10 months ago if you would have tried to describe the crazy circumstances surrounding the birth of my daughter, I would have thought you were describing an outrageous movie plot.
Covid-19 turned my world upside and threw all my control freak birth plans out.
There are many things that you don’t think of or plan for that happens when you give birth during a pandemic:
•My plans to have my sister fly into town from Ohio to be at my birth goes out the window.
•My hopes to have my mom also fly in right after she was born to help me transition from one kid to two were quickly gone. Well, and to make me food. Let’s be honest, I want my mom’s cooking too.
•My 5 yr old, Zander, didn’t get to come to the hospital, like he planned, to meet his new little sister that he prayed for for months. I also knew I wouldn’t be able to see him for days as he stayed home with a friend who made sure she was quarantined for 14 days before my due date.
•There would be no plans for people to come ooo and ah over our perfect bundle of sweetness or bring meals to help out after we got home.
• Things that I typically get when I’m having a baby like diapers, wipes, pads, and hand sanitizer are suddenly hard to find!
However, one of the toughest things for me was that my incredible (that’s putting it mildly, y’all!) doula, Bonnie, didn’t get to be in the delivery room with me as I accomplished my goal of a successful VBAC.
Because I so desperately wanted Bonnie helping me through my labor, my equally amazing midwife, Kathy, completely supported me to labor as long as possible at home the morning my water broke. Kathy even invited me to come into her office and labor there so she could check me throughout the afternoon. Now, that’s what I call a support team!
If someone was recording my 36 hours of labor, it probably looks like a 90s music video, the amount of random places that I labored that day. We delayed going to the hospital as long as we could so Bonnie could walk me through the grueling hours of labor and in the process made a few people slightly uncomfortable watching a woman clearly laboring in the very public great outdoors!
I labored at home, in my midwife’s office and building, walking up and down Flagler along the intracoastal, in the empty West Palm Beach outlet mall parking lot (because #BJsTakeout!), and in the middle of downtown West Palm Beach on Clematis!
Once we finally decided it was time to head to the hospital, I had to say a really tough goodbye to my doula and make sure my mind was ready for this next phase without her support. She reminded me I could do this and that she was just a phone call or FaceTime away.
We drove up to the entrance of the hospital and it looked like a sci-fi movie. There were tents set up outside, hospital workers with masks and thermometers, and security guards making sure we knew once we were in, there was no coming back out — for ANYTHING.
As we answered copious amounts of questions about coughing, proximity to Covid positive people and any travels overseas or up North, no one seemed to be in a rush to get me inside as I squatted and tried to breathe through the contractions that were still coming strong.
Once we were finally inside, we settled into the labor room and I was hooked up to monitors and given Pitocin to move labor along a little faster. By this time my body was exhausted and my mind couldn’t keep up. Without my doula and the worry of a possible c-section if I didn’t progress fast enough, I opted for an epidural so I could try to relax and see if I would move past the 4 cm I was stuck at since earlier that afternoon. Clearly my daughter was intent on waiting out this virus and staying in there. #stubborn
After the epidural things moved quickly and a little after 5am on Friday, March 27th, I was able to push my 7lb 2oz baby girl, Zoë Danika, into the world. I did it! I achieved my goal of a successful VBAC (in the middle of a global pandemic, no less!)!
The 36hrs of “labor ‘round the world”, Pitocin, and epidural were not part of my birth plan but the end result was totally worth!
Since I had Zoë Fri morning, I thought I was going to be able to head home and be reunited with my son by early Sunday morning for the latest. I was ready to hit the road! We noticed nurses seemed a more cautious about getting too up close and that the Lactation consultants weren’t “hands on” or close up as as I was used to with my first. Results of a covid-minded workforce, I’m sure.
But on Saturday morning it all turned when a hospital pediatrician decided that Zoë needed to get antibiotics in the NICU since my water was broken for almost 24hrs and he was afraid of an infection due to one “off” lab result. He told us if we left and she had an infection she’d die before we could get her to a hospital. The validity of his prediction has since been disputed but his over abundance of caution threw us head first into the wringer of crazy that hospitals are right now. I was devastated to not be heading home.
That afternoon, we made the hard decision that my husband would head home without us to be with our son. This meant I’d be alone since he couldn’t come back into the hospital until it was time for us to go home. I also called my midwife asking if she could delay discharging me as long as possible so I could stay and nurse Zoë during the night without restrictions. Due to Covid hospital rules, if I was discharged I could only visit Zoë in the NICU during the day and would have to leave her for more than 12 hrs at night. Thankfully, I was able to stay as a patient until Sunday and then they discharged me into “Hospitality”. This means I would no longer be a patient but could stay in my hospital room so I could walk back and forth every two hours at night to feed my daughter in the NICU. Sounds like a great plan, right? WRONG. The movie plot quickly changed to a nightmare.
The Covid rules don’t take into account that now that I wasn’t a patient, I couldn’t be administered meds, had no dedicated nurse, and no support person with me. It also meant that I couldn’t leave to buy myself meds, to get my breastfeeding body food or have either delivered or brought to me. I couldn’t leave the maternity floor or I wouldn’t be able to return to my daughter. I had no one there to help with Zoë, with my pain, or my postpartum anxiety and hormones.
The icing on the Covid-19 cake came that night when my milk came in like a wrecking ball after my meds wore off. I was a wreck! I was walking back and forth to the NICU and the maternity floor snack room was off limits due to covid restrictions. Anytime I needed ice or water it required me to walk to the nurses station to find a nurse willing to help me. Prayers were the only thing that got me through that night of horror. By Monday morning my emotional, mental, and physical state was fragile. Lack of sleep, food, and support had me reeling, sore, and hangry!
Thankfully an amazing NICU nurse, Cindi, made the cafe bring me a breastfeeding tray so I could finally eat and a lactation consultant hero went down to the out-patient pharmacy and got me ibuprofen!
I am forever grateful to these two amazing women for looking past the temporary rules and seeing me as a postpartum mom in desperate need of an advocate and help. I am also grateful for technology. FaceTime, phone calls, and texts kept me sane and connected in a time when I felt completely alone and isolated.
Thank God on Monday afternoon, after almost 5 days on my crazy real life movie set, I was walked out of Covid-run land with my sweet, healthy baby girl and a greater appreciation for the normalcy and “ease” of giving birth outside of a global pandemic.
If you find yourself pregnant during a pandemic remember:
You can do hard things.
You can harness the beauty of technology to keep you sane and connected.
You can labor anywhere the wind takes you and it’s OK if people stare.
You can hire a doula or have a strong supportive team, even if they can’t all be in the delivery room.
You can still have a beautiful birth story because the beauty is what you get to take home with you at the end of it all.
Stay healthy, mamas and please — be kind to one another.