Psiquiatra infantil y perinatal, madre y activista
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Dear pregnant mother,

Several close Friends have asked me to write this letter to you. Perhaps you are surprised that I call you “mother” if you are expecting your first child, but the truth is, I believe we are mothers from the moment we accept carrying a baby inside of us and bringing forth a new life into the world. So the first thing I feel I need to do is congratulate you for your pregnancy.

Carrying a child to term, gestating, is a beautiful endeavor that our society barely values nor honors. On the contrary, often pregnant women are given hardly any recognition nor help, and are not cared for. However, carrying a child is delicate, precious, important, a time of calm to remember all our lifetime. I often ask mothers at what  time they realized they were pregnant, and many answer that they knew or intuited it before doing any kind of pregnancy test. Many feel the presence of the new little being practically from conception.

Pregnancy, as you well know, not only transforms our body, it also transforms our brain and the way we relate to life. As the infant grows in our uterus, during those nine months, our mind opens to memories from our childhood. This makes sense, if you think about it.. We review the way we ourselves were mothered, parented, while we decide how we will mother our own child. We are also more sensitive – during the last months of pregnancy, we are fine-tuned to perceive other people´s emotions. This is a gift from nature, preparing us to be highly empathic to our baby and offer the best care. This is a gift, but it can also make us suffer, sice it makes us more vulnerable and more apt to worry.

So I imagine that being pregnant in the midst of a pandemic has you quite worried. So much fear worldwide, so many unanswered questions and doubts…

If you are in your first months of pregnancy, you might be worried about the harm that can befall your developing baby if you become infected with coronavirus. The truth is we don’t know, but to this day we have no data showing that the infection can harm your unborn baby through you, so I dare to say you can be calm about it. It does not seem that coronavirus can get through the placenta to your baby.

If you are in the last months of your pregnancy and hearing about hospital birth practices in this crisis, you may feel worried or anxious thinking about your birth and the days after it. You might be afraid to go to a hospital where you may get infected, or if you are infected now you may be afraid that you will be separated from your baby after birth. Multiple scenarios… The truth is, there are a lot of conflicting hospital protocols that change daily. I would like to share some insights with you, in case they can be of help:

  1. Confidence is like a muscle: it can be exercised. Breathe deep – thinking of a loved one or a beloved place can help you feel more confident. Each time we have a surge of oxytocin, we feel more confidenceCaresses, massages, good food, eye to eye contact, dancing, orgasms… these are now more necessary than ever. Meditation and visualizations can also be very helpful.
  2. TRUST even more: in your body, that knows how to give birth, and in your baby, who knows how to be born. Celebrate that you have come to the end of your pregnancy, look at what a magnificent job your body is doing. Birth begins when baby is ready and signals your body and it is good to respect that moment, as baby will be ready to adapt to the new world. Coronavirus infection is not a reason to program an induced birth or program a cesarean section, unless your medical condition requires it. If you have a pneumonia that makes it hard for the baby to receive oxygen in the uterus, in that case there may be need to program the birth. If so, it may be useful for you to plan how you and your family will cope in case you are separated from your baby.
  3. Trust your healthcare providers (probably most of them women). None of them want to harm you. It is very possible that they, too, are scared, working under pressure in difficult conditions, with hardly time to think or care about their own needs. If you can, tell them so and thank them. Instead of confronting them, think about how to help them to help you ion the best way possible. Maybe you can rehearse the conversations you would like to have at the hospital, this helps so that it won’t be fear that guides you. You can practice out loud, phrases like: thank you for supporting me. I have been waiting for this moment for many months, and I know I will remember it all my life. It is important for me to receive my baby as well as possible. Write how you would like the conversation to go, practice to be respectful and assertive. With your partner and family, prepare for how you want to meet your baby.
  4. Look for information about your rights and your baby´s rights in your local birthing and breastfeeding coalitions. This information will also help you decide where to give birth. In several European countries, home birth is being suggested for uncomplicated pregnancies.
  5. If you feel you are too worried, if you cannot sleep or if relaxing seems impossible, if you are very sad and cannot enjoy anything… you are not alone! And none of this is your fault! Reach out for help!!! (I write this knowing that asking for help can be difficult – it is for me, too!). There are many perinatal health care professionals ready to answer your call, by phone, email, Skype, Zoom, Hangouts, WhatsApp, etc.

The last thing I would like to share with you is perhaps the most difficult one. It is this: try to enjoy the now, the here, this moment, consciously and wholly. You are pregnant, your baby is with you, inside you. Perhaps later you will miss this time of pregnancy and be sad you were not into it. Being conscious of this and putting your wellbeing first may help you celebrate each day, may help you protect yourself from excess information, prepare for your baby´s arrival, visualize your birth, sing and enjoy everything you can! Keep loving and trusting life.

All the best

Ibone

Link to letter in ARABIC:

https://eipmh.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Letter-to-a-Pregnant-Mother-Translated-Arabic.pdf 

Art by Susanna Carmona

Translated by Carmela K Baeza, MD IBCLC

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