When social distancing extends to the birth of your own child
Editor’s note: Saskya Vandoorne is a senior producer for CNN based in the network’s Paris bureau.
“Be prepared to give birth alone,” the midwife said placing two round plates on my bump. As I let her words sink in, my eyes welled up and I watched my baby’s heart rate quicken.
In just over four weeks' time, as the world continues to reel from the worst global health threat we have seen in at least a century, I'll welcome a baby, my first. And, because of Covid-19, I'll work through the animal pain of labor with a stranger by my side. A midwife, not my husband, will be the only person who can hold my hand.
During a pandemic, it is of course a privilege to be worrying about the circumstances surrounding a new life rather than mourning the death of a loved one.
As a journalist I'm used to planning ahead. When I understood France and its 67 million people would be on lockdown I immediately went online to order the crib, pram and newborn necessities, I figured that if France followed Italy it could also close its nonessential factories.
Over the past week, I've adjusted to life in isolation with my husband. I canceled the baby shower, signed up to live prenatal classes online. And I've embraced the new steps taken by the French government to erode personal freedoms.
To justify venturing outside my Parisian apartment -- for groceries or medicine from the pharmacy -- I handwrite a government-mandated permission slip and I walk within a kilometer radius of where I live, if I stray any further I risk getting fined.
With more than 1,000 deaths and 22,000 confirmed cases in France, I know these emergency measures are necessary to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
But as my maternity leggings grow tighter so too does the bubble I live in as restrictions make it ever smaller.
I knew my parents wouldn't be allowed to meet the baby, but I didn't anticipate that my husband would be banned from the hospital, including the delivery room.
In France, for now at least, the Ministry of Health has not announced a nationwide blanket ban on birthing partners, but some individual hospitals have deemed it necessary to protect patients and medical staff. A health care system in New York announced similar measures, CNN reported over the weekend.
Hospital internet forums across the country are now full of anxious expectant mothers asking the same question: "can my partner be by my side when I give birth?" Some are looking into the possibility of home births in an effort to avoid turning up on the day and being told their partners can't come in.
I seek out answers for a living but, in these unprecedented and uncertain times of rapid change, what's permitted today could be forbidden tomorrow. No one knows what lies ahead.
The midwife caught my look of distress and tried to comfort me.
"You can always FaceTime your husband from the delivery room," she said, smiling.
Having a healthy baby is my priority, and perhaps it's fitting that the first pair of hands my newborn will feel will be those belonging to the medical personnel.
Millions have placed their lives in those hands looking to be healed.
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