ABBY&FINN team member, Sarah, shares her pandemic birth story below. Sarah gave birth to baby girl, Sloane, on the first of May in Denver, Colorado. Both mom and baby are doing great and enjoying their time at home as a family of four.
Of all the worries that pregnancy brings, the one that was not on my list keeping me up at night was delivering during a global pandemic. And then that became my only worry, overshadowing every step of my third trimester. At first I had the usual second pregnancy anxieties; how will my son adapt to being a brother, will he be jealous sharing the attention and affection of his parents, will he have sleep or potty training regressions? But my main concern soon became potentially bringing home a deadly illness to my three-year-old from the hospital after giving birth to his sister and the fear that the illness would affect us all. Not the easy, joyfilled second pregnancy I was hoping for, not the life any of us were hoping to live.
Preparing for a new baby during a pandemic definitely has its differences. There was no waltzing around a cute baby store picking up sweet little onesies and no baby shower to celebrate with friends and family. I ordered everything online, unfortunately spending a little more money than I’d hoped because there was no dropping returns off at the post office and I knew if I forgot anything a quick run to the store was not feasible after we came home with the baby. There’s the added stress of having food at the house for my husband and I and our three-year-old during a time when stores are very limited on selections and our trips there are supposed to be minimal. I didn’t have a freezer full of casseroles and prepared meals like every maternity blog suggests you do before bringing the baby home. Having a plan for my older child when I went into labor was in flux now. My parents were no longer able to travel from out of state to stay with him and we also feared risking any exposure to him or others if he stayed with friends.
Other than the personal, emotional and mental differences from my first pregnancy and my pandemic pregnancy, there were also the changes in medical care. Unfortunately, the reassurances the doctors could provide were limited as this is unchartered territory and the protocols are changing by the hour. The first were the phone calls from the OB‘s office prior to my appointments running through a litany of potential symptoms. Then came the lack of visitors to the doctor offices; my husband and son could no longer attend any appointments with me. Even the last sonogram appointment where I saw my baby one more time before meeting her I attended alone. To protect themselves, their families and their patients, my OB and the nurses had to change their bedside manner and establish a more hands off demeanor. Everyone wore personal protective equipment and for many, there was a sense of tension.
My anxiety hit an all-time high when I learned that if a pregnant mother tested positive for COVID-19, she would most likely be separated from her new baby for 14 days. The thought was gut wrenching. That would mean not only being unable to bond with my new daughter but also being separated from my son during the biggest change of his life thus far. Then a few hospitals around the country started banning spouses from the delivery rooms. There are already so many unknowns with childbirth and the idea of not having my husband there to potentially make tough decisions with and support me was scary. Fortunately for me and for my experience, all this anxiety beforehand was worse than the actual reality of giving birth during a pandemic. I tested negative prior to labor and my husband was able to be in the delivery room.
I feared all of the new regulations at the hospital like being tested for COVID-19 the day before delivery, the fact that once we were in our labor and delivery room we could not leave that room and no one could visit, and we missed her first bath because we could not go to the nursery to watch. I was so worried about how hard it would be to wear a mask while in labor and pushing but the truth is I didn’t even notice I had it on when it was happening. I was not phased by any of these new steps the hospital and staff had to take, I had a healthy baby and that is all that matters. The doctors and nurses were amazing and did everything possible to keep themselves, me and my baby healthy. They are running a tight ship, everyone is on the top of their game, keeping abreast of any potential threats to any patient’s health and that sense of security was a relief. The hospital was so quiet and peaceful. All of my prior anxieties melted and it was really a wonderful experience, thanks to the hospital staff.
The hardest part of the hospital experience for me was not one that I anticipated. It was the moment I held my daughter for the first time and I realized that the first time she saw her mother and father, our faces were covered in masks and we were unable to give her a welcome to this world kiss. Our son was also not able to come to the hospital to meet his sister, he met her in the parking lot while once again, our faces were covered by masks. Our first photos as a family of four you can barely see our faces. But these photos will remind me of a time when our family bond was tighter than ever, when I was more of a mother than ever, when we overcame the fear and uncertainties of a difficult time.
Being home with a newborn during a pandemic is somewhat the same as the usual newborn stage, lots of time hunkered down in the house. But I was planning on having our relatives visit to meet our daughter in her first weeks of life and see what an amazing big brother our son has already become. Selfishly I was hoping for visitors for adult socialization for me and a mental break from the newborn daze. I was planning on our son being in preschool so he would have time away from the baby to do his own thing and give me time to focus on the baby without the guilt of not focusing on him. Even though my postpartum time isn’t going as planned, there are a lot of positives to come out of this as well. We don’t have the rushed mornings getting ready for school or putting a screaming baby into a car seat because we can’t be late for school pick up. My husband is working from home full time so we’re able to have every meal together as a family and he’s been able to spend more quality time with both of our kiddos as well as give me an extra hand whenever needed.
Our daughter is a month old now and because we don’t live near relatives she has yet to meet any of her extended family, not even her grandparents. The hard part is that I don’t know when she’ll meet them. FaceTime has become a daily routine in our house to connect and it’s made all the difference, we can still fill the living room with the laughter of cousins and grandparents cooing at the baby. They’re still able to see how quickly she and our son are growing and changing.
Has it been hard, hell yes. Was I angry and sad that my pregnancy, delivery and newborn stage have not gone as planned, hell yes. Have I grieved for the normalcy of life, haven’t we all? But also my expectations have changed. I’ve spent more time in the present (like all those yoga classes have tried to teach me). I relish in the little happy moments more than before. I am more grateful for what I have than ever before.
I was worried that my daughter’s birth would be synonymous with a time of illness and anxiety and this cloud would hang over her story. But it’s been quite the opposite, she reinvigorated our home and brought back an excitement for the future. Our daughter was born during a pandemic and she is stronger because of it. I hope those first family photos of us all in masks in a hospital parking lot will be a reminder of what we’re capable of surviving and the depth of love our family carries for one another.
First time mamas, I’m sorry that you’ve been robbed of the novelties of your first pregnancy. To all the other mamas, I’m sorry that more has been added to your already very full plate. More things to worry about, more things to protect your children from, more difficult conversations to have and tough decisions to make. But this pandemic has bred a new generation of moms, those that can truly overcome any obstacle and navigate the unknown with grace and strength.