As if the concept of getting pregnant and walking through labor and delivery wasn't already dramatic enough, let's add a global pandemic and an uncontrolled virus to the mix just to take it up a notch AND then try to cope, shall we? That's what being pregnant in 2020 felt like and will likely feel like for those who find themselves in a similar situation in 2021 and quite possibly 2022.
I have to be honest, of all of my pregnancies (this was number 3) this was likely the most stressful, uncertain and uncontrolled of them all and adding the extra layer of COVID-19 meant that so much was always in question and changing, and the level of "go with the flow" that I had to be on was at a all time high.
It wasn't until I was in labor, that I realized what a unique situation I was in. Instead of feeling like "pregnancy in pandemic" was happening to me, I decided to pivot and "happen" to it. I thought of grabbing hold of this situation and using my experience as a catalyst to support others, ease some fears and help bring some light to those who might also find themselves in a similar situation.
Giving birth during a pandemic isn't really the way many of us envisioned ushering a new life into the world, but the globe doesn't stop spinning simply because we are, so instead of sulking through my experience, I powered up and got on social media and asked my followers what their burning questions about my pandemic pregnancy and labor and delivery were and that I would answer them as I went along.
I did just that.
Until the contractions started picking up.
I promised I would answer all of their questions and I am a woman of my word, so thits blog post is a round up of all of the questions I received that day. The things that b brought the most concern and hopefully the solutions, from my point of view, based on my most recent birth experience. It is important that you do your own research and ask your own questions as you prepare or help those you love prepare for birth because information is ever changing and varies from state to state, city to city and hospital to hospital, sometimes by the day and others by the hour, but I am hoping that this will be a quick overview that puts you at ease as you prepare to meet your little one.
FAQ About Giving Birth During COVID-19
Let's kick this off with the MOST asked questions I received, and it was all about the mask. I'm not surprised that the mask was the center of so many questions for others because it was also where a heavy bit of my fear lay too. I couldn't wrap my mind around wearing a mask during labor and especially when contractions got really tough and it scared me to think about what that might feel and look like.
I have anxiety about wearing a mask while birthing human. Do they make you wear a mask the whole time you're laboring? Do you have to wear a mask during active labor with doctor's around? What was it like laboring with a mask on? Do you have to deliver masked? Was the mask policy?
So the answer to this question is "yes" and "no." Wild right? Upon entry to the hospital, like anywhere else you do need to be masked. I live in Washington state and the policy is that any time you are in public you are masked up. When I was in the emergency room, the intake rooms of the Labor and Delivery floor, I had to be masked.
Once I got into my induction room (holding room to prepare for active labor and a labor room), things got a little more casual. I was rapid tested for COVID-19 and when my test results came back negative, I had the freedom to be unmasked in my room. Anytime I moved about the hospital or left my room, I had to follow hospital protocol but when in my own space, I had the freedom to be unmasked. Everyone who entered my room was masked up and would either wash their hands/ or use antibacterial before and after dealing with me (so in and out and I could physically see that happen). In my case though, my nurses and doctors were a little more lenient about allowing me to be unmasked. I believe that the answer to this questions will vary hospital to hospital and provider to provider, but I will say this: most doctors and nurses understand how traumatic labor and delivery is without the added pressure of having to wear a mask and my doctors and nurses (although it was required by the hospital) felt comfortable with me being without one so that I could labor comfortably. My doula and support person (Ike) wore masks the entire time.
How many support people can you have present? How many people can be in the room with you? How many people are allowed?
This is another common question that is always changing, so make sure that you check with your local hospital/birthing center to get the most up to date information, but where I am from, you are allowed one support person and one certified doula. My support person was my spouse and my doula was certified and could show papers of her certification. You won't be able to pull off "this is my good friend and she's my doula," unless your good friend truly is an accredited doula - so if you don't have a doula assisted birth, you can only bring one person into the hospital with you.
If you are curious about doulas and doula assisted births, check out my blog post on that here
Do you have to quarantine when you go home (since you were in the hospital)?
You do not have to quarantine when you return home after being in the hospital, but our general practice, as a family, after having a baby is no visitors for six weeks or about 40 days, so staying in a small pod post-labor and delivery is our normal tradition. But, the hospital, although scary at times, is the most sterile place you could be. They clean non-stop all day long and the COVID floors are not generally close to the labor and delivery ones. You can feel confident about your stay at the hospital and feel at peace that you won't be infected with the virus while being there. Never once did I feel nervous about my time there OR that I might possibly contract it while there and I visited the hospital two times before I was admitted for labor. Never did I feel I risked exposure there or even at my appointments, everyone was always doing their part to minimize that risk.
How were you feeling during labor?
My labor story was traumatic and intense, but also one of my easiest. I cannot wait to share the whole story and all of the gorgeous pictures in a future post soon. Sign up for notifications by subscribing and don't miss it when it goes live.
What caused your heart failure? What made you high risk?
My heart failure was caused by the viral flu virus in 2017. It got into my heart and sent my heart crashing. I do not have a past history of chronic or heart disease and up to that point was completely healthy. I still have minimal issues with my heart, unless I am pregnant and that is generally what ends up making me a high-risk pregnancy. When I was pregnant with Wisdom, it was very text book the whole 9 months. My pregnancy with Courage, I developed Preeclampsia (high blood pressure) and had to deliver at 38 weeks via induction. This pregnancy with Glory, I had Polyhydramnios (excessive accumulation of amniotic fluid) and had to deliver at 37 weeks. She would have been 40 weeks today (January 29th, 2021).
You can read all about my near death experience with heart failure and just what a miracle Courage and Glory really are after all of that, by clicking here.
