Fearing coronavirus, Mexico City couple opt for home birth

By Gustavo Graf and Laura Gottesdiener
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - After almost 15 hours of work, Karla Lopez Rangel received a strict warning from her midwife: If you are not going to give birth to the baby, we must take you to the hospital.
Although she was exhausted and struck by labor, Lopez knew that the hospital was the last place she wanted to be.
It was the morning of May 25th, and there were more and more coronavirus cases across Mexico City. Dozens of the capital's healthcare facilities were saturated with patients. More than 30 health workers in the city had died from the virus.
In the weeks before birth, Lopez and her husband Miguel Flores Torres had become increasingly worried. Iztapalapa, the working class neighborhood of Mexico City where they lived, was the epicenter of the pandemic in Mexico.
In early May, Iztapalapa had the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country. The neighborhood's crematoriums started running in 24-hour shifts as the bodies piled up.
When the lock hit the economy, Flores temporarily lost his job. The only hospitals the couple could afford started admitting COVID-19 patients, and Lopez worried about getting infected during labor.
As the due date approached, the couple looked for an alternative birth plan that would avoid hospitals.
"I thought it was too risky," said Lopez. "I was afraid of not knowing what might happen when I got to the hospital."
The couple, both 24 years old, moved to a small apartment in a quarter of Mexico City with fewer cases. They hired midwives who specialized in home deliveries and bought an inflatable birth pool from WalMart.
This is unusual in Mexico, where government data show that over 90% of births take place in hospitals.
The couple had met online years earlier when they discovered that they had shared interests in Japanese anime and heavy metal bands.
On the night of the birth, however, Lopez wanted a quieter atmosphere, and she worked silently first, and then to the sounds of a flowing river from a YouTube meditation video.
Flores took his wife's hand when she suffered contractions.

"All the strength I had"
Lopez wasn't prepared for how painful a natural delivery could be. During the birth of her first son Angel, the hospital staff gave her so much medication that she could hardly feel her body.
It was different this time.
After receiving the warning from her midwife, Lopez put her sore body in the warm water of the birth tub and prepared for the push.
"I had to use all the strength I had left," she said.
At 5:36 a.m., she gave birth to her healthy son Sabino Yoehí, who weighed 3.4 kg.
As the number of cases in Mexico is still increasing daily, Lopez and Flores are careful to avoid exposure. But they say they look forward to visiting parks and the zoo when the quarantine is lifted.
"We want to enjoy the freedom that children have, especially when they are young," said Lopez.
Photo essay: https://reut.rs/37GuCim

(Letter from Laura Gottesdiener, editor of Rosalba O'Brien)

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