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  • Gila Zarbiv

Birth in a Time of Corona

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

There is a noise that a mother makes when her newborn child is taken from her without touching, hugging, smelling, kissing, or interacting with it. It is embedded in my brain. It is a mixture of a moan and a sigh that is reminiscent of a gazelle whose neck is trapped in the jaws of a lion. Pure surrender and despair.


Birth in a time of Corona means we need to separate husbands from their wives, babies from their sick mothers, sick patients from healthy ones, all in an attempt to minimize the infection, reduce the spread of the virus, and flatten the curve.


It is 3 am. I can’t sleep. I haven’t slept in week. My life is a mixture of adrenaline, exhaustion, relief, gratitude, sadness, and despair. I roll over in bed and through a mixture of sobs and tears I wake up my husband. “Yonaton. What are your end of life wishes? How long do you want to be on a ventilator for? Is there a point that you want me to let you go? Do you want me to fight at all costs? What kind of a life do you want to live should there be irreversible damage done to your heart, lungs, body, or mind? We really need to finalize our will so that someone will take the kids if we both don’t survive.”


My husband and I are the same age. 35.


I am a midwife and my husband is an oncologist. We have four perfect seemingly invincible children who roll with the punches of having 2 parents heavily entrenched in the medical field.


Every day we come home from work and scream as the children come running to greet us, “STAY AWAY!!” We then strip naked, walk backwards to the shower spraying bleach behind us, scrub ourselves with septal scrub until our skin is raw and bleeds, and even then, we ask, have we done enough? Is today the day I brought it home? Should I stop coming home? Which is more stressful for the children? Is the risk of the disease worse than the damage of not having a parent at home? Every day we wonder.


I am a midwife the way I am a human. It is in my blood, sweat, and tears. I live midwifery the way people live life. I breathe the breath of mothers and their babies and I am honored and feel privileged to be a part of this fight to protect my patients and their tiny unborn children.


Birth in a time of Corona is a dark, quiet, intimate, and medieval experience. Women who are positive for COVID-19 are birthing in dark corners of the hospital away from other patients and familiar wards. They are in a room that is prepared specifically for them with no family, loved one, support system, or familiar faces. It is her and me and I do not leave her side for a moment.


Birth in a time of Corona is understanding what it means to be there for another human with all your being. It is the need to be covered from head to toe with a mask that cuts your nose and cheeks and makes it hard to breathe, a visor that covers your entire face making it hard to see, and a gown that envelopes you from head to toe rendering you unrecognizable. Birth in a time of Corona is the ability to be there, completely, for your patient despite all the physical, emotional, and mental barriers. It is the ability to cup her face in your palms, her back in your hands, and her soul in yours and say, “I am here. I will not leave you. I know we don’t know each other and we have never met before but from this moment on we are family. I am here. I am not leaving you. You are not alone.”

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