The other day, we got a request from a reader: “Would Cup of Jo consider creating a post about what it’s like giving birth during this bizarre time? My second is due this month, and I’m starting to get anxious.” Answer: Yes! We spoke to four moms and a nurse to hear what it’s like to have a baby during the coronavirus pandemic…
Lizzy, New York City
Delivered by herself, had an emergency C-section
I was scheduled for an induction because I was late. Twenty-four hours beforehand, we found out that our hospital wasn’t letting partners in. My ob-gyn was stuck in Florida and she wasn’t going to be there. I had a breakdown.
But the worst part was the anticipation. That morning, I thought, there are people who are doing a lot worse right now, so let’s buckle down and do this. My husband, Josh, drove me up to the hospital and dropped me off. As soon as I saw the people working there, I was so grateful.
I was tested for COVID in a birthing room and I had to wear a mask until the results came back four hours later. That part definitely felt like an alternate universe, and no one could give me a straight answer as to what would happen post birth if I was positive. In any event, I was negative, and you could see the nurses breathe sighs of relief!
My husband, Josh, FaceTimed with me on and off for close to 24 hours. I also talked to more people than I would have in a normal birth — lots of friends, both my sisters, my kids — and I needed that extra love. People were really cheering us on.
Throughout the labor, the nurses were amazing. I felt like I had allies. They seemed hyperaware that I was alone and everyone mentioned it and apologized — although of course it’s not their fault.
I ended up needing an emergency C-section, so it was scary in the moment, but I’d already been through a C-section, so I knew what was going to happen. I was allowed to have my phone in the operating room, so Josh was talking to me throughout the C-section.
My son was born — and I was at the hospital for 36 hours total. It was very quick and very surreal. Josh and our two older kids picked us up in the car. It was so exciting. India and Major, who is only a year and a half, were both so excited. He lit up and just pointed at the baby the whole way home. It was really, really sweet.
Advice: Know that the anticipation is the worst part. When you’re in the hospital, you can feel the support all around you. Know that all of this is manageable and it will turn out the same way it would with or without a partner in the room. You’re strong enough, and you can do it.
Courtney, North Carolina
Adopted a baby, Courtney could attend the birth, but no one else
We were adopting a baby, and our birth mom, Catherine, had scheduled an induction for Saturday. Rules kept changing, and we were told different things by no less than 15 different medical staff over the 72 hours. We learned that my husband, Dan, couldn’t be in the room at all. That was obviously upsetting but we were trying to roll with the punches.
On Saturday morning, I went into the hospital with Catherine and her boyfriend, and they then told us that only one person could stay with her. We all looked at each other, and I immediately turned to them and said, ‘This is your choice, I want to make sure you’re comfortable, it’s your baby until you sign the baby off to us.’ And she looked at me and said I could come with her. They were both very kind.
I ended up spending all day and all night with her, so we got to know each other on a deeper level. We talked about our families and how she met her boyfriend and about her two-year-old and all those things you don’t talk about in the first awkward meeting.
We were joking that the theme of the day was ‘I don’t know.’ Every question we asked was met with ‘I’m not really sure.’ Thank god we’re both go-with-the-flow types. It needed to be as calm as possible for the birth mom’s sake and the baby’s sake. The nurses said, ‘We don’t even know what’s happening until the beginning of our shift each day, it’s changing so quickly.’ We had a wonderful nursing staff and everyone had a great sense of humor.
I got to watch my daughter be born and got to cut the cord. When I did skin on skin, I burst into tears — everything hit me at once — it was purely awesome. When my husband got to meet her the next day, he said, ‘It doesn’t matter that I wasn’t there for that moment, meeting her now is enough; and it’s a drop in the bucket when it comes to this lifetime.’ She is beautiful and worth every ounce of stress. She has strawberry blonde hair, it’s really sweet. My husband can’t put her down, he has been taking conference calls with her on his chest.
Advice: Just roll with it. There are no surprises because everything is a surprise. Have patience and understand that the medical staff is doing the best they can. Know that it’s okay to not know. There will be a baby at the end and it’s going to be awesome.
