The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unimaginable effect on everyone. Uncertainty, anxiety, lockdowns, restrictions, physical distancing, etc. have taken their toll. From personal experience, this pandemic has been particularly stressful for pregnant and birthing women, with added worry about the effects of the virus on the pregnancy and unborn baby. I gave birth to two babies (my third and fourth children) during this pandemic: a girl born in March 2020 and a boy born in July 2022. The new COVID-19 protocols were very unsettling. Not being permitted to bring one’s spouse to appointments, and prenatal appointments over the phone were not fun.
Notwithstanding the times, pregnancy and childbirth have been the most profound events in my life. I am grateful to have had wonderful, organic birth experiences, in large part because midwifery supported each of my pregnancies as a normal, healthy process instead of a scary medical event.
I am grateful to the midwives who gave choice of birthplace during this pandemic. Women experiencing low- risk pregnancy have the choice to give birth in hospital, at a freestanding birthing centre or at home. Midwives are the only care providers in Ontario who receive highly specialized education and training to help women safely give birth at home. This highlights the personal sacrifice that midwives make, having to negotiate their own concern with being in someone else’s home and the risks to their own health associated with that during a pandemic.
After reading literature on my birthing options, I decided that I wanted to birth at home. In fact, three of my four children were born at home. Home provided a safe, calm, and healthy environment to labour and deliver my babies without having to go to an overrun hospital or worry about whether my baby and I were at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 in a hospital setting. It also allowed my other children to meet the new baby right away. Given that my house was built in 1866 and home birth was common until the early 20th century, I can’t help but wonder how many babies were born in this house. Lots, I assume, although I am grateful for improved sanitation and the skill set of today’s midwives, who no doubt made my home births much safer than they were in the past.
Did you know that there is excellent Canadian research* that shows that home is one of the safest places to birth a baby for healthy women whose pregnancies fall into a low-risk category? Many factors contribute to the safety of midwife-attended home births in Ontario. Midwives are regulated health professionals with extensive university education specific to births and responding to emergencies. My husband met our midwife at the front door and helped carry in two large, heavy duffle bags with an impressive amount of medical equipment, sterile instruments, medications, and birthing supplies comparable to those available in a birthing centre or hospital that provides Level I care. This allows the midwives to closely monitor mother and baby to prevent complications and manage emergencies should they arise.
It is with deep appreciation that I acknowledge my midwives, Amanda and Rosie (2022) and Whitney and Jessica (2020). They’ve worked tirelessly and at great personal sacrifice during this pandemic to help women experience the greatest celebration of life—childbirth.
According to Megan Reilkoff, these two sources of information are the best:
1. Association of Ontario Midwives, Guideline for discussing choice of birthplace with clients, 2016, available online at: Choice of birthplace.pdf ( https://www.ontariomidwives.ca/cob )
2. Expert Advisory Panel on Choice of Birthplace, Association of Ontario Midwives, Guideline for discussing choice of birthplace with clients: Methodology and review of evidence, 2016, available online at: Choice of Birthplace | AOM ( https://www.ontariomidwives.ca/cob )