• Lisa Paul IBCLC

Finding the flow for my fellow birth workers

Some of you may know me as a lactation consultant, some of you may remember me as a childbirth educator. Over ten years ago I started a local chapter of the Birth Network to bring our birth community together. Then I left Knoxville for a time to travel to Costa Rica, and then move to a farm in a rural county an hour south of Knoxville. I was disconnected for a while, and in the last 4 years have gotten more involved in Knoxville again by opening up a private practice in lactation. I have seen much happen in our birth community in the last decade. From an explosion of doulas, to opening and closing of birth centers, to new technology (like Facebook) creating community and connection where there was none before.

This morning while checking Facebook I realized that our birth community is experiencing a high level of uncharted territory. We may be looking for leadership, and finding none. Or we are distrusting the leadership that is there. I mean, what midwife/doula/childbirth educator/lactation support person hasn't disagreed with some arcane policy that hinders a mom to labor, breastfeed or sleep NATURALLY with her baby. We are used to questioning policies, going against the status quo and advocating for our families when what is being suggested is potentially going to cause harm. We talk about informed consent and seeing all sides of a procedure before making a decision. We are the rebels of the birth world.

So how do we respond in the face of an pandemic where no one really has answers and it is keeping us from doing the work we think that we are called to do? When hospitals are limiting visitors/doula support and moms are scared to even labor in the hospital. Do we step up and fill that void of support and do more and be more?

No. We (birth workers) do not. We step back and we re-evaluate. We ask ourselves some hard questions.

  • Can I with 100% certainty know that I am not a carrier of COVID-19?

  • How would I feel if the grandparent of a new baby that I helped at the hospital/home/office came down with COVID-19 and died?

  • And they traced back that infection to me?

  • Am I 100% certain that my family members who I live and interact with are free from infection and not engaging in behavior that puts them at risk, like going grocery shopping?

  • Have I done ALL the things each and every time I have gone out into community to keep me from infection?

  • Do I even know what ALL the things are? (Are you aware of every surface you may or may not touch, do you wear gloves, was the package of greens you picked up handled by anyone besides yourself?)

  • If I am seeing clients, do I know that they are doing ALL the things in their daily lives to keep them from being a carrier?

After asking myself these hard questions, and having interaction with other health professionals in different fields, I have decided that seeing moms and babies in person is irresponsible in light of what we know about COVID-19 and the testing (or lack thereof) available. I want to support hospitals, and other facilities making hard choices about limiting visitors. My soul wants to rebel against all these restrictions and say but these mamas need us! Instead of fighting, I am thinking "how can I support these moms & babies in the most safe way for them and me?" For one, I have implemented 100% telehealth in my practice. It is not ideal, by no means, but it is an option. There are free platforms like doxy.me that are HIPAA compliant platforms with enough bells and whistles to support most birth workers. I have also self-isolated, told my son and husband that if they want to be with me, they must as well, and have upped my meditation practice.

If you are not sure what you need to be doing with your business or your clients in this time, I am happy to connect via email or phone (865-582-6585) to brainstorm with you how you can best support your clients in the next couple of weeks.

It took me a week to figure out that I needed to change my practice, and if it weren't for my friends in a variety of fields, I would be struggling still with the indecision. At least temporarily I am shedding my rebel persona and going with the "flow" coming from big medicine and the CDC. The flow may look a little rocky right now, but there is still a path! I commend all of those who are trying to figure "it" out by yourself and making decisions based on the information available. You are not alone! Reach out if you need support.

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