March 25, 2020
Reflections on Day 12 of Social Distancing
The word midwife possibly comes from an Old English word meaning “with woman”. This refers to the person, usually another female, assisting a laboring woman. Today, Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNM) provide many more services than attending labor and birth; however, central to our role are the women we serve. CNMs are known for the “high touch, low tech” approach to women’s healthcare, and we spend much of our time touching hands, bellies, babies, listening and talking with women. Tears are shed, both in joyful moments and over worries, and hugs are generously doled out. Today as much as ever, we are “with women” during this confusing and worrying time, in spite of less face to face time with our patients and their families.
While thinking about how day 10 for many postpartum mothers is often the day cabin fever sets in, I was interrupted the other day by my middle school-age daughter who brought me the news of Gov. Northam’s announcement that all schools will remain closed for this academic year. I immediately turned my thoughts to countless families who are in the same situation as I: adapting to an altered work schedule and facing the challenges of establishing new habits both in and outside home.
Recently, I have spent significant time counseling women through strategies to manage new stressors and anxieties, often stemming from uncertainty, the disappointment of cancelled social and family events, and the disruption of routines. Many women are facing challenges in the workplace: reduced hours or eliminated jobs, shortage of basic supplies, and shifting roles in responsibilities or childcare. And, it bears pointing out, not everyone relishes homeschooling or copes well with limited social interactions.
I want to emphasize that no one is in this alone, and sometimes just knowing that a friend, neighbor, or colleague is experiencing the same frustrations, sadness, or anxieties can alleviate the mix of emotions. When it’s not enough to reach out to a friend and vent a little to one another, there are other resources available. Postpartum Support Virginia offers online services, including counseling and groups, to pregnant and postpartum woman. For women in other stages of life, check online with your health insurance carrier or Employee Assistant Program (often available to spouses of employees with this benefit) for online counseling appointments. There are also apps to connect with a counselor, like TalkSpace.
If your children are now at home full time, they may also feel overwhelmed by the change in routine, reduced structure or socialization, and are getting antsy. Just like summer or winter break, we are quickly approaching the days that feel like too much of a good thing, without an end in sight. During this time, it is especially important to place self-care near the top of your priority list. If you are the primary caregiver at home, communicate with your spouse or another supportive adult to negotiate a designated time at the end of the day that you have to disengage and hand over responsibilities. If it isn’t feasible to have 30 minutes of self-care daily, identify at least 3 times a week you can be completely off-duty. Use the time to exercise, meditate, pray, practice yoga, or otherwise decompress in a healthy way. There are some great apps, podcasts and website to lead you in mindfulness practices. Here are a few: Plum Village (app), UCLA Mindful (app), 10% Happier (podcast), Mindful.org (website).
The American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM), the professional organization for CNMs and Certified Midwives, has a slogan: “With Women for a Lifetime”. The CNMs of WomanCare Centers and WomanCare Midwifery stand by you during this unusual period of time, whatever stage of life you are in, and we stand by to help you maintain your best health and well-being.
Ericka Lavin, CNM, WHNP-BC
WomanCare Centers/WomanCare Midwifery