March was distressing for expectant parents. For those in New York, partners will no longer be welcome in the birthing suite while mothers are in labour.
Those who give birth at New York’s Presbyterian hospitals will not be able to have their partners or other supporting family with them. They will have to experience labour and birthing alone.
It’s a triggering piece of news to discover for anyone currently navigating the journey of pregnancy within the current global climate. An expecting Chloe Sevigny expressed what many of us were feeling - concern and distress for herself and other expectant parents. She wrote on Instagram:
“#pregnantincoronatime I hope all expecting families are finding some calm. Today’s news in NY was very distressing for all. #support #prayers”
PHOTOGRAPHY Ivana Martyn Zyznikow.
It’s both poignant and introspective, pregnant in coronatime. What does it mean to be pregnant in a time of social distancing?
The birthing suite measure taken in New York hopes to stem the spread of the coronavirus. It’s a protection for the safety of expectant mothers, medical staff and of course, the newborns.
“We don’t take this lightly,” Dr. Laura Forese, the hospital system’s executive vice president and COO said. “This is a significant step. We understand just how difficult this will be.”
And it is difficult.
Coronavirus is presenting challenges for everyone, but this time has been particularly challenging for pregnant women. What is it like to be finding your way and journeying through the change of pregnancy when the world is experiencing so much change already? We reached out to three pregnant women within our community to understand what this experience is like.
A dear friend of mine, Emily is pregnant with her first child. She had a job, a partner and a cosy home in Sydney. And her world changed when she found out the exciting news that she was pregnant in February.
As she’s entered her second trimester, the public response to coronavirus has exploded. And now she, and so many other pregnant women are moving through their experience in a climate of anxiety, panic-buying and media-storm. Certainly it isn’t easy. At the time, fear and public safety concern around COVID-19 was beginning to brew - but this virus was yet to totally eclipse our way of life.
Parts of Australia have adopted similar precautions as New York. Women across the country are facing many pregnancy milestones, like doctor’s appointments and scans, alone.
“I have my 20-week scan on Friday and Matt isn’t allowed in the room. This was my glimmer of happiness during this time. I’ve temporarily lost my job due to Coronavirus - and now I can’t even share the first images of my baby with Matt.
“The people around me are more worried about me getting sick and worried about seeing me, rather than being excited for me. Matt wouldn’t let me see his parents when they came back from overseas. He was very nervous about me even going to a cafe.”
While Australia has yet to introduce a ban on partners in the birthing suite, others are no longer allowed. This includes siblings, friends, fathers and mothers.
“We won’t be able to have anyone in the birthing room other than our partners and I really wanted my mum. I totally understand. But it’s not something you ever envision when you’re expecting your first baby.”
RUSSH reader Anna is a nurse working in the mental healthcare area. She’s also managing two chronic illnesses. So this time has been especially challenging and staying healthy is of huge priority for her.
“I have two chronic illnesses and my body has always felt like a threat to me, I don't want it to become a threat to my baby. It's been such a good home for my baby, so far.”
Being separated from her support network is proving to be more difficult. The health-department-recommended social distancing is especially hard for those expecting. Pregnancy is a time for excitement and a time for support. But it’s difficult when society is being told not to socialise, especially with risk groups - which includes pregnant women.
Anna said that the most challenging thing for her is the disconnect from her sister. Finding new ways for her to connect is necessary to stay grounded.
“I cannot be with my sister, my best friend. We both take chemotherapeutic medication and are keeping ourselves safe. She has fertility issues too so this pregnancy is life changing for us both. I went to her apartment complex and sat on her fence with flowers for her. She leant over her balcony and it was soothing to see her healthy in full bloom.”
For all the other people out there in her situation, she had some words of comfort to share.
“As a nurse in mental health, your anxiety is normal but it isn't necessary. Engage in an activity everyday to drop the load, to express the relief, to be present with your baby. And also, book an appointment with a health professional who specialises in prenatal mental health if you find anxiety chasing you.”
Friend of RUSSH and DJ Sammy Nethery is currently sheltering on the South Coast of New South Wales, away from Sydney - Sydney is one of Australia’s coronavirus epicentres. Whereas, the South Coast has significantly fewer reported cases.
“Being pregnant is okay. I feel thankful that we’re on the South Coast and not in Sydney for it. There’s a lot of space down here but it’s still a very different experience.”
Of course, there is still cause for concern. Although the Federal Government has announced blanket measures, individual states are free to adapt these and make them stricter. So, social distancing measures can vary state by state. And it is possible that New South Wales could introduce birthing measures similar to those in New York.
“I was reading that if things get worse pregnant women will have to give birth without their partners present. But I’m hopeful that won’t be the case.”
During this time of change and high anxiety, it is important to stay healthy, follow the most up-to-date medical advice and of course to get your spirits high. Find things to make you smile and if you feel like you’re not coping, always seek help.