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Virtual Doula-ing During Covid-19 By Amara Minnis, CCE(BWI), CD(DONA)

These are unprecedented times. Have you heard? Of course you have. And you have probably
said that same thing yourself. We are throwing this phrase about so much with the COVID-19
pandemic that it is becoming alarmingly normal to be living in unprecedented times. Everyone
has been impacted by the adjustments that have been made to preserve health and safety. And
right about now, if it hasn’t already, it’s become a struggle. I’ve got to be honest, when I first
learned of the restrictions at our local hospitals, I was angry. I was upset that the women who
had chosen to have doulas at their birth would be forced to decide between having their
partner present or their doula. But when I took some time to reflect on the severity of the
situation, my heart was settled knowing that the restrictions were made for the health and
safety of everyone, including me. So I changed my thinking and jumped on board with my doula
sisters in being creative and inventive during the pandemic.
At the heart of the matter, my work as a doula is the same as it always has been. We have our
prenatal visit and our postpartum visit, only now it occurs virtually using Facetime or Zoom. It’s
important more than ever that we connect and discuss fears and worries about the upcoming
birth. It’s coming together as a team, and an opportunity for me to reassure and encourage
during what is such an uncertain and to some, scary time to have a baby. I am present for my
clients, offering reassurance and nonjudgmental support. And then postpartum, when stay in
place mandates have limited or eliminated the option of postpartum help from family and
friends, it’s critical that I check-in with my clients to see how they are doing and to answer any
questions or give any encouragement I can. It’s easy to feel isolated after giving birth in
ordinary times. In a pandemic, it’s pretty much a guarantee.
While the current situation has made it so I am not physically present in their birth space, I’m
still a presence at their birth. Let me elaborate. Some clients have chosen to have steady
support by way of video, using Facetime or Zoom. We are in touch in early labor same as
always, by phone or text. Then when their labor intensifies to the point that they would
summon me to join them, we setup the video connection and I am there. The words are the
same, the questions are those I would ask in person, and the recommendations are as the
situation warrants (cold cloth, position changes, comfort measures). Sometimes I am quiet,
assessing, watching and listening, ready to help when the need arises. But we know that
women are made to birth and as such staying silent is as important or more so, than speaking.
Some clients have preferred steady connection the whole way through with text and phone
calls and so I have honored that preference too.
I have been so very pleased with the reception I have received as a virtual doula in our area
hospitals as well. The nurses are working so hard to take care of their patients with the added
stress that comes with working in the medical field during a pandemic. And they have
graciously welcomed me to the birth space virtually. They have helped to incorporate me by
moving the laptop when the partner has forgotten, so I have a better view of my client. I have
had conversations with the nurse, midwife, or doctor when there is reason to talk about options and to encourage the birthing woman as a team. We are all still connected, still have the same goal, and still have a job to do.
While the current situation has its challenges, I am grateful to still have the opportunity to
serve my clients. There is more need for doula support more than ever, with such a feeling of
uncertainty day by day, and the fear about bringing new life into a world that feels so unsafe.
As doulas we can still do what we do best—support our clients, offer reassurance and
encouragement, and to be a lifeline when they feel disconnected from the world. Hopefully, we
can return to being a physical presence sooner rather than later. But for now, this will work. We
have a job to do. And our clients are counting on us.