COVID and End-of-Life Midwifery
CEOLC Secretary & Co-Founder | End of Life Midwife | Certified by The Conscious Dying Institute, Denver Hospice
COVID changed everything. I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know. But, for each of us, the “everything” that was changed varied. I think that most of us experienced anxiety, loneliness, stress induced by lack of control, a shifting of relationship dynamics, boredom, and trepidation about what might come next. For me, there was more…
During the last year, many of us self-isolated. In my case, self-isolating led to a lot of binge-watching Netflix, and contemplation. I thought about the 27 million Americans who contracted COVID and what they were going through. I thought about the fact that I, and end-of-life midwife, decided at the beginning of the pandemic that I was not comfortable or willing to treat them…at least not in person. Now, to be fair, as far as I know, families were not reaching out for the services of death midwives, and hospitals were closed tight to outside visitors. Setting those two absolutely valid arguments aside, I must ask myself whether I am willing to expose myself to potential illness in order to treat the dying. What is my level of commitment?
I’ll never forget Ebola outbreaks in recent years. News coverage showed the poor patients, the often make-shift hospitals, the body removers, the anxious families. But forefront in my mind are images of the doctors and nurses in their medical garb hoping against hope that they could alleviate suffering while not contracting the disease. I watched them prepare to enter the units, helping each other into protective gear and running through procedures to ascertain that they were zipped and buckled up correctly. And then watching them subject themselves to a lengthy process of disinfection before rejoining the outside community. And yet, even with these steps, some medical personnel did get ill and some died of Ebola.
Am I as committed to serving as the doctors and nurses…to utilizing my skills as an end-of-life midwife to aid those who are ill, perhaps gravely ill, and their families? If so, could I have found a way to reach out to COVID patients…to let them know that I was available to provide support, comfort, company, respite? Could I have emailed doctors/hospitals/news outlets/COVID helplines? Could I have, as my daughter who is a psychotherapist did, offered my services for a mere fraction of my fee—an extraordinary act for extraordinary times?
In not stepping up to serve on the front lines as an end-of-life midwife while community members suffered with COVID, have I failed myself, my profession, and those who might have needed me?
I can find all kinds of mitigating reasons for not having actively sought to visit COVID victims…I didn’t have proper PPE (personal protective equipment)…my husband falls in an older age group and I couldn’t expose him to the virus…most COVID sufferers weren’t actually “dying” (or they didn’t know if they were), and I’m a DEATH midwife not a SICK midwife, etc. But I’m not looking for a way to explain or explain away my choices during this last, dreadful year. I’m not seeking an “out.” I’m seeking an “in.” I’m seeking a better understanding of myself as an end-of-life midwife.
I’m seeking a deeper understanding of myself as a person.