Let me start by saying that I am so very GRATEFUL about some recent events that have occurred for my family this month. My niece just birthed her first baby!! This particular niece is my sister’s first child, and she was the baby who first entitled me to be called an “auntie” of the first degree. I was new in my career as a midwife way back then, and I attended my sister through three days of a long difficult labor. To see my niece born safely across to earth-side is work I am so proud to have shared with her strong birthing mama, my sister.
Fast-forward: I am now quite advanced in my career, with nearly 3000 babies having passed through my hands at births, and many, many others for whom I have stood by in attendance. I have been there for all my nieces’ and nephews’ births over the years. But I did not get to attend my niece this month as she labored long to bring forth her first child, nor did I get to physically stand vigil and support my dear sister as she waited for her “grown baby” to endure labor and give birth. The reason? Because, they live out of state… so, because of the pandemic we couldn’t safely be together. And for this reason I find that I am very angry sometimes.
Some say “You can be angry or you can be grateful, but you can’t be both.” The truth is that I feel like I am pretty much BOTH right now. BOTH.
Yes, I am grateful that my niece’s baby is safely born. I am grateful for technology where we could text and talk. And I could list a lot of other stuff. But I am also angry I had to make choices regarding whether to travel or not to be there for this birth, and those choices had implications on many different levels about what was going to be best for the greater good.
Selfishly, I just wanted to be close by for this birth. I am the only midwife in my family and when the babies come, I am usually there for the births. Even more, I really wanted to be there with my sister, to support her. We are really close. But I had to weigh the implications of making what could be considered a selfish decision about traveling to be with my family against what our little birth center can endure. I would have had to quarantine upon return, and the weight of the extra work this would mean for my midwife partners and the nurses is huge. We are a small staff, and if more than two of us are out at a time, on quarantine or illness, we could possibly need to close down the birth center for a while until everyone is back. There is very little cushion for us regarding covering the schedules and births (there sometimes appears to be a bigger cushion in big health care entities such as hospitals; unfortunately, they are also running on the edge in these times). Lastly, regarding anger about the pandemic, my sweet parents want so badly to travel to meet their great grand baby, and I want nothing more than to help with this. At this time, it would be best if I could travel with them due to their age and conditions. The truth is that this is simply not safe, for them or for any of us right now.
Sometimes, it just helps me to sit with the anger, and momentarily honor the weight of the disappointments.
We know this is affecting you, too. There have been times at the birth center recently when we have had to reschedule some appointments because it is discovered when the nurse is checking temperatures and asking the Covid Screening Questions, that someone’s family has come in from somewhere out of state and has not quarantined properly. Even if this happened under the best of intentions, it puts our client at risk, which also puts the birth center staff at risk. Please understand that we have to take this very seriously. We understand how hard these times are when families can’t safely be together for births the way we may have previously, or the way we may have always dreamed. We are not holding our clients to anything we are not also holding our staff to with their own family situations. With holidays coming up and if families travel and gather more, this might complicate things for our birth center even further.
I find it helpful to balance my own anger about these things in the expression of gratitude. I carry thanks in my heart every single day, sometimes many times throughout the days, that we continue to stay open, providing a safe space for natural birth, providing such excellent newborn care to your babies during their most vulnerable first few weeks, all during this pandemic. We couldn’t do this without the cooperation and support of our DAL community. I am grateful to you all.
So my family will be separated this year for holidays, and I am guessing yours will be too. As I shared, we have a brand new baby, and dear aging great-grand-parents who might never get to meet him, and all the generations in between wanting to be together. I think every staff member at Dar a Luz and every person reading this has their own similar story of how the 2020 pandemic has altered life. Stories about how hard this has been, with not only births and new babies, but with graduations, weddings, or funerals, or cancelled vacations, reunions, and performances, and soon, the winter holidays. Choices we didn’t want to make, sacrifices we did, and grief over the losses. It has been so hard to do things differently.
But we have and we will continue. We are all enduring. Changing. Growing,
One of my daughters, Elora, is currently working with a non-profit private Montessori school in Albuquerque called Escuela del Sol — it is well-known to many Dar a Luz families. She sent this out in their recent newsletter to the families of the students. I got permission to share this with you, as a simple place to start with Thanksgiving right around the corner. My family is going to do some of these things this year since we can’t be together. Maybe you will find inspiration here for your own pandemic circumstances. I share this with you all in gratitude and peace.
RE-IMAGINING FAMILY HOLIDAY GATHERINGS
by Elora Daniels
We all miss seeing our families and are lamenting the loss of our usual celebrations this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be creative and find new ways to connect!
Here are some ways to re-imagine Thanksgiving celebrations and maybe create some new family traditions along the way:
Plan a shared experience. No matter where your family lives in the country, you’ll feel closer with shared rituals. Share family recipes so your family near and far can enjoy the “same” meal. Or pick a new recipe for everyone to try — maybe it’ll be awesome and you’ll add it to your family’s traditions, or maybe it won’t turn out as planned and you’ll have something to laugh about. Encourage your kids to come up with other experiences that everyone can share, like lighting candles, creating and sharing a dinner playlist, etc.
Create a connection with meal prep. One of the joys of Thanksgiving is cooking as a family. Schedule video calls for family members to bake a pie (or other meal traditions) separately, but together.
Send care packages. Mail or drop off treats and supplies to help family and friends feel connected (who doesn’t love a surprise bit of mail?). Since current recommendations state that we all shouldn’t mix households and crowd around a table to share pumpkin pie, maybe your family bakes muffins or rolls to drop off on grandparent’s doorsteps, or mails centerpiece decorations so everyone you usually gather with has a similarly adorned table. If your family contains lots of kids, maybe you send just the supplies and instructions for the centerpiece and schedule a video call for cousins and friends to craft together — another shared experience!
Plan to have a Great Family Video Chat – Seeing family is important, but so is keeping everyone healthy and safe. Schedule a Family Video Chat so everyone can come together from a distance. Maybe everyone gathers around for a video chat while they eat the pie they all worked on earlier in the week! Or everyone comes together to talk about what they’re thankful for and enjoy the fact that technology has the ability to bring us together, no matter the distance.
Wishing a happy and safe Thanksgiving to our whole Dar a Luz family.
Susan was raised in Albuquerque and attended midwifery school at Yale University, where she received her Master’s Degree in 1988. During her training she learned what a progressive place New Mexico was regarding women’s access to birthing options and midwifery care. She returned to Albuquerque where she has attended more than 3000 births over 25 years.
It has proven to be a career in which she has the opportunity to do many things she loves, in service to amazing women finding strength, courage, and creativity they never knew they had. Her professional interests and passions attend to the psychological and quite remarkable transformations women face through pregnancy, motherhood, and other brave and ingenious feminine acts.
She has been married a really long time to the same wonderful man. They have two daughters who were born at home, breastfed long through toddlerhood, cloth-diapered, homeschooled, and are now successful young women.