Note: This is a first-person account of a WellSpan York Hospital mother’s delivery of a baby during COVID-19.
By Rebecca Hanlon
“I can’t believe you did that with a mask on,” the midwife said as she placed my newborn daughter on my chest.
This 6 lb. 13 oz. baby girl came into our lives in the middle of a pandemic. She arrived after weeks of anxiety and fear.
The COVID-19 outbreak in our community had changed a lot of things. But I realized as I held her on my chest that it wasn’t such a scary time, after all. Surrounded by my husband and a caring medical team at WellSpan York Hospital, my daughter’s birth was the light we needed in an uncertain time.
Having a baby in the time of COVID-19
My pregnancy had been healthy. Despite everything going so well, I still felt nervous when my prenatal appointments turned into video calls.
I saw rumors on Twitter about New York hospitals no longer allowing support partners for delivering mothers.
“I know I could deliver on my own, if I have to,” I told my husband, Will. “I would just prefer you be there, too.”
We had to figure out who would watch our 4-year-old son when I went into labor. Our first choice was my parents. But as they both continued to work, and two positive COVID-19 cases were discovered at my mom’s office, we needed an alternative.
My sister, who had been practicing social distancing at home, was our next choice. I checked in with her weekly (in that crazy-pregnant-lady sort of way) to make sure she hadn’t had visitors.
An early arrival
Our baby’s due date was April 29. I delivered at 41 weeks with my first, so I had no suspicions of an early delivery this time around. However, this baby had her own plans. On the evening of April 19, I started bleeding.
By the time we got to WellSpan York Hospital, just before midnight, my water had broken.
I was most nervous walking up to the hospital. Because we were arriving so late, we had to enter through the ER. There were several tents and at least a dozen healthcare workers standing outside. With a large belly, it was pretty obvious why I was there.
We quickly tied on the masks my mother-in-law made us. We were screened at the door for COVID-19 symptoms before being escorted to the labor and delivery floor. Several people wished us luck as we walked past the care team outside and into the hospital.
The labor and delivery floor looked just as I remembered it when I delivered my son in 2016. Despite the virus we knew was being fought elsewhere in that hospital, I felt completely safe inside those doors. Whatever fear I brought with me that night washed away when my nurse told me about her little boys at home. The only thing that felt unusual was that we wore masks, too.
Not according to plan
We waited six hours for my body to kick into gear and start regular labor. I was given Pitocin to get things moving.
About 30 seconds away from receiving an epidural, I looked at my nurse, Heather, and told her the baby was coming. Three pushes later, I was holding my baby girl on my chest. And I did it with the mask on the whole time. In the rush to get that baby out, I didn’t even think about the mask on my face. I had a job to do.
The next couple of days in the hospital were quiet. Despite my fears, my husband was able to stay with me the whole time. We made FaceTime calls with family. We asked how we could continue to keep the baby healthy once we got home, and we were given thoughtful, helpful advice.
While the COVID-19 outbreak is still impacting our day-to-day lives in ways we never imagined, bringing new life into the world might have been just what we needed.
I still worry about keeping my kids healthy. I miss having friends and family share in the joy of our new addition. But I’m also relishing the quiet, peaceful moments this season has brought our family, and I’m thankful for all those who take care of us when we’re most vulnerable.