Calm in the Storm: Birth During Coronavirus

Well, here we are caught up in a pretty tumultuous time. It seems like the whole world is in a frenzy and it’s completely understandable that expectant parents particularly feel the sting of anxiety and worry. The idea of giving birth during a pandemic is by all rights a scary one. While the world is in a constant state of flux, the truth remains that at its core, birth has not changed. The elemental truths of birth remain the same: birth is normal and natural, and at the end of the day, you can trust the process of birth.

If you think about it, birth by nature is fairly unpredictable. Now is the time to be flexible and to get your mind in a healthy space to work with your body to bring your baby Earthside.

Ever heard of the fear/tension/pain cycle? It’s the idea that the more fear we have, the more our bodies tense up. If our bodies are tense, we feel pain more acutely…and if we’re in pain, we tend to become more fearful, leading to more tension and pain. You can see how quickly this can spiral.

The antidote to fear is faith: faith in our bodies, in the process, in the truth. If we can switch that fear/tension/pain cycle to one of confidence/relaxation/coping then birth will be infinitely smoother. A calm body opens more easily than a tense, fearful one and the goal of birth is obviously to open up and let baby come out!

So, how do we flip the narrative? How can expectant parents turn the tables and bring calm into their birthing experience rather than the ever present anxiety and fear that seems to seep into every corner of our lives right now? Below are a few of my tips and tricks for finding calm in the storm.

Consider stepping away from the headlines for a bit. While it is important to stay up to date on the current events in your area, it is not good to do so to the detriment of your mental health. It does no good to speculate about the what-ifs and could-be’s because this is a rapidly developing situation that changes all the time. The future will take care of itself, so it’s important to do the next right thing and go about your day as normally as possible.

You’re allowed to feel your feelings. You’re allowed to mourn the birth experience that you desired but might not get to have. However this pandemic has changed the way you thought your birth would go, it’s completely natural to mourn the birth you hoped for and lost. The important thing is to allow yourself to feel that loss, but don’t stay there. Keep moving forward.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed focus on what you can control:

  • Take the time at home as a chance to finish up preparations – Pack your hospital bag, practice folding those sweet little footie pajamas, organize the diaper stash, make finishing touches on the nursery.
  • Practice your favorite birth positions and breathing techniques – If you don’t have anything specific in mind, just breathing deeply for several minutes is helpful, as are spending some time in the cat/cow position.
  • Try some Spinning Babies exercises…these are the best!
  • Meditate and go over your birth affirmations. – If you don’t have any affirmations yet, now is the time to write some!
  • Pray – If you are a religious person, now is the time to dig in with your practice. You may not be able to gather at your preferred place of worship, but you can take time every day to pray and lean into your faith. I’m sure your faith leaders would be happy to connect with you via phone, or you can explore podcasts and faith based music to help keep you calm.
  • Read or listen to positive birth stories – The Birth Hour podcast and Birth Without Fear have lots of birth stories to choose from.
  • Take a walk – Even if we’re social distancing, sunshine and fresh air are good medicine. If you can’t get outside, search YouTube for some pregnancy exercise videos…just make sure you’re being safe!
  • Journal or write notes to your baby – Consider setting up an email account for your child and send him/her messages that they’ll get to open in the future. They’ll treasure this virtual time capsule and it’s a great outlet for you, too. Win/win!
  • Laugh! – Laughter is such a good way to relieve tension and relax the body, whether you’re pregnant or not. Lucky for us, we live in the time of hilarious internet memes, Ellen Degeneres videos, and The Office…so go pick your favorite funny cat videos and have a chuckle.
  • Take charge of your mental health – If you truly feel yourself spiraling, talk to a professional. There are so many great online and phone resources available or you can contact your primary care doctor or your OB/midwife. They’re all there to help you and you’ll never be sorry for reaching out.

I always tell clients that birth is 98% mental. Now is the time to dig deep and remember what is true.

