You might think it’s a ridiculous question and one with an obvious answer: of course not.
But with the UK in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic labouring and giving birth alone is suddenly a very real possibility facing expectant mamas like me.
At the time of writing (March 30) in our neck of the woods (Brighton and Hove) birth partners are now banned from theatres, antenatal wards and post natal wards, meaning anyone needing a planned or emergency cesarean must go through the experience alone.
One birthing partner is allowed to be there during active labour and delivery, assuming they are showing no symptoms of coronavirus and haven’t in the 14 days prior to labour, but after that they must leave the hospital – and their partner and new baby behind. The rules are changing daily – and when I say daily I mean sometimes several times a day – and I’m terrified it means I’m going to be forced to labour and birth alone.
Will I be forced to give birth alone?
At the time of writing I have just under two weeks until my due date, and I’m booked in for a hospital birth. Our hospital trust is ‘currently’ allowing one birth partner during labour and delivery – the operative word being currently. Hospitals in Ireland are already banning birth partners completely and goodness knows what the situation will be like here in two weeks’ time.
Then there’s the added anxiety that if anyone in our household displays symptoms of coronavirus between now and then Misery Guts won’t be allowed to come with me.
You might also think there’s the option of home birth instead, but (unsurprisingly) hospital trusts up and down the country are withdrawing home birth services – including ours. The problem is ambulances – or lack of them: if we needed to be transferred to hospital for any reason they simply don’t have the paramedics and ambulances available.
Also unsurprisingly, demand for private midwifery services has gone through the roof and if we had the money it’s certainly something I’d explore for peace of mind that I won’t be forced to labour and give birth alone. But we don’t, so we can’t.
This is my fourth baby and even though I’ve done this three times before it’s not something I would ever entertain doing alone, so I feel desperately sorry for all the first time parents out there – especially the mamas who already know they’re going to need a c-section. I simply cannot imagine being wheeled into theatre for an emergency or planned c-section without someone you know there to hold your hand, speak for you, offer reassurance and support you.
The end of pregnancy can be worrying enough knowing labour is imminent, without the added anxiety of being forced to go through it alone and without the support of the birth partner you had no reason to think would be banned from being there, missing out on both the birth and the first few precious hours.
It should also be an exciting time – the end of what feels like a very long road when you relax and rest as much as possible, excitedly shop for last minute bits and bobs and sleep as much as you can before you finally get to meet your baby. But instead, at the time of writing and with my maternity leave non-existent owing to the schools and nurseries being closed and three kids at home, I’m exhausted and filled with nothing but anxiety, fear and dread.
Are you due to give birth in the next few weeks or know someone who is? If you have any tips for coping or have any words of wisdom I’d love to hear what they are!