While COVID-19 has forced us to put many things on hold, little can stop the arrival plans of a new family member nine months in the making. The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally altered the pre- and postpartum – also known as “fourth trimester” – experiences, and for many women, uncovered a unique and challenging set of circumstances.
Mama Sana Vibrant Woman, a nonprofit focused on providing access to prenatal and postpartum care for women of color, quickly recognized the care and support they provide was reaching an even greater level of need. Providing services since 2012, including pregnancy and birth circles, childbirth prep workshops, wellness clinics and a birth companion program, the Central Texas nonprofit offers one-on-one support for expectant and new mothers from certified doulas. Now, in a socially distanced world, the Mama Sana Vibrant Woman team had to find creative solutions for very interpersonal interactions and services to ensure critical pre- and postnatal needs continued to be met amidst the pandemic. The team worked to quickly pivot, focusing on three areas: advanced coaching and preparation, financial support and advocacy, and guiding grace.
Mama Sana Vibrant Woman is also a grant partner of St. David’s Foundation’s Focus on the Fourth Women’s Health Initiative, a campaign aimed at improving postpartum access and outcomes during the “fourth trimester,” the first three months of a baby’s life.
ADVANCED COACHING & PREPARATION
To mitigate risk and infection, social distancing guidelines shifted Mama Sana Vibrant Woman’s typical doula service and community support group models away from physical interactions and nearly eliminated the ability for mothers to gain access to in-home post-delivery care. Meanwhile, hospitals and healthcare facilities began limiting spouse participation for scheduled appointments – and even birth.
Mama Sana Vibrant Woman pivoted its services to adhere to social distancing guidelines and ensured its mothers continued to be well-coached and prepared for their motherhood journeys. Steps included:
- Transitioning prenatal and postnatal support circles and the birthing companion programs to virtual care hosted via Zoom.
- Intensifying prenatal birthing sessions to focus on advanced coaching for partners so they can play a closer role to that of a doula during childbirth.
- Expanding programming to prepare mothers for what they may experience after childbirth – during the fourth trimester – in the absence of post-birth visits.
With this increased level of preparation across prenatal and postpartum services, Mama Sana Vibrant Woman has continued to make their new and expectant mothers feel supported during a time of heighted uncertainty.
FINANCIAL SUPPORT AND ADVOCACY
In addition to operational shifts, Mama Sana Vibrant Woman also leveraged its partner network to ensure their families continued to be advocated for and that their urgent needs continued to be addressed. This included working closely with Family Independence Initiative (FII), a fellow nonprofit who invests directly in families with low-income helping them to achieve prosperity. FII uses an online tool – UpTogether – to help families set goals, track progress and ideate with others in the program on creative ways to reach their goals. As a partner of FII, Mama Sana Vibrant Woman worked to identify families – ranging from those who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic and lack of access to childcare due to social distancing to single parents unable to qualify for the CARES Act – to receive funding from the FII COVID-19 Relief Fund. Together with FII, Mama Sana Vibrant Woman was able to distribute 100% direct cash assistance to 50 families in dire need of support through FII’s UpTogether platform helping them to pay for basic, vital living expenses, such as groceries, rent and utilities.
While navigating these uncertain and trying times, one phrase has continued to ground the staff at Mama Sana Vibrant Woman and the work they do – guide with grace. With this mantra in mind, Mama Sana Vibrant Woman continues to “focus on the fourth” amid an unprecedented health crisis, while simultaneously demonstrating resilience and bringing hope to the communities they serve.