Shelly, Nova Scotia
A surrogate delivered the baby, Shelly could attend but not her husband
Because of recurrent miscarriages, my husband and I built our family through gestational surrogate. In Canada, surrogacy is completely altruistic. It’s illegal to pay anyone. You can reimburse your surrogate only for costs related to the pregnancy. We posted our story on Facebook groups for intended surrogates and quickly afterward a woman named Katie messaged me and it felt like we were sisters. We really clicked.
We got pregnant on the first try, and Katie’s pregnancy went really well. We excitedly made the plans for our birth. We wanted to have a doula, a birth photographer, my husband, etc. But with COVID, we learned that only one person could be in the room with her. It was up to Katie, of course, and was so grateful that she chose me.
Katie and I ended up having a powerful experience together, just the two of us. In some ways it was almost more beautiful because we depended on each other so much during that labor.
Initially, I was disappointed that we couldn’t have the birth photographer, but our photographer gave me a tutorial and told me what to look for; then she edited the photos I took. So, we’ll be able to show those photos to the baby when he gets older.
Shortly after the birth, Mark was able to come into the room and find out it was a boy. That was such an incredible moment. Then we spent the whole day — Katie, Mark, the baby and I — in a hospital room together. It was really special that we had the day together without any distractions. If we’re able to have more kids, I’d consider not having family come because we enjoyed that day so much. It was super intimate.
Advice: Focus on what you can control. That’s what got me through.
Stephanie, New York City
Delivered by herself, over Zoom with her husband
Before this pregnancy, I did three rounds of IVF and four transfers. I kept getting pregnant and having miscarriages. It was a lot. Finally, I got pregnant and was able to stay pregnant. But then the coronavirus came to New York three weeks before my due date.
We decided to induce at 39 weeks. A few days before, we got an email from our hospital saying no support person could come. My husband was really sad. I was sad for him, but I kept thinking, as long as the baby is okay, everything else is extra.
My husband dropped me off at the hospital. When I got there, the doctors asked me if I had any symptoms of the virus. (I didn’t.) The hospital felt different — you couldn’t take walks in the hallway or have any visitors. I had to wear a mask the whole time, and all the nurses and doctors were wearing masks. It was hard to breathe with the mask on, and by the time I delivered my mask was sopping wet from my sweat and saliva — it was disgusting! But you get used to it.
My husband Zoomed with me the whole time I was there. It was a long time, hours and hours, before I started being in active labor, so he was just sitting on video chat with me. Beforehand, I didn’t think it would be that comforting to have him on Zoom but it really was. You almost forget you’re talking on video after you’ve been doing it for hours; it was like he was really there with me.
During active labor, the doctors and the nurses were coaching me through, and I’d wave to my husband and he’d blow me kisses. During the pushing, I was trying to focus and breathe and push really hard. They bought my husband closer to me, and they said, it’s a boy!
The nurses were SO amazing. You could tell the hospital was crazy and they were overloaded, but they were so nice to me. Whenever I asked for water or ice chips, I would apologize, and they were like, ‘That’s what we’re here for!’ My postpartum nurse was the most generous, sweetest woman ever — it really made it better for me. She helped me go to the bathroom, and she helped put the ice packs in my underwear. She was really there for me.
Advice: We’re in this crazy time, but having my baby was still the best day of my life. Now we’re in quarantine, but we’re still making amazing memories with our baby. Don’t lose sight of the happiness that this will bring you. That’s really what’s helped me keep things in perspective. All I’ve wanted for years is a baby and now I have one.
Here’s the Zoom video of Stephanie’s birth! How sweet is her husband’s face when the baby arrives?
And, lastly, some words of advice from Beth, a labor and delivery nurse in Minneapolis: “Know that we’re all in this together. We don’t have the normal hustle and bustle of visitors, and I really think that parents and babies are bonding even better. That’s been special. I’m doing the same job, just in disguise. I wonder if my patients can see me smiling.”
Thank you so much to the healthcare workers, and a huge congratulations to anyone trying for, expecting or having a baby during this time! Lots of love xoxo