An acquaintance recently called me for some advice after conceiving triplets in Dubai herself.  She had questions for me regarding my own experience carrying triplets and was conflicted about taking some major decisions that come your way with this kind of  life changing news.  It made me wonder what a tough time this must be for all expectant mothers, as COVID-19 must be an added layer of worry for them.  

As a mother of now seven year old triplets, I can still vividly recall my two month hospital stay that preceded the final weeks of my pregnancy with the triplets. Due to several complications I was urged to stay mostly in bed.  I can never forget the feeling of isolation during the long and  cold blizzardy winters. Northern Virginia was experiencing a series of relentless snowstorms and there were many days when my husband and my two and half year old toddler could not even visit me due to hazardous road conditions…. The hours and days would drag by and I would want to practically  leap out of bed with joy at the first ray of sunlight breaking through the dark sky and watching the snow subside, knowing that soon they would be on their way.

I wasn’t even fully quarantined, but those were some of the most solitary and difficult days of my life and I wouldn’t ever want to experience that level of worry amidst a global pandemic that has wreaked havoc on what could otherwise be the happiest stages of one’s life. Granted the epidemic isn’t an ideal time for just about anything but if you are pregnant now is a good time for you to create a positive birth plan to ease your mind and prepare you for what’s to come especially if it is your first pregnancy.  

Truthfully, there is no amount of preparation that can prepare you for giving birth under usual circumstances let alone during this unusual time. A good place to start is to consider all your options and to look at each scenario one by one. You are lucky if you are pregnant with one child right now and a bit more at risk if you are carrying multiples, since your body will have to work harder to keep your immunity strong.  

My first suggestion would be to start considering where you may want to have this precious baby or babies of yours. It’s important to figure out if you are considering a hospital birth, home birth, natural birth or at a birthing center? Once you kind of know how and where you want to deliver, start calling all the experts immediately to get the lowdown. Although there is no data yet that shows pregnant people are more susceptible to COVID-19, the pandemic has forced many expectant moms to consider a change in their birth plan. In some cases such as Italy, women are already prepared to birth alone and away from their partners.  New York went through a similar scare where for a while pregnant women were told they might have to deliver alone till that was overruled by Governor Cuomo.   “In no hospital in New York will a woman be forced to be alone when she gives birth. Not now, not ever,” Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted.  If you are feeling unnerved by the uncertainty around having a baby, then here are some logistical and emotional coping strategies that may help during the coronavirus pandemic.

Natural Birth or Home Birth

Home births are more suitable for low risk pregnancies, but it’s an absolute must for you to be planning this kind of birth with your local midwives almost immediately. Strangely enough a  home birth might be the safest place from the virus and many pregnant women around the world are looking at this option. Women who never would have considered this are thinking that home is where the virus isn’t. Creating a sterile designated area would be an ideal case scenario. If you do decide to go down this route, make sure you have a Plan B and C in place if things go sideways. 

Birthing Centers are also another option. You could also safely deliver under the supervision of a midwife team at a birthing center instead of your home. Birthing centers would be less risky than hospitals, and better serviced than your house and with staff and equipment. Provided all goes well, you can be released four to eight hours after delivery. Start calling birthing centers in your area right away and  be prepared to still deliver at the hospital especially if midwives start getting called to the front lines as well. 

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Ask detailed questions from your healthcare provider 

Medical professionals are often skeptical about soon to be parents, who come overly prepared with a birth plan, but the situation has dramatically changed. Now is the time to have an in-depth conversation with your OB-GYN or midwife about how you can safely deliver.  The questions you ask now will offer you advice in handling labor at home and what to expect with the unexpected, so be specific.  Some important questions to know off hand can be: 

What delivery policies are in place right now and how can they change. 

Where and when should I come to the hospital?

What will check-in be like at the front desk?  Reducing wait times will mean less exposure to the virus.  Will I be assigned a room immediately? Will I have a nurse or health care practitioner constantly with me. What type of paper pushing will I be required to do and can I do it in advance?

Know who you want and can have around on D-day! 

You may come from a larger joint family system where the 9 months would terminate in a my-big-fat-delivery scenario with everyone traditionally ending up in the delivery room, sadly or thankfully this is no longer applicable, in fact you may  probably have to go it alone. If you have young kids at home then you may want to even do this without your husband or mother there. As inconceivable as that might be, you know you can get through this. Be mentally prepared that your mother, your best friend or even your siblings may not be able to come visit you and your baby at the hospital. Bear in mind that they also need to protect themselves and need to be around you for the better days to come. Your mother especially should not be in the delivery room with you unless she is young enough to not be statistically at risk.  Adults 60 and above are most susceptible to contracting the Coronavirus and developing  severe symptoms. So choose wisely who you want around for your delivery because even your newborn should be exposed to minimal people.  In my opinion the idea of contracting COVID-19 and being separated from your newborn is even worse.

Don’t give up on Epidural just yet

If your plan was to give birth medication-free right now then look at it deeply.  Many mothers want to give birth as naturally as possible but don’t just yet say no to Epidural. Natural birthing is a beautiful process albeit it can be long and hard and can require more hospital resources as well. Avoid draining your own emotional reserves as well, and direct that energy to face whatever is to come post-delivery. Remember your newborn and you need to limit your time in the hospital so try to get out of there fast, and rejecting pain management may not be the best play. Traumatic painful labor can also cause lifelong medical issues as well.

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Create a technology plan 

This is the one time that smartphones and technology can help you during birth and after. Many doulas can be retained to provide virtual support while you’re in labor. This will be especially useful if you happen to be at a hospital where the policy does not permit a family member in the room. Listening to a doula’s voice and reassuring words could make all the difference to ease your mental state. Plan which devices you will use and have some kind of a tripod or stand ready to assist you. Don’t forget to confirm with the hospital if they have WIFI available in the rooms or not.

Prepare your gear 

Apart from the baby essentials, bring a favorite book or a new read. Personalized playlists with songs that really mean something to you can also help. Those touches aren’t silly or superfluous in these serious, frightening times; they can help anchor you, even momentarily.

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Stop compulsive news gathering 

Are you giving yourself sleepless nights by constantly refreshing your news feed until 2 or 3 a.m. Are you waking up drenched in anxiety? Then you need to forcefully stop with  compulsive news gathering. Either put your cellphone on airplane mode at 10 p.m or simply leave it out of the room. The world has still not statistically peaked so being fully plugged in is not going to make a little bit of even a difference to the 9 potential months of all of this ahead of you. Go light up some candles, take a warm bath and settle in for a big read.

Use these strategies to remind yourself that you’re not alone

Social distancing now means that many women won’t have friends or family around to meet the baby soon after birth, or to be able to lend a  helping hand during the postpartum period. So be connected via technology before, during, and after birth, it can help you stay somewhat comforted and centered. Take comfort in the fact that women have labored often in times alone and that we are built to survive it all. Think of grandmothers and mothers you know who’ve delivered on their own,and draw some strength from their previous hardships. 

It would be wisest to create a light birthing plan which should be aimed at easing your mind and keeping you somewhat prepared.  No woman could have imagined nine months ago that they would be giving birth during a pandemic, but girl you got this, and know that you are braver and stronger than you think.

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