Life is now. Giving birth during the pandemic

Alessandro Gandolfi, Photojournalist, Italy
12 series
At the Vittore Buzzi Hospital, Serena gave birth to Edoardo, who weighed in at 3.5 kilos and boasts a long tuft of black hair. The new protocol dictates that everyone present has to wear face masks at all times. The baby’s father just couldn’t contain himself, however, and for a split second lowered his mask and kissed his exhausted wife on the lips under the gaze of the attending midwives. “My son’s just been born,” says Massimo with tears in his eyes,” and I’ve got to celebrate in some way.” Iaki cried too the other evening at San Raffaele Hospital, while being present at the birth of his daughter Audrey, and so did Diarti, while watching the screen of a tablet on Tuesday, as he greeted the arrival of his daughter Camilla. At the Humanitas San Pio X Hospital, in fact, fathers are not allowed to attend a birth in person, but the hospital provides them with a live stream of the event to watch on a tablet. Entering the world at the time of coronavirus might be original but it is not the simplest thing in the world. Ilaria, who is seven-months pregnant, explains, “You hope to give birth surrounded by the love of family and friends, and instead you find yourself alone with your partner surrounded by fear and insecurity. The fear of contagion, the limitations of medical checkups, and not being able to attend the antenatal classes.” The words of the doctors, however, are reassuring: there is no evidence of mother-to-child transmission during childbirth. This doesn’t change the fact that the pre-triage procedures, with different pathways for infected mothers, involve obligatory protective clothing and solitude, turning the experience into an obstacle course. “Giving birth in the time of COVID-19,” explains Lavinia, also in her seventh month, “means checkups and classes that get cancelled, ever-changing hospital protocols, and managing the emergency in the absence of friends and family.” But as Wislawa Szymborska wrote, “You’re here, so you have to pull through it, you will pull through it, and therein lies the beauty.”

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