first heart beat, and in some cases the birth or time in the hospital afterward, there is a new wave of women navigating these intense moments, throughout their appointments, pregnancies, and births — on their own.
It’s important to find moments of unity in this process, so that even though the mother may be physically separated, she can remain intimately connected with her partner and not be emotionally alone.
Pregnancy can be an intangible time for nonpregnant partners. Going to medical appointments are usually a way to connect through this process. With their presence not currently allowed in most hospitals, here are some ways to keep connected and calm throughout the pregnancy:
Bring your screen.
Using FaceTime with partner during appointments or taking pictures or videos of the baby are ways to connect and visualize the baby that is growing.
Celebrate on your own.
Buy a doppler to hear the heartbeat on your own. Being able to listen to the heartbeat in the comfort of your living room with your partner can make for potentially more intimate experience than being in the hospital or doctor’s office.
Enjoy your own intimacy with the baby,
Try to focus on your thoughts. If you can’t have your partner physically present, embrace the specialness to being alone with your baby, to seeing the baby, to being together and nursing the baby postpartum. Remembering that these are moments of strength and togetherness. Telling ourselves a narrative that we are alone is likely to amplify our loneliness. Reminding ourselves of our strength and ability to navigate challenges on our own can increase our feelings of independence.
Talk and connect with being alone.
Know the rules and regulations.
Knowing the guidelines of the hospital will help navigate and help you plan.
Are you allowed to have a partner there, if so, for how long? When do you need to wear a mask? Can you ask to labor alone in your room to not wear a mask? Stock up on options ahead of time. Check the rules about food delivery so you can see if you can bring food into hospitals after delivering, many hospitals are limiting this.
Simulate the experience.
If you’ll need to wear a mask for delivery, you can practice wearing it and taking deep breaths to simulate pregnancy. If you’re able to go for a run while wearing a mask, it can simulate deep breathing while mask wearing. By preparing in advance you can be aware of what you need to do.
Talk about the fears, hopes, and expectations you have about this process to your support team. This may include your partner, your OB/GYN, friends, family, doula, and/or a therapist.
Tell the people you love and care for what makes you comfortable and uncomfortable given the current pandemic. Every family is navigating their own boundaries. Some families have differences in their observance of these guidelines. Have these conversations early on. The earlier you can plan, the more time you can give people to prepare. It may take a while for grandparents to understand why they won’t be able to visit with the baby or hold the baby. For the first grandchild, these are moments they have been waiting a lifetime for. And, even if intellectually family can understand the importance of maintaining their own health as well as the baby’s, there is still grief over a time anticipated that has fundamentally changed.
Find innovative ways to celebrate.
Circumcisions over Zoom. Meal trains which were once sent to those in the immediate vicinity can now be sent globally with recommendations of a few restaurants that will deliver that the couple enjoys. Carve out a map of navigating how people can be involved in ways they couldn’t before.