As if being pregnant was not enough to make a woman anxious, expectant and new mothers are left to navigate through pregnancy and delivery with even more anxiety and challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Two young mothers narrated their experience from pregnancy to delivery. First-time mother Karolina Nashima said the experience was nerve-wracking and she relied on prayer for protection. “I was worried and panicking about the virus. I thought the north would also report positive cases and that there are probably infected people at the hospital. I was worried that the baby would be infected. I prayed every day,” she said.
Unfortunately, just before her delivery, the lockdown was enforced countrywide as opposed to just Khomas and Erongo. Nashima was then forced to give birth to her daughter in the hospital closest to her rather than the one of her choice, which had better maternity facilities. “I planned to give birth in Oshakati, but because I was at home at Oniipa and was not allowed to travel to Oshakati, I had to deliver at the Onandjokwe hospital.”
From spending an extensive amount of time outside in the cold and being bitten by mosquitoes to sleeping on a mattress on the floor, Nashima said that her time at the Onandjokwe Hospital maternity ward was difficult. “There were not enough beds, some women including me, had to sleep on the floor and we were discharged earlier than usual,” she said.
Nursing student from the International University of Management (IUM) Hilde Hamunghete had a similar experience. “It was the most difficult experience. Having to give birth in a state hospital for that matter. They had rules and regulations concerning Covid-19; you were not allowed to have support, including that of your partner. It was hard having to go through labour alone. I had to go through everything alone. It was traumatising being a first-time mother,” said Hamunghete.
Nashima too said giving birth was a lonely experience, as she was not allowed any visitors. “Visiting was not allowed, which prevented family and friends from bringing me food or coming to see the baby. When you had a visitor, you had to meet them outside and this meant that you had to leave the baby alone.”
While Hamughete had no challenges buying essentials such as clothes for her newborn, Nashima, on the other hand, had nothing to clothe her baby in because shops such as Pep and Ackermans were closed. It was only after a few complaints that the authorities reopened these shops, but unfortunately, most items were quickly sold out. “It was hard for us expectant mothers who hadn’t buy anything.”
There is, however, a silver lining as both mothers gave birth to healthy babies and have expressed their joy. They say caring for the newborn is not as challenging as they are strictly adhering to social isolation and practising optimal hygiene.
“I always wash my hands before I breastfeed,” said Nashima. Hamunghete added she has restricted the visitation of friends and family and opted to introduce her baby to loved ones by making use of internet sources, including video calls and social media.