In April 2020, one month into the COVID-19 pandemic, we were contacted by a reporter from the Baltimore Sun who was interested in what homebirth looked like at a time when hospitals were threatening to be overrun with sick people, and the Labor and Delivery floors were implementing strict -some would say “cruel” – measures in an attempt to keep staff and patients from being exposed to Coronavirus. These measures included separation of parents and baby at birth, potentially preventing partners from attending, and forbidding doulas, friends, photographers, etc. from accompanying their clients into the hospital.
This was very alarming to us as midwives, and we threw open our brand new doors to try to accommodate all of those people who understandably no longer felt comfortable birthing in the hospital. At the same time, we had to grapple with many unknowns, such as “How do we protect ourselves and our clients? Is waterbirth safe? What happens if one of us gets sick?” It was a heady, stressful time, but some amazing moments came of it.
One of our first “Covid births” was with this intriguing, large, ambitious family who came to us at around 36 weeks pregnant, seeking a homebirth. The clients are veterinarians, and felt that if they weren’t able to find a midwife, they would have probably just done it themselves very capably. Happily they entered care with us right around the time the Baltimore Sun had asked to interview one of our clients. The Maizels family was a perfect fit, and coincidentally, the photographer who had been hired to document for the planned article had previously photographed the family for a Baltimore Sun feature on their weightlifting accomplishments!
Our birth assistant Nikki (bedheadbirth.com) volunteered to photograph the actual birth on behalf of the Baltimore Sun in order to minimize potential exposure, and also ease logistical concerns for the staff photographer who wasn’t accustomed to being on call. Because Patty was such an easy confident birther, Nikki was able to both photograph and assist and preserve some sweet memories for this couple in their first homebirth and, in Patty’s words, their “best birth yet!”
We are hanging on to all the amazing things that are happening because of-or despite- COVID-19. We have attended so many beautiful “covid transfer” births that have expanded a family’s (and their families’ and their friends’…) concept about birth, which would never have happened if coronavirus didn’t cause them to really think critically about the risks and benefits of hospital birth and why they are starting out in the hospital when they don’t need to.
We are also hoping that this pandemic, and the healthy birth outcomes borne of the increased homebirth rate, is the impetus for permanently increasing accessibility and insurance coverage of homebirth, and increasing access to and legality of traditional midwifery education and practice.