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'This Is Not Natural And Normal': Bringing Babies Into The World Amid The Coronavirus

Courtesy Erica Richards

Certified Nurse Midwife Erica Richards provides healthcare for women from adolescence through to menopause – and a lot of that care includes helping women with pregnancy and bringing babies into the world. Here she tells us about how Personal Protective Equipment may affect the birth process – from her own, health care provider perspective.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

"I think one of the biggest struggles for me is that I think most of the time labor is natural and normal. And it just sort of hit me the other day as I’m putting on this N95 mask, and I have this crazy uncomfortable mask on. And then for a little while, we were being told to wear a normal surgical mask over that. So I had that on, and then I had goggles on over and thought, this is not natural and normal. And yet, I’m in this process. It’s a life-changing event for people. And it just sort of makes me sad, that this is what this mom’s recollection of her birth experience is going to be. Hopefully it’s funny. But in the moment for me, it’s just like, for the love of God, this isn’t what this is about. And I just got sort of mad at the coronavirus, that this is what we’re dealing with.

"Again, another frustrating piece of it is like I smile at my patients a lot, probably more than I even realize. But I don’t know that they can see that anymore. And then when you’re trying to have a conversation, particularly like talking to a woman postpartum about the signs and symptoms to be mindful of when we’re talking about discharge, I find myself not able to breathe because you just can’t get that breath of air as freely as you normally would. And I’m generally a fast talker, so maybe it’s a good idea that it’ll help me slow down a little bit.

"I try to keep it in perspective. Hopefully, this is not the way it’s going to be for too much longer. We’re still permitting people to have a support person, where I know some hospitals across the country are not. You know, as much as this situation is really hard, we’re all going through it together, whether we want to be or not. It feels very overwhelming, but none of us are alone. Hopefully for many patients who are going to be having babies in June, I don’t have to wear my mask and hopefully they can have as many people in the room that they want but you know, right our sadly not able to make any promises."

If you have a story to share about life during the pandemic, write to us at TellMeMore@mainepublic.org and let us know the best way to reach you.