Parir con mascarilla (Giving Birth With Mask) is a series of portraits of women with their babies born during the times of Covid-19 in Spain. It gives voice to women who became mothers during this period of the pandemic. They have suffered restrictions which have stolen rights at a vital moment, such as pregnancy and birth. Claudia Maccioni is the author (and witness) of this photo essay.
"This picture is my self-portrait: Claudia, 38 years old. On the 5th of December Flora was born. My waters broke at night. When I arrived at the hospital with very painful contractions, they left me in an urgency box for 4 hours waiting for the results of my PCR. I couldn’t really move and they wouldn’t look after any of my petitions. Once I got the result, which was negative, they agreed to give me the epidural. A few minutes later, Flora’s heart suffered bradycardia and I was taken to an operating room to have a C-Section, without any effect of the anesthesia. I felt very little humanity until I got my negative result back.
Jorgina, 37 years old. Elio was born on the 6th of April. She didn’t have any information about giving birth because prenatal courses were suspended. Every day she called the hospital to find out about the protocols and they seemed to be different every single day. She was obsessed with having to give birth alone. The same day of the birth, she called in the morning and was told that if she had to birth that same day it would have to be without her partner. At that moment, her waters broke. She was scared. She had not left the house since March 16th. She also suffered because of her birthing plan. Restrictions had begun in birthing rooms. She wasn’t allowed to use the bathtub, nor nitrous oxide to calm down the pain. They didn’t want to give her the walking epidural, but in the end they agreed. The birth was very long and terrible, wearing a face mask all the time. In the end, she refused to do the expulsive with it and they finally allowed her to take it only for that time.
Miriam, 35 years old. Norah was born on August 15th. Her husband is a nurse and was working with Covid-19 patients. They decided to live apart during some time of the pregnancy. Miriam went to her parent’s house together with her 2-year-old daughter for 6 weeks. She was obsessed and could’t enjoy the pregnancy. It was very hard for her to bond with her baby because of her fears. Miriam is a pediatrician and could have an early sick leave. She felt as if they had stolen her pregnancy. During the birth, she was missing air to breathe. It was a natural birth without anesthesia. Towards the end, she vomited. She could take off the mask only during the expulsive part.
Nona, 35 years old. On May 13th she gave birth to Laia and Clara. Her daughters were hospitalized for 17 days. Because of Covid-19 rules, they could only visit them a few hours a day, always wearing a face mask. Nona says she would put it down secretly to kiss her daughters. That was what affected her the most. The birth had been very fast and she didn’t suffer as much as she had expected.
Mireia, 37 years old. Vera was born on August 29th. She was diagnosed with placenta praevia, which in the end changed. Thanks to that, she had a very intense tracking of the entire pregnancy. She felt lonely and scared. The confinement of her and her partner was very very strict. She didn’t leave the house for 60 days. She needed to move, so she went to the terrace roof one hour every day. She feels that the public health system has not adapted well to the situation. She didn’t receive any proper prenatal lessons. Only after insisting long enough could she access an online course, which was a mess. She had to fight strongly to achieve any need. Mireia is a journalist and wrote an article about it. The Catalan government denied everything. Her mother is the only person who went to meet them after the birth, because they were still very strict. She also felt lonely in her postpartum, a very vulnerable moment for every woman.
Alba, 31 years old. Her baby didn’t have to be born on March 17th 2020. The baby was born after a C-section. Her mother (the grandmother) was Covid-19 positive and had passed the virus to her daughter days before. She was immediately separated from the baby. The baby was placed in an incubator without motive, without clamping, no skin on skin, no early breastfeeding.
Eli, 33 years old. Ot was born on the 1st of April 2020. He was supposed to be born in Catalunya’s General Hospital, but it was a Covid-19 hospital. She had to go to Quirón del Vallès Clinic. A friend of hers told her so. On March 30th, her waters broke. At 6am she went to the clinic. In the operating room she was told that she didn’t know how to birth and that it would take long. They took her back to her room. She could be accompanied and didn’t do a PCR. They brought face masks because her partner is a carpenter and he happened to have them with him because of his job. No one was checking on her in the room. They didn’t offer her anything against the pain. She was on the Covid-19 free floor of the hospital, but not maternity. The instructions she got were: whenever you have contractions like dying, take a shower and call us. She vomited and took a shower. She had a nervous attack with the anesthetist, but he was able to give her the epidural in the end. At 8am April 1st the expulsive began. She remembers drowning and coughing a lot. She asked for a surgical mask, but they didn’t give it to her. The midwife asked her if maybe she was suffering from Covid-19 and after that she tried to hold her cough. They did the Kristeller maneuver. There were no adjustable beds. That night she slept in a supplementary hotel bed. All the medical equipment had been taken to the General Hospital. It was chaos. They brought their own sleeping pillows.
Imma, 36 years old. Her daughter Pau was born breathless on May 3rd 2020. She woke up in pain and heavy bleeding. She called 061 and was told to go to the hospital. She had not left her home since March 16th. They left their oldest daughter with the grandparents and went to Hospital Trueta in Girona. She was impressed by the empty streets. That was the first day she was wearing a mask. Her partner was allowed in the waiting room. He could go into the room to receive the news and they could be together after that. They were in the same room where her first daughter was born years ago. She was 20 weeks pregnant, giving birth with contractions. They gave her the epidural and it brought her a bit calm to understand what was happening. They could say goodbye without a rush. People at the hospital were respectful, although there wasn’t much information about Covid-19. The result of the PCR arrived after she had already been discharged and she wasn’t allowed to leave until it arrived. The physical details were very hard for her. You give birth to a creature, lifeless, but you have still given birth to it. She was worried about explaining it to her daughter. A psychologist helped her a lot. In this picture Imma holds a box with the memories of Pau."