  •  Fear is a liar.
  • You are not doing this alone. All over the world women are laboring and delivering their babies. You are connected to generations and generations of birthing women who have walked the same road and are walking it with you.
  • No matter the circumstance, birth is a normal physiological event. You can trust your body to birth your baby.
  • Babies are born in less than ideal situations every day and do just fine. Yours will, too.
  • You have created a birth team of medical providers who are dedicated to keeping you and baby safe. They are experienced, well trained, and on your side. You can trust them.
  • You are mentally and physically strong and capable.

While this is an unprecedented time to be expecting, fighting panic with peace is the best course of action. I hope these ideas help you in the coming days as you prepare to deliver. I truly believe with all of my being that all will be well.

Peace and perseverance in all things, my friends!

Mary Susan


The Unhealthy Hustle

Where my postpartum anxiety/depression friends at? 🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️

“The more anxious we are, the more high-functioning we will make ourselves appear, which just encourages the world to lean on us more.” – Sarah Wilson

Anyone else identify strongly with this statement?

Personally I can easily say that the height of my PPA/PPD struggle was when I was hustling most to make it look like I wasn’t struggling at all. And guess what? I was incredibly convincing. Chalk it up to my expensive theater degree (thanks, Mom and Dad!) or to the overwhelming pressure I felt to not be perceived as weak or needy, but the more I struggled the more I hustled to cover it up.

It was exhausting. It was overwhelming. It was indescribably unhealthy. It did not serve me, my husband, our family, or the greater community in any way. None.

Repeat after me: Sometimes the hustle is not healthy.

If you’re hustling to further your career or keep your body strong or to achieve your goals, you go get it! I am proud of you for the work you’re putting in and I will cheer you on every step of the way.

However, if you’re hustling to prove to someone that you’re capable, to prove that you’re fine on your own, that you don’t need help, that’s a problem.

If you’re hustling to cover up feelings of shame, that’s not healthy.

If you’re hustling to keep up with any arbitrary cultural standard, that’s a problem.

If you’re hustling because you don’t feel like you’ll let people down if you step back or say no, that’s an issue.

If you’re newly postpartum or deep into that 4th Trimester of baby’s first year and you find yourself hustling, I want you to take a minute to question. Ask yourself, why am I so exhausted? Did I lose sleep? Am I feeling more than just blues? Am I struggling with extreme emotions like sadness or anger? Am I secretly over-using or becoming too dependent upon substances or other numbing mechanisms to cope? (Think misuse of food, alcohol, excessive social media use, etc.) Am I taking on new tasks or responsibilities because they’re things that bring me joy and satisfaction or because I feel obligated or because I want to make others happy with me?

If these questions strike a chord, you need to get creative and prioritize yourself. I know that’s hard, especially when you’re keeping kids alive and have other responsibilities. But remember, your family/baby/husband/coworkers also need you to prioritize yourself.

The height of the struggle is not the time to hustle more. It is time to prioritize rest and mental health. Remember, your schedule should reflect what works, not what’s “normal.” Be creative. I have a friend who spent the first two years of her baby’s life staying up all night and sleeping for most of the day. That’s what worked for her family and it was perfect. Do what works even if it seems bizarre to others.

It’s incredibly difficult to stop hustling, especially if you’re anxious and depressed. If you’re overwhelmed and you need help to stop the cycle, reach out. The lie says that you’re the only one struggling, you’re a burden, be quiet because your life is easier than most, and on and on and on. The truth is, everyone is struggling. Everyone. You are not a burden. Ever. Also, all the cool moms go to therapy. (That’s a little tongue in cheek but truthfully speaking, talking to an unbiased third party for the better part of a year saved my sanity. Therapists, counselors, priests, pastors, mentors, friends, support groups…they’re all there to listen and support. Use your resources. You will never regret it.) Constant hustling perpetuates the cycle. Just like in labor, the only way out is through. But also just like in labor, there are people ready and willing to support you. You don’t have to shoulder life all on your own. You’re worthy, my friend.

Need a place to start? Try the following resources:

On Receiving

Mama, you don’t have to do it alone. I know you’ve probably been fed a steady diet of American culture your entire life. You’ve been taught to value independence, hard work, self-sufficiency, and stick-to-it-iveness. If you happen to be a Texan like me, you were brainwashed at an early age to respect those who don’t aren’t dependent upon others to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get shit done.


