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Perhaps the most poignant image of the coronavirus pandemic captures desperate family members, with tears streaming down their faces, their noses pressed against hospital doors, barred from entry to visit their loved ones. But families are not just tragic icons at life’s end; they are often its choreographers. A large national survey that predated the pandemic found that 70 percent of Americans over age 60 who required medical decisions during the final days of their lives lacked the capacity to make them.
Over the past few months, I have conducted interviews with people experiencing pregnancy, childbirth, and life with newborns amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve spoken with single first-time mothers and working mothers of six, those who have had home births and those who have been induced in the hospital, those giving birth with emergency or scheduled cesarean sections. As is typical in any sample of pregnant women, some welcomed and celebrated the transition to motherhood while others resented their pregnancy and feared the birthing process.