2020: What a crazy year it has been. I don’t know if 2021 will be any better – we certainly hope so – but for our family, 2020 also brought much joy and a unique experience: The experience of giving birth to our baby boy, Stefanos.
Stefanos was born on 20th May 2020. For the 2 last months of my pregnancy, approximately since 15th March, Switzerland was on lockdown – like most of Europe as well. There was a lot of uncertainty in general and naturally, I was feeling anxious about giving birth in the middle of the pandemic. But I had no choice so I decided to take a few steps to feel better and less anxious for the birth. This was my second child but it was the first time I was going to give birth in Switzerland.
My personal experience while giving birth in Switzerland during the pandemic was a positive one. Yes, there were many challenges to handle and overcome but everything can be solved with a positive attitude and a desire to do the best for you and your baby.
Today, almost one year after the pandemic “started” here in Switzerland, I realise that there are still pregnant women who have the same fears, questions and issues like the ones I had myself. I hope this article will help you prepare better for your own birth experience.
Here is a snapshot of what is included in this article:
BEFORE GIVING BIRTH
Prenatal PanMilar course
Prenatal Yoga Workshop with Alexandra MacDonald
Birth experience at CHUV, Lausanne
AFTER GIVING BIRTH
Midwife selection & support
BEFORE GIVING BIRTH
Online Prenatal Course by PanMilar
One of the steps we took, was to attend online prenatal classes given by PanMilar, an association in Lausanne where midwives deliver the prenatal classes while translators translate to various languages for those who are not speaking French fluently. Our midwife, Anne, was lovely and she also worked at CHUV hospital where we had decided to give birth. This helped a lot because she gave us very specific and practical information about the process they follow at CHUV, our options and also the current situation and protocols followed because of the pandemic. Since we couldn’t visit the maternity ward (which is normally the case), having someone to ask specific questions was very helpful.
Our translator, Sarah, was also amazing and made us feel at ease while she came up with various activities to animate more the online courses.
It was a nice way to connect with other couples who were expecting their babies to be born soon. After we all gave birth we met in person with our babies and discussed our birth stories and more.
I had heard briefly about hypnobirthing before but in reality, I had no idea what it was about. During an online baby event, I watched an interview with Siobhan Miller, the founder of the Positive Birth Company and checked her online hypnobirthing course. The price was fair and I decided to give it a try, although I didn’t even know at the time if I would have the time to complete the course before giving birth.
This online course exceeded my expectations. Even though this was my second child, I felt I was unprepared the first time around. There was lots of valuable content and important information not only for pregnant women but also for their birth partners. There are also relaxation techniques available which I used a lot from an application during the last days before giving birth and on the big day.
Overall it was an eye-opening class and I would recommend hypnobirthing to every woman, no matter how/where you have decided to give birth.
Prenatal Yoga Workshop with Alexandra MacDonald in Lausanne
Alexandra’s prenatal yoga classes were recommended to me while I was searching for such classes in Lausanne.
The description on her website says that these classes “offer a haven, a sacred space where you can leave your worries and preoccupations at the door and spend a precious few hours connecting with your body and your baby. This is essential, not self-indulgent work.”
Essential work. That’s what stuck with me and I truly believe that this workshop helped me a lot while I gave birth naturally to our little Stefanos, without any medication (not entirely by choice). I still remember that Alexandra during this course made me realise in a very gentle way that I have much more stamina than I think I have.
Currently, Alexandra provides these classes privately, for couples while there is also a possibility for an online class.
Our Birth experience at CHUV hospital, Lausanne
As I have already mentioned, I gave birth on the 20th of May 2020. At the time, there were strict measures in the hospital’s maternity ward.
What does this mean?
- While going for birth, I had to wear a mask until we got the results from the COVID test. Afterwards, I could stay without a face mask, unlike everybody else (partner, midwives, doctor etc) in the hospital.
- I could have a partner with me while giving birth who would have to wear a mask during the entire time. My partner was my husband, Thanos, and he stayed with me from the induction until about 2 hours after giving birth. Then he had to leave and could not visit us again.
