When the pandemic first began, we repurposed our resources to make to make non-medical masks, but our founder Nadine Woods soon realized that all the personal protective equipment (PPE) being produced/imported was directed to hospitals.
Being well-connected with the birthing community in Toronto, Nadine discovered a need that Mayana Genevière could strategically help fulfill — helping midwives continue their work safely by producing gowns for local midwives.
We started by obtaining our PPE license then sourcing locally to produce high-quality, water-resistant and reusable gowns.
“The reality is we cannot defer a birth as a woman. The birth comes whether you want it or not. And midwives were on the outskirts of receiving this equipment that they needed,” she states. “They still had to be able to attend home births and visits and help keep women in their homes as opposed to going to the hospitals.” - Nadine Woods, Founder of Mayana Geneviere
The Association of Ontario Midwives (AOM) has seen a noticeable increase in women avoiding hospital births in favour of giving birth at home. Coupled with the lack of PPE supplies and the influx of counterfeit/ defective PPE from overseas affirmed our position even more.
Our announcement on Instagram of our pivot to producing masks and gowns was well received and with the help of donations from our community and proceeds from sales from our Reusable Masks , we were able to fund this project.
What is a midwife and what do they do?
A midwife is a primary care provider who is responsible for all the care necessary for a pregnant person and the newborn throughout pregnancy, birth and for six weeks afterward. Midwifery care in Ontario has been funded and regulated by the Province of Ontario, through the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, since 1993. Midwifery care is free to all residents of Ontario and you do not need a referral.
We spoke with members at Kensington Midwives, the recipients of our reusable gowns to understand the how their work has changed due to Covid and how they are adjusting as a collective.
Two employees from Kensington Midwives.
Who are Kensington midwives?
Here at Kensington Midwives we provide primary care to low-risk clients in the Toronto area and provide choice of birth place at home, at St. Joseph's Hospital or at the Toronto Birth Centre.
At Kensington Midwives we are happy to care for all birthing people and have midwives available who speak Spanish/French/Portuguese, have a particular focus on working with queer families, and families without OHIP.
What does and average day look like for midwives and how has that changed due to COVID?
An average day for a midwife can involve any number of components; clinic appointments and home visits, responding to pages, providing assessments and procedures as needed to clients, attending labour's and births, processing and submitting administrative work, restocking equipment - the list goes on.
Our daily work varies more than most healthcare workers by virtue of not working in a "shift" model. The changes that are most salient in light of COVID-19 are plenty, but I find most midwives are being impacted by the literal and figurative distance the virus has put between us and our clients.
Our visits are done with masks and involve more phone and virtual appointments, infection control measures are increased during a pandemic and require more time, planning and resources, and ourselves and our clients are impacted by the anxiety and uncertainty that comes with a global pandemic.
Midwifery has never felt more necessary and impactful, but requires much more from individual midwives, their administrative supports, and interprofessional colleagues. – Spencer, RM
What challenges did you face as a collective during the pandemic? Describe separation of partners from pregnant person, having enough gowns and masks to go to different houses for home visits.
Many! Because the situation had been almost unprecedented, we were creating new protocols, systems and routines. There was no guidebook and in the early days, the information was coming out so quickly and was ever changing so it was difficult to keep on top of what was the most evidence based practice. Luckily, the good people at the Association of Ontario Midwives took on that work to consolidate and educate its members so we were best equipped to handle the situation. Working outside of the hospital and inside also meant there were multiple versions of protocols to follow. It felt very overwhelming.
From a practice standpoint, organizing our personal lives to balance with our professional obligations was an additional challenge. For those of us with children or immunocompromised people in our lives, it meant additional considerations when people around us were ill and how to plan and support individual members without burning out.
Finally, the change to recommended in person appointment schedules changed the connection we had with clients. Midwifery is a really hard job! But part of what many of us enjoy is the personal connection with our clients and it was difficult to work extra hard and at times, be unsure if we were putting our lives at risk, and with the personal connection we develop with clients impacted. – Courtney, RM
How many births did you do as a collective during this time?
Since March 2020 till October 2020 we have been a part of 286 births! With 35% of these births happening out of hospital you can imagine how much these gowns are needed.
What impact did the gowns have on your collective?
“These gowns are so light and well made, much more comfortable And breathable than the disposable ones and feels easy to wear all day in the clinic and then also for a long homebirth we have a very professional and comfortable option. Much less generic and institutional than the standard yellow. They are really light weight, keep me safe and they look good!! How perfect is that! Am so grateful to have them—was a huge relief and gift when they came in! - Kay, RM
One thing’s for sure while things may be different, our values remain the same. We couldn’t have done this without the contributions from our community that has kept our mission going.
You can help us support our community by purchasing reusable masks here where a portion of every sale is used towards our social initiatives or you can donate masks here to provide low-income families and community initiatives in Toronto.
Association of Ontario Midwives: https://www.ontariomidwives.ca/
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