Louis's Birth
Soraia Torres Lage

Louie was born on the 21st of March, on the first official day that our local hospital implemented the policy of not allowing a companion with the mother during labour and no visitors after the birth. As expected this scenario wasn't in our plans, from A to Z. In the middle of so many other uncertainties, natural and legitimate during such special and delicate moment, we had no time to process the news.

As a way to contribute and help anyone that might be anxious about the COVID-19 outbreak during pregnancy and childbirth I wrote a testimony that can help you prepare and rethink your labour and birth experience:

Regardless of the situation you might encounter when going into labour, you can never loose sight of your main goal: to bring to your life and to your home a healthy baby. Even if you feel that the birth experience you've dreamed of is taken away from you, no one can take away from you the power of giving your baby the best birth possible within the circumstances and, above all, the power of the urgency you'll have to protect him.

So, agreeing or not with these measures, face them as a form of protection - yours and your baby's. Of course you'd most likely rather have the support of your partner, your mother, your doula, etc. And that support can be vital to the development of labour. But nothing is as important as your determination to do and give your best for your baby, which at the time is to offer him protection. Even if it is incredibly hard - because it is, no point in denying it - just focus on the safety and health of your baby.

Adapt your birth plan - or start new one from scratch - and hold on to it with all you have. It wasn't easy for me to follow our birth plan because we had no time to change it to reflect the new reality. So if you still have the time please reflect on it and keep a copy with you at all times so you can remind yourself of your priorities as many times as needed. Not having someone with you protecting your bubble is extremely challenging so you need to build the fences on your own, sometimes with a strength you didn't know you had.

It is also very important to clarify beforehand as much as possible all of your doubts with your hospital and/or midwife. Take with you all the essentials you'll need, even the most basic ones like water and snacks that might not be provided. Without a companion you won't have someone to count on to help you with those small things that can make all the difference.

Technologies: headphones and charger were a must for me. I never thought I'd even touch my phone during labour and it turned out to be an absolute life saver. We had prepared a music playlist for the day so I kept it on repeat with my headphones in order to protect my bubble - or at that point our bubble, mine and Louie's. Together and alone navigating all of those hours of waiting, discomfort, pain and surreality. Video calls were also very important. I called Patrick anytime I needed to cry, to hear a word of comfort and support, to soldier through one more contraction with company or simply to pass the time. He wasn't there physically but he never left my side.

And this is a very important part: the father. The birth is not exclusive to the baby and the mother, it is also the birth of a father. That moment was forever stolen from Patrick and that is probably one of the most heartbreaking parts of it all. But in a way it gave me strength to give my best to make Louie's welcome into this world the best that I could. I was solely capable to do it - or at least to try it - and felt the responsibility to find that strength.

When your baby is finally on your chest for the first time nothing else in the world matters. All those hours before disappear. I sort of knew that before it happened, so I kept repeating to myself over and over again that sooner or later he'd be with me, I kept breathing slowly and profoundly, countless times trying to find some calm and energy. Do not underestimate the importance of breathing, it can be key to keeping you going.

After birth, the days and nights alone with a newborn baby can be challenging. With no visitors popping in or the helping hand you counted on having. Your baby is there needing your care and you only just started to get to know him, with a body and mind needing recovery and a flow of hormones to manage. But also with a unique opportunity to connect with your baby - with no intrusions, no external opinions, only with your instinct and, of course, the help of the medical professionals that will be there for you.

Accept the challenge, feel the power of motherhood and think that everything is temporary. Before you know it you'll be home with your baby and he'll keep on showing you that from now on your ability to love and to be altruistic has grown with no comparison. Labour and birth are only the beginning of a journey with so many other incredible moments to look forward.
Perspective on Soraia's Labour
Patrick Sale

It was incredibly hard to accept the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to be by Soraia’s side during her labour and the birth of our son. All the build up and preparation for this unique day was undone and I had to quickly reconfigure my mind.

What kept me strong was knowing that my absence from the hospital was the safest thing for Louie, Soraia and myself. Also keeping me going was the incredible determination and focus that Soraia somehow managed to maintain throughout. I had never felt so grateful for the strength of our bond: it really was a case of working together to get through this.

I spent a lot of the day in virtual touch with Soraia (thank god for technology) as well as with family and friends. I also vlogged the experience to help get the thoughts and feelings out into the open and not stay bottled up inside. I ate a little food, did a bit of cleaning and house preparation - small tasks to stay occupied.

But I would be lying if I said it was easy - because it really wasn’t. Time seemed to tick by so slowly, and at no point could I relax and settle my nerves. It was an endurance test of my own (although nothing compared to Soraia’s, obviously).

t was actually on a video call from Soraia that I first saw and e-met Louie - lying on Soraia’s chest with eyes open, calmly looking out at the world. I was able a few hours later to spend a few precious minutes with both of them before having to leave again for what would turn out to be almost 48 hours.

My overriding emotion from this experience is gratitude. Gratitude for the incredible strength not just of Soraia but of our relationship, including all the wonderfully supportive family and friends around us. Of course I would have preferred to have been there at my wife’s side, but I can confidently say that we’re now stronger than ever.

Soraia and Patrick's version of Jamie Oliver's Soda Bread Recipe

Ingredients:

2 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup of spelt flour
1 cup of rye flour
2 cups of milk
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 tablespoon of honey
2 handfuls of oats
2 handfuls of sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Good pinch of salt

How to do it:

- Pre-heat the over 200 degrees
- Mix all the ingredients in a bowl
- Transfer to a surface with some flour
- Put some flour in your hands (the dough is quite wet)
- Knead it for a couple of minutes just to get it nice and stretchy
- Lightly oil a baking tray
- Make a round shape with the dough and transfer it to the baking tray
- Brush some olive oil on top of the dough with your hands
- Sprinkle some oats
- Bake for about 30 min