Can your husband leave the hospital once he is there?
This was a concern of mine where there were major misconceptions. I had been told that once we arrived at the hospital that if anyone left that they would not be allowed to enter, so we put all kinds of wild things in place to support that idea. It wasn't until a full day in that we realized that both my support person and doula COULD leave and come back. Once you test negative for COVID-19, you receive a wrist band that states that. Once you have that wrist band you are free to move about the hospital and your support person CAN leave if they need to. We didn't take advantage of that and felt it was wiser to just hunker down for our stay, so that is what we did, BUT if Ike would have needed to leave or check in on our other children, he would have had the freedom to do so.
What are the rules for your partner? Do they have any specific rules to follow?
There weren't any different rules for Ike then there was for anyone else. He had to wear a mask, and at our local hospital that mask is provided once you enter the hospital. He also had to have his temperature taken at every check point of the hospital, but so did I. Anytime he was in other parts of the hospital, he had to follow the same rules others did and he was really diligent to stay masked the entire experience, unless we were taking pictures.
Would you still use a doula if its a c-section birth?
This is such a great question that I initially didn't have the answer to, but I asked my doula and the nurses so that I could answer it for you. In a planned C-section birth, a doula is not generally allowed in the surgery room when the c-section birth is happening, however it is not uncommon for moms to call their doula afterward to receive the postpartum support that you need once baby is here and oftentimes those doulas will coem to the the hospital to offer that.
If you are planning to deliver vaginally, but know that there is a possibility of being c-sectioned, I would still 100% recommend getting/having a doula for support.
You can read more about that here.
Is there anything different you brought to the hospital that you didn't bring when there was no COVID-19?
This is a really amazing question and I am working on a "What's In My Hospital Bag" post to share with you next week, hopefully alongside Glory's birth story. So stay tuned for that one. I did go into this a bit different then I did my other births. My first birth with Wisdom, I had no idea what to expect, so I over and under packed. With Courage, I had very specific ideas of what I wanted to see happen and how I wanted to feel, so that bag was very specific to the outcome and memory of birth I wanted to have. This time, it was about control. What parts of this experience can I control and what can I bring to make it more comfortable for me? It was a beautiful, serene experience and I had the least amount of stuff this time. You don't really need a whole lot because the hospital provides so much.
To read Courage's birth story and to see what I brought with me then, click here.
Why not labor at home for the first few days if it will be that long?
By the time I got this questions, I was on Day 2 of my induction in the hospital and didn't get a chance to explain that my labor was being induced. Because of that, I didn't have the option to labor at home. In addition to that, because of my heart history and my birth with Courage, my last two baby's have had to be monitored throughout the entire labor, something that wouldn't be able to happen if I were at home. In this particular birth situation, the Polyhydramnios prevented me from handling the majority of my labor from home. For those who may not know, active labor is considered to begin once you are dilated to 5 centimeters. Most hospitals hope to see you get to at least 4 centimeters before admission. Most women dialate to 2-3 centimeters before they ever feel their first contraction or before their water breaks. I am not one of those women. I never dilate on my own and often need medical intervention. The good news with Glory is that before we started induction, I had already dilated to 2 centimeters and was 75% effaced. It was my most self-productive labor to date and I was so proud of that.
Do you girls have to wait until you get home to meet her?
My girls DID have to wait until we returned home to meet their little sister in person, however they did meet her moments after she was born via FaceTime. Hospital policy at this time is that no children are allowed to be present. This was vastly different from my previous birth, of which Wisdom was in the room when labor began and was the first to hold her sister, Courage, when she was born. tWe created lots of opportunities for Wisdom and Courage to be a part of some decision making as it related to the baby and we had an amazing birthday party for Glory the day she came home, complete with gifts for each girl and didn't skip a beat, so everyone was very happy and a NEW memory was made.
Your process and recommendations for finding a doula?
I love my doula. I had a doula with all three girls (and the same doula with the last two). I would absolutely never give birth without the support of a doula and fully recommend one. Please check out my blog post here for tips on choosing your own doula for your birth experience.
Is this L&D different from your other two daughters?
In so many ways, yes it was, but honestly, no it wasn't. I know, the most confusing response. It wasn't different because of COVID, except I didn't have all the people I am used to having there and no one could come visit. The other differences were really about my body and how it showed up to the labor and delivery in comparison to how it showed up for them. The labor and delivery was seamless. I had amazing caring providers and doctors who kept us both safe and brought the best they had to offer to caring for me. Oh and everyone was masked. The only true indicator that anything was wrong.
Should a pregnant woman self-quarantine before giving birth during COVID-19 outbreak?
My answer would be yes. I think 2-3 weeks prior to delivery a pregnant women should slow way down and limit their exposure to people and to places to prepare for birth. You want to go into your labor situation in the best possible state, so quarantining will guarantee that you are healthy, ready to give birth and are COVID free for your baby, but check with your providers for their recommendations because I am not a doctor and don't know what is best for your particular situation.
Can COVID-19 affect a newborn baby?
There is very little research at the moment for how COVID-19 impacts and affects newborns and that is because there are very few reported cases of the virus in newborn babies. In my research and questioning of health care providers, few babies have tested positive for COVID at birth but it is uncertain when they contracted it - whether it happened in utero or after birth and even with COVID, the symptoms in those newborns were very mild or didn't show at all. I am not a doctor and I cannot speak to how COVID affects babies, so be sure to check in with your provider to get the most up to date and accurate information for your area.
I am nervous to send baby to nursery because of COVID.
I think this is a real and legitimate concern and fear, but again, COVID in babies has been reported as rare (see above question) and the hospital is one of the cleanest and most sterile places you can be, at least in my case. To speak directly