Having a Baby During a Global Pandemic

I am nine months pregnant. Our baby is due in less than 3 weeks! And yes, that exclamation point encompasses our excitement and our fears.

It has been an emotional past few weeks. I have always had a positive attitude toward the birth process. When I gave birth to Dane four years ago, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and also my greatest achievement. It was the most powerful, present, and centered I’ve ever felt. Let me be clear, it was not an easy birth (25 hours of back labor, excruciating from the start). But with the support of Dutch (my husband, my love, my rock) and our doula, I was confident, calm, and filled with gratitude that our baby was coming to us. 

Just after giving birth to Dane in 2015.

However, as Covid-19 has forced hospitals to change their policies, much we have taken for granted about giving birth has been turned on its head. Primarily, the assumptions that our partner will be there to support us through labor and that we’ll be able to hold our baby after delivery. 

Wait. Stop and imagine this with me for just a moment: giving birth on your own. Yes, nurses are in and out and a midwife/doctor comes to catch the baby, but you are laboring ON YOUR OWN. Worse yet, imagine that you have Covid-19. When you deliver your baby, he is immediately taken to isolation and you don’t get to hold him even for a moment. It’s a mother’s worst nightmare.

It was foreign to me to suddenly feel afraid to give birth. I felt defeated before it had even begun. The idea of giving birth alone frightened me, but the idea of being separated from my baby absolutely gutted me.

Dutch took this picture of me in Montana when we were visiting my family in February.

Thankfully, the World Health Organization called it inhumane to send a mother into labor alone and the rule that NY and NJ hospitals had put into place was revoked. I feel so, so badly for those women who gave birth that week. It must have been heartbreaking for both the mothers, alone and scared, and for the partners unable to witness their baby being born. We can only hope and assume PA will follow this precedent and still allow one birth partner in. 

For weeks, I consumed the terrible news about the pandemic and how it could affect pregnancy. I read about asymptomatic mamas coming in to give birth and then crashing during labor, tests revealing they were infected with Covid-19. I read about babies being removed from mothers who were sick. I read opposing reports about whether Covid-19 could be transmitted through breast milk, whether it could be transmitted through the birth canal. I worried whether it would even be safe to give birth in a hospital or if I should start planning for a home birth (which I would in a heart-beat if I hadn’t hemorrhaged with Dane).

Dane is 4 and tells us he’ll know what our baby’s name should be when he sees him. So far name options have included “Dane” (because it’d be funny!), “Wayne” (because it rhymes with Dane!), and “Spaul, Rumberger, Houser, or Booger”.

On the home front, my twice-weekly ultra sounds and prenatal visits with the midwife have been canceled, reduced and/or switched to telemedicine. I was told to buy a blood pressure cuff, count kicks, call them if something seemed wrong. I am happy to stay home, but I feel for first-time mamas who must be feeling a bit abandoned by their prenatal practice. When I arrive at the hospital in labor, they’ll test me for Covid-19 and I’ll have to wear a mask throughout labor. Presumably if Dutch is healthy he can be with me, but not our doula.

We wonder who we will leave Dane with when I go into labor. Who has been the safest that we can hope hasn’t been infected? Who trusts that we have kept Dane safe and aren’t putting them at risk of Covid-19? Other pandemic-related problems cross our mind…do we have enough diapers in case we can’t get them later? If I can’t breast feed for some reason, will we be able to find formula? Do I have everything I need personally for the painful recovery period?

There is much to consider, much to fear. But once I got over feeling sorry for myself and crying and worrying about being separated from the baby, I made a pact with myself:

I am strong. I am calm. My body knows what to do. I will change my attitude and I will go into this smiling and excited to meet our baby, no matter what. All that matters is a healthy baby. I have a husband who is an amazing father and a kid excited to be a big brother. We can do this. 

At 36 weeks, last week, we planted some cold-weather greens in our community garden. We were the only people there so we could safely remove our masks and take a family selfie.

During this pandemic, we’re all scared and we’re all dealing with huge challenges: feeding our families and paying our mortgage while out of a job, the virus itself (!), working an essential job and trying to stay healthy, rescheduling weddings, having babies, keeping our sanity while seeing our nation ripped in two over how to deal with everything. 

My hope for you is to find peace and strength and to overcome whatever the challenge may be for you during this unprecedented time. It is terrifying, but we have to focus on something good, whether it’s your daily loaf of homemade sourdough or planning your wedding virtually or suddenly finding yourself with much-needed family time.  For me, it will be challenging myself to stay grounded and positive to I can bring this baby into the world safely, even during a pandemic.

We all will overcome, one way or another. Let’s try to do it with some grace and joy.

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