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Flexible Feline: Sue Johnson

Updated: Nov 10, 2020


This pandemic has presented challenges to every single person I know, and I see the effects of these challenges resonate deeply for pregnant women and their families. Birth already provides a myriad of uncertainty, along with a historical power differentiation for laboring women. Add in a pandemic and at times it seems as though we’ve lost progress we’ve made in recent years for women to make empowering choices for their birth. As a birth photographer and doula, I see that.  Women today are birthing in environments with heavy restrictions on who can accompany them. She may be attending prenatal and ultrasound appointments without her partner due to pandemic restrictions. She may be choosing between supports that were commonplace just a year ago, like choosing between a birth photographer AND doula due to headcount restrictions. She may even be forced to choose between having her own mother or sister present.

She may be choosing to birth at home because she fears being in a hospital with COVID-19 positive patients. She may be birthing at the hospital because she deeply fears what would happen if she transferred during a birth center birth. She may be birthing while wearing a mask. She may not ever see the full face of providers in her room due to their masks. Mothers are making choices about accepting COVID-19 testing and potential consequences of a positive test, while weighing the cost of declining the test and having providers decked out in full PPE for their birth. Right now, I see Mothers and families making more choices out of fear than ever before while I’ve been in this field. 

I’m also witnessing incredible empowerment. Local providers are quietly and diligently making accommodations to restore power to birthing women. Mothers are being supported by doulas, midwives, obstetricians, hospitalists, lactation consultants and pediatricians. (I see you, and I thank you!) I see family and friends grocery shopping and providing meals for a postpartum family. I see women experiencing loss continuing to pump and donate milk to those in need. I see women dropping cans of formula, diapers and sudden teething needs on each other’s porches. I see incredible resiliency in Mother’s today, and I see it brighter than ever before because we’re showing up for one another in ways we maybe didn’t prioritize before.