Supporting pregnant women and their partners is an essential service

It’s 2am and I can’t sleep. I’ve been awake for the last two hours feeling anxious about my pregnancy. I’m 35 weeks as of today, 18 April 2020. We arrived in Broken Hill five weeks ago – on the 12 March – and it was the 13 March that Prime Minister Scott Morrison began announcing social distancing laws. First it was banning gatherings of 500 or more and we all know how that has changed quite dramatically since then. In Broken Hill, a town of about 20,000 people, there have been two known cases of coronavirus and according to the local news, those two people have now completely recovered.

Since we arrived in Broken Hill I’ve had just one midwifery appointment. At that appointment, on the 25 March when I was just over 31 weeks pregnant, I was told that it looked like birthing, parenting and breastfeeding classes (3 x 2 hour sessions in April) would be cancelled. (Before we moved to Broken Hill we visited the hospital and pre-warned them we would be coming in the next couple of months. I had inquired about the timing of the birth classes and it was a factor in when we timed our move to Broken Hill.) At the appointment I was also told that the postnatal mum’s group – where they have monthly meetings and talk about care for babies etc  –  has been postponed indefinitely.

On the 6 April I’d had a call from someone at the hospital to confirm classes had been cancelled (scheduled for the 7, 14 and 21 April) and that my midwife would be taking me ‘through things’. It had been a good week and I hadn’t heard from my midwife so I called earlier this week to find out what was happening only to discover my midwife was on leave for the week.  My next scheduled appointment is with the midwife and obstetrician this coming week. If there is any intention (which I suspect not) of taking me through six hours of material before 37 weeks, they are leaving it rather late!

Since I’ve been here in Broken Hill I’ve been very thankful that its been some generous individuals on the interwebs who have provided some learnings and preparation for pregnant women like myself. I want to say a big thank-you to Physio Laura for arranging some free live classes on her Instagram page. She ran one about birthing preparation and breathing, Amberley Harris from Maternal Instincts, a breastfeeding consultant, ran a one hour lesson about breastfeeding and Jen Butler ran a one hour parenting class. As I’ve watched, I’ve noticed that some of these live feeds have had up to 700 people tune in to watch. The women have online courses you can sign up and pay for so obviously it’s also an opportunity for them to let people know about what they offer. I had signed up and paid for an online birthing course already but all courses sound really good too. If money and time were an endless resource, I would sign up to everything.

As I’ve been processing things the last couple of weeks I’ve felt really let down and disappointed by NSW Health and questioning the decisions that have been made. Birthing classes have been cancelled but that hasn’t changed the fact that my baby is coming, coronavirus or not. We are not talking about putting off a haircut or my desire to have my eyebrows waxed because I look so unkept or even a body massage because my body is sore. I want to be informed about having a baby and be as ready as I can be. The private sector has been innovative and creative in providing information to expectant mums (and dads).

There is no doubt that my own isolation is compounded by the coincidence that our move to Broken Hill has happened just as social distancing laws have been introduced. But that’s life. I don’t understand why the birthing classes could not be run online in Broken Hill? Why did they just shut up shop (as it appears) and decide it was non-essential? As a new person to Broken Hill without family or friends and a first-time mum, a zoom chat could have connected us to other mums (and dads) in Broken Hill and provided that initial introduction.

I suspect many of us are beginning to reflect on decisions made by our leaders in this crisis. I’ve provided a specific example of a poor decision that’s impacted pregnant women. There has been a lack of foresight, creativity and adaptability. These are unprecedented times but that doesn’t mean we just accept the decisions that have been made as ‘good enough’. It’s time to speak up. I’ll be asking the hospital this week why these postnatal mums group can not be run online. It would be something.

**Post updated recently. I said Motherly Instincts instead of Maternal Instincts when referring to Amberley Harris’ business.

6 thoughts on “Supporting pregnant women and their partners is an essential service

  1. Well said Kath. Glad you have been able to have some informative online sessions. The missing part is the human connection. We pray all goes well & you meet some friends somehow, soon.
    Sending hugs.

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  2. Kath, I will pray hard for you. As if moving during later pregnancy isn’t enough. Going country, during a pandemic to a town you know no one in! Huge!!! I think it’s awesome that you are using your gift of writing to move people, hopefully into action! Praying that when you connect with the hospital they hear your ideas, so that you and others can benefit!
    Don’t feel alone in your worries. Even as a mum with regular appointments, with family near by and access to birthing classes (which we honestly found useless!), I felt alone and scared of the unknown! There are many lovely stories of men and women who have formed strong friendships from attending these classes and groups, but there is also stories like ours, where we didn’t. Out of three births, only attending the birthing classes the first time around, and three mothers groups I have just a few friends that I’ve stayed in touch with, but don’t really see.
    I guess what I am saying is that you’ve got this. You are strong, in a beautiful marriage and you’ve done the right thing by seeking preparation via the means available. Even though you will spend time feeling so alone (I know I did! I felt extremely alone as none of our friends had kids at the same time as us!), friendships will come, babies and children make it extremely easy to connect once out and about.
    Lots of love to you both,
    Sing out if you ever want a chat. Motherhood is a wonderful, scary, tiring, consuming and beautiful journey. You’ve got this. Xx

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  3. Kath I feel quite concerned about this issue as well. I have so many young pregnant first time Mums for whom the information and connection these services provide is absolutely essential in my view. And in a 15 minute routine appointment with either the midwife or doctor every few weeks, there’s definitely no way you can cover even a small amount of the content a birth class provides. I think online options are definitely doable and at least in the interim would be a reasonable substitute. For preparation for labour, I really like the book ‘Birth Skills’ by Juju Sundin.

    If you would ever like to chat through anything birth related then please feel free to give me a call!

    Xx Sarah Jensen

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    1. Thanks Sarah. Yeh definitely good to have some online solutions available through private businesses. Think just being in a new town compounds the issue for me when I’m wanting to develop relationships here locally. It will come in time.

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