- I stayed at the hospital for 2 nights only.
Having spoken with other mothers that gave birth during the pandemic, I know that each hospital/private clinic has different protocols. For example, in the hospital of Morges you could have your birth partner stay with you for the whole duration of your stay. Therefore, I think it’s very useful to ask specific questions and decide where you want to give birth according to your specific needs.
My personal experience
My due date was on the 21st of May and I had a scheduled appointment for a check at CHUV on the morning of the 20th.
However, I went in for a check one day earlier because I thought that my waters broke and apparently, I was right. Since I had no contractions, we waited for a few hours in case the contractions began naturally. This didn’t happen, so I was induced around 22.30 on the 19th of May. Contractions started almost immediately (unlike my first pregnancy) but dilation took longer. The midwife on duty suggested that I could try getting into the hot water tub which works great for some women. I was lucky to be one of them and I stayed in the tub for about 2 hours.
My initial plan was to have an epidural – that’s what I did while giving birth to my first child as well. But baby Stefanos had other plans, it seems.
Around 7.30 in the morning, a few minutes after a new midwife took over the shift and while we were discussing proceeding with the epidural, I felt a strong kick and the dilation went from 4 to 10 in a few seconds. “Baby is coming now,” the midwife said and I had no option but to go with the flow and push the baby out.
I gave birth naturally without any complications and could breastfeed my baby immediately afterwards. It was a magical moment.
All the midwives involved did a fantastic job; particularly the one who was in charge of my birth made me feel relaxed and being taken good care of. I will never forget this feeling.
In retrospect, I can say with confidence that all the preparation I did for this birth greatly helped me to have a positive birth experience, no matter how scared and anxious I was in the beginning.
After 2 hours in the room where I gave birth, it was time for me to be taken to another room with the baby and for Thanos to leave. The following 2 days from Wednesday morning to Friday midday when we went home, were challenging. Not only did I have to recover from giving birth but I also had to take care of our baby on my own.
The mistake I did was that I didn’t ask for help from the midwives on duty until I was completely sleep-deprived and essentially, a total wreck. So, if you need to sleep for a few hours uninterrupted, there is nothing wrong to ask the midwives to take care of your baby for a while.
AFTER GIVING BIRTH
Midwife selection & support
In Switzerland, women can have a midwife who follows them before and after giving birth. I chose to have a midwife only after giving birth and I wanted someone who was experienced in breastfeeding. In general, you should contact your midwife before giving birth to ask if she can work with you and discuss any details.
We met with our midwife, Majda, online a few weeks before my due date and chatted about our needs while she also gave us some valuable suggestions. Majda was recommended to me by a good friend.
Then, I communicated with her the day I gave birth because she had to come right after we left the hospital to check both me and the baby at home. Majda was very helpful and gave me a direction when it comes to breastfeeding which is very important especially during the first few days/weeks.
I can’t tell you how lucky and blessed I fell for my husband who cooks like a chef and loves it as well.
But in case you don’t have that privilege, having homemade food will be super important.
In this case, you might want to have a look at Supermamans, where you get connected with other moms in your area and receive a few homemade meals for free.
Isn’t that great?
I tried it for myself to see how it works and I got one visit from a lovely day in my neighborhood who brought a homemade meal and also chatted with me for a few minutes.
I want to do the same myself for other moms.
Becoming a mom comes with a million new questions and having a community where you can ask and find easily information is very useful.
I have found one such community on a Facebook group targeted to mothers and mothers-to-be in Lausanne and using it regularly.
I left it last because it’s my least favourite. To register your baby, you will have to follow certain procedures. If you are an expat, like us, bureaucracy gets a little more complicated because you will need official papers and certificates from your country of origin. Keep in mind that it’s better to know in advance exactly what you need to do and complete any bureaucratic actions you can before the baby arrives.
Are you pregnant? What’s your biggest anxiety at the moment? If you found this article helpful and you know of someone who would benefit from it, please share it with her.
Photo Copyright: Anna de Wit Photography
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