I asked readers who had given birth in a less than ideal situation if they had any advice for someone facing the same challenge.
Giving Birth in a Crisis
Here are some great words of encouragement for people who might be facing a birth they didn’t plan for.
Panicking never helps.
“I just gave birth to my second 2 days ago during this pandemic. My first I gave birth to right before a 100 year flood in my town. Expect to make a lot of contingency plans and then expect them to change. Panic doesn’t ever help. Try to stay calm and remember to be present, don’t live in worry over tomorrow. Laboring with a mask on isn’t as bad as I thought it would be but it still sucks. You can do this even if your partner or doula can’t be there.”
Be ok with emotions.
“I gave birth alone after my son’s father ghosted me. While I had a little more time to prepare for that… I will say this. Giving birth is less than ideal situations is the most empowering thing you will ever do. Be totally ok with having a lot of emotions. Just let it all out! Personally, I chose not to have a support person because I needed to be able to let every emotion out without shame. Women are absolutely amazing and you can do this.”
Just be gentle.
“I had my baby 2 months after leaving my abusive husband. It was, despite my daughter’s birth, one of the worst days of my life because of all the emotions I was dealing with on top of the physical pain, etc. my biggest piece of advice is to be gentle with yourself. I was embarrassed that I wasn’t stoic and “strong” – that I cried during labor, mourning the family I wanted and that I was doing it alone. I wanted to do it without drugs but by the end I gave in – I just couldn’t deal with the physical pain well when my mental state was so burdened and I had no support. Just be gentle. Let yourself be sad.”
Mourn the loss of the expected.
“The best piece of advice I got after my oldest son’s traumatic birth was to let yourself mourn the loss of the expected. Be sad that the situation wasn’t what you thought it was going to be. Be sad that your birth plan didn’t go as expected. Be sad that you didn’t have the perfect birth. But then move on from that. Focus on the new reality of the situation, focus on your health, focus on baby. Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed, talk about your emotions and your fears, talk about all the things you thought would happen and didn’t, and talk about all the things that went right despite the situation. Try to stay grounded.”
Tremendous highs and lows.
“We had our first child 4 weeks early during SARS and was in crisis. We found out that the baby was breach that my blood pressure was sky rocketing and then that our daughter was 2lbs.
Let me tell you everything that could have gone wrong went wrong, we were scheduled for an emergency c section but our little fighter said no way and decided she wasn’t waiting. She was born tiny but healthy and as a result of how little she was she needed to stay in the hospital during SARS for a month. I had to stay for a week.
I will tell you that there are tremendous highs and lows when you give birth during a crisis but what I will say is the nurses, the doctors, the staff were all incredible. The procedures they took kept us safe, kept Kailey safe. It was hard not being able to have family visit but my mom arranged for people to drop off food at the front or give it to the security guards. Friends dropped off letters and little pictures or magazines for us. We will never forget going through SARS with a baby but she is healthy and beautiful and we survived it all. It is a story we will never forget.”
You can do anything when you have to.
“My husband was deployed. I drove myself to the hospital in active labor, ended up with a traumatic birth, needed a blood transfusion, and 2 days later I drove me and baby home. I was alone for it all except for some awesome nurses. I’ve always said that you can do anything when you have to, and this was no different. It sucked, but then it’s over and you discover some real strength you didn’t know you had. Plus a baby is pretty much the greatest reward you can take home when you go through that kind of situation.”
The big picture.
“I had 2 births that didn’t go as planned. I wish I knew at the time that the sadness and disappointment would be nothing compared to the joy of watching my kids grow up.”
“Take it moment by moment and concentrate on a healthy baby as opposed to all the extra outside stuff. I had an emergency c-section, due to placenta previa, my baby was 4 weeks early so I definitely felt that I had lost all control. But focusing on what’s best for my baby and myself, I went through it, and although painful, I had a healthy baby girl, which in the end, is all that mattered. Be strong, be safe, be flexible to change and embrace your new story as it unfolds.”
Let go of normal.
“Our third was born while my husband was overseas – and she was five weeks old when he came home. My only advice is to “let go of what others say is normal.” This is your story. Rarely is anything perfect or ideal, and you are doing this during this time because you CAN handle it. Everyone’s story is different – yours just had a major twist that will ultimately have people giving you mad amounts of respect. You’ve got this.”
It is what it is.
“My twin pregnancy resulted in HELLP at 29 weeks. When I was being wheeled into my c-section at 2:00 am on Xmas morning I remember specifically thinking “this isn’t the plan and isn’t the ideal, BUT this is the birth of your babies. Remember this moment”. I repeated that a lot during our NICU stay, “it’s not the ideal, but it is what it is and you’ll want to remember this”. I decided to embrace the sweetness instead of staying in the sorrow (not to say I didn’t have days of sorrow and pity parties ).”
You are strong enough.
“I was being triaged in labor and delivery while on the phone with my husband’s oncologist, who was recommending hospice care for my husband, who passed away three days later. My words of encouragement are that it’s okay to feel cheated out of what you wanted pregnancy and birth to be like, but even if it’s a scary or traumatic time, you are strong enough to get through it because you have someone to fight for, to be strong for. I’m sorry for the mamas who have the burden of fear during this time, but it does prepare you a bit more for the chaos of motherhood – you can feel empowered by what you’ve already overcome.”