(Update: As of 5/19/2020 all Las Vegas area hospitals are allowing only one support person in the birth room, with the exception of Henderson Hospital.)
When this whole COVID-19 pandemic happened, I had clients lined up for months. Most of them were planning on giving birth in a hospital. As things progressed and hospitals began to restrict the number of support people to one, it started to become quite clear that I wouldn't be able to join most of my clients in the hospital.
Calls were made and videos were posted by training organizations, on how important it was to start providing virtual support.
For me, it was a joke. I wasn't able to believe that what I did as a doula could be done "virtually." My job required me to hold hands, press hips, caress heads, and speak encouraging words. My job was to tune in 100% to the person in front of me and give them my whole heart. How could any of that be done virtually?
I was ready to offer refunds; yet surprisingly, at least to me, many of my clients felt that they wanted to keep me on as their virtual doula.
Suddenly, I was scrambling. I wasn't sure what virtual support was going to look like exactly.
The only thing I was sure of was that due to the restrictions in hospitals, my clients were going to be left with their partner being the only consistent support person throughout the birth of their baby. Being that birth is an uncharted territory, it can feel daunting even during the best of times, but during the coronavirus pandemic, the uncertainty was reaching unparalleled proportions.
I realized that my clients were feeling nervous and that having me on board was helping to relieve some of their fears. I had to ask myself, what do my clients need most at this time? How can I best prepare them to give birth in an environment that was even more unpredictable than in a normal setting?
My focus started to shift. I started to see my role a little differently; and after supporting several clients virtually I started to see how valuable virtual support can be during times like these. While I felt heartbroken that I wouldn't be able to support my clients in person, I started to see that virtual support had its own unique benefits.
A Shift in Mindset Toward Prenatal Education/Preparation
Since clients understand that I won't be in the room with them during labor, there's a shift toward prenatal preparation and education. A lot more time is spent prenatally on arming couples with the resources they need to navigate the hospital environment. They end up taking ownership over birth preparation, which leaves them better prepared to deal with the unknowns of birth.
Places the Partner Front and Center
As much as I love my job, it is not hard to see that some partners are intimidated by having an "expert" on birth support in the room. Out of a desire to be polite, partners can feel like they need to step aside. Yet knowing that they are going to be the main person in charge of labor support, can be overwhelming.
Because virtual support focuses so much on parental preparation, partners can come into the birth room feeling more able to better support the person giving birth. Not only that, when they come up against unexpected situations or circumstances, they have a coach available to them throughout the whole process.
They can feel peace knowing that they don’t have to know everything, because they have someone in their corner whom they can turn to anytime they need support or guidance, yet they can still be the hero that birthing person needs.
An Empowering Birth Experience
One of the reasons a mother might hire a doula is that she does not want hospital policies dictating her birth experience and outcomes. The act of hiring a doula might make her feel a little bit more at ease.
But what does a mother do when faced with the fact that she does not want hospital policies (policies which might be even more stringent during COVID-19,) dictating her experience, yet those very policies don't allow a doula in the room?
Virtual birth support fills that gap. A virtual doula assist in preparing her and her partner before birth even starts. A virtual doula can assist the couple by helping them find a way to labor at home for as long as possible and prepares them for what to expect once they get to the hospital. A virtual doula is there every step of the way and helps mom and partner assess information, which allows them to make informed decisions if and when medical interventions are being suggested.
This support is critical and allows for a more empowered birth experience.
A Few Extra Benefits of Virtual Birth Support:
Virtual doula support is in my mind critical for those giving birth in a hospital in the time of the coronavirus. A global pandemic doesn't change the fact that this is the one day in all of history when your child will be born. You deserve support and care from someone who you click with and whom you feel safe with. The amazing thing about virtual birth support is that that person could live halfway across the world. Virtual support has no time and space constraints. It is also a much more economical choice than in-person support. If you find yourself pregnant and having to chose between your partner and your doula, you now have a third choice.
Luna Tomy is a Labor Doula in Las Vegas NV. She is a mother to three young kids. Providing virtual birth support has become her passion as she is able to see clients from anywhere in the world, including her hometown of Bogota, Colombia, and her old stomping grounds of Queens NY.
She can be reached HERE for questions or comments.