But, Mama, what if I told you that’s all an impossibility? What if I told you that, while life does call on us to dig deep and be our own heroes from time to time, it’s often the grace of receiving that truly pulls us through.


It is hard to receive, so hard to accept help when it’s offered, much less dare to ask for it ourselves. So many of us would prefer to struggle under our burdens with forced smiles rather than to accept assistance when it is offered.




Because accepting help is admitting lack. Admitting lack. Everything in me recoils at the thought of that, of admitting that I’m lacking. There it is again, the culture rooted deep telling me that I’m supposed to have it together. I’m supposed to have it in me to be self-sufficient. I’m supposed to have, not lack.


But, Mama, we do lack. We do and that’s okay. The illusion of doing it all, juggling all the things, being self-sufficient, above all not being needy, it’s all a lie. It’s all an impossibility designed to alienate and isolate us.


I think it’s difficult to receive for a number of reasons. I struggle with it quite a lot, that feeling of shame for needing and lacking. But I think that receiving well pushes us out of our comfort zone beautifully. It’s hard to admit that we’re lacking in any way, and yet I don’t believe that “lack” has the power to change anything about our personal value or our identity, not in the way our culture would have us believe. Friend, the amount we do, the things we accomplish, the items we tick off our to-do lists, the amount of laundry folded (not put away, let’s not go completely crazy here), none of that truly speaks of our value as people. And more than just people, our ability to achieve or the fact that we lack bears no reflection of our worthiness as human beings carrying souls inherently anointed with dignity.


Obviously, I’m asking you to swim against the current. I’m asking you to reach out in a world that shames you for needing. But, Mama, I think we can both agree that we’d like to raise children who are able to ask for help when they need it. We want our kids to reach out to us when they need something, whether that’s demanding another trip to the bathroom (during which they’ll tell us to leave), or to help navigate middle-grade friendships, or to ask our advice on how to soothe their new babies so their wives can rest. If we want to raise these people, we have to be these people ourselves.


Receiving well requires humility. We have to be okay with our own lacking. We have to own our story and be willing to be vulnerable (for more on that, go read all the Brene Brown you can). And there’s always the argument that allowing people to help us is a blessing to them. Receiving big things from others is an opportunity to allow others to practice charity, something sorely needed in our communities. If someone offers something to you, whether its a small thing like a meal or something of more monetary value like an expensive stroller or a flight to visit your family, they’ve offered that thing because they wanted to, because they love you. The people in your life want to bless you. They really do or they wouldn’t offer.


All of this rambling to say, Mama you do not have to do this alone. You are allowed to want and need help. Hiring a postpartum doula or a housekeeper is not admitting defeat, it’s practicing good self care and allowing another person to provide for her own family, which is an amazing gift in and of itself. Using formula instead of breastfeeding is not “taking the easy way,” it’s choosing the right  path for your baby and body. Texting a friend with the hard, harsh, honest truth about how you’re feeling is not being needy, it’s finding support when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Seeing a mental health professional is not a sign of failure, it’s a sign of strength.


Mama, you don’t have to do any of this on your own. You may be lacking, but it is our lack that makes us beautifully real. Our lack is not a deficit, but an opportunity. If you’re struggling to receive, don’t make snap judgements. When you’re offered something (a gift of time, money, assistance, etc) take a moment to think through why you’re inclined to turn it down. Is it because of shame? Shut that liar up. Is it because you feel like an inconvenience? Remember that people wouldn’t offer unless they truly wanted to give the gift. Is it because it genuinely wouldn’t be a help? Respectfully decline and feel free to be vulnerable and tell that person what would actually be helpful.


Are you turning down help because you don’t feel worthy? Mama, you are worthy. You are so worthy of time and love and acceptance and rest. Be gentle with yourself. You were not made to do it all. You were not made to transform into a doormat, beaten down, and weary from your vocation. You were, however, made for community. You were made for friendship and sisterhood. You were made to give and receive help. You just have to open yourself up to it.