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Virtually coaching mothers through labor is another coronavirus workaround

Posted April 30, 2020 in Articles

Author: Jarvis DeBerry,

(CLEVELAND, Ohio) The novel coronavirus pandemic has altered the way we say goodbye to our loved ones – both at their bedsides and at their funerals. But in addition to that, the pandemic has changed the way we welcome new life into the world. Women who may have planned to have multiple people comforting, coaching and cheering them through labor are because of new infection-control policies at hospitals being forced to make do with just one person by their side.

But just like requirements have inspired people to find ways to come together virtually to grieve the dead, hospital policies restricting visitors have inspired those who are left out to be creative, too. Takyrah Sutton, who on April 4 gave birth to a baby girl at Cleveland Clinic – Fairview Hospital had a cheering section as she labored. But only one of those cheerleaders was physically present in the delivery room.

Sutton had initially planned to have a team by her side. Her mother would be there. So would her mother’s sister. So would have Brianna Dennis, a doula from Birthing Beautiful Communities. And Sutton wanted her boyfriend to cut the umbilical cord.

But as she moved closer to deliver, the hospital kept editing down the number of people they said she could have with her. When they said she could have two people, she chose her mother and aunt. But eventually, the hospital said she could have only one person, and Sutton chose her aunt.

“My mom told me when she was in delivery with me and the rest of my brothers and sisters [that] my aunt is the best delivery baby daddy in the world. And I was like, ‘I want her there.’ If nobody else can’t come and nobody can’t make it to me, at least I want her there because she got great reviews. Five stars! So if I was getting through it, I was getting through it with her.”

Sutton chose her aunt as her support person, but she was still disappointed when she realized her mother wouldn’t be allowed to enter the hospital even after the baby arrived. “It was one [person] throughout the whole thing,” she said.

Just like some family members are using their phones and tablets to virtually say goodbye to their loved ones, Sutton’s support team was able to virtually cheer her on by joining a group video chat. That support team included Dennis, her doula.

According to First Year Cleveland, in 2019, 120 Cuyahoga County babies died before their first birthday, and 71 percent of them were black even though only 38 percent of the babies born were black. Birthing Beautiful Communities is one of the organizations that can help drive down the excessively high black infant mortality rate and the excessively high black maternal mortality rate by providing doulas who advocate for women who are giving birth.

Given the poor birth outcomes in this county, there’s plenty reason to worry that hospital policies that only allow one person to attend laboring mothers will leave out doulas and put laboring mothers and their babies at greater risk of complications.

But Birthing Beautiful Communities’ work has only been complicated by coronavirus restrictions; it hasn’t been derailed.

Dennis helped Sutton labor at home, and she arrived at Fairview Hospital about an hour before she gave birth. Dennis likely deserves some of the credit for the successful delivery. The mother didn’t need meds, didn’t need an epidural and didn’t need a C-section.

“She told me I was doing great,” Sutton said when asked to describe how her doula helped her. “When it was getting unbearable, she was like, ‘You got this. You know baby’s right there, baby’s right there.’ She was like, ‘Just think about bringing your baby into the world.’ She helped my auntie with the coaching of rubbing my back, and rubbing in areas that was relieving pain. She did everything like she was still there, like physically there.”

Dennis said that at first joining a video chat “felt silly,” and she wondered if she was doing anything useful, but then, she said, Sutton would turn to the camera in response to Dennis’ words of support and acknowledge that she’d heard them.

The people on the video chat were able to cheer Sutton on until it was time for her to start pushing, at which point, per hospital policy, the filming had to stop. But 15 or 20 minutes later, Sutton’s aunt resumed the call and introduced the family to baby Ka’Nani.

“It still felt like they were there,” Sutton said, “even though with this whole pandemic going around and I couldn’t have them physically there, they were there virtually. And I loved every second of it because it still felt like they were experiencing it with me. It wasn’t the best feeling in the world not to have them physically there, but they were still there no matter what.”

Original Article: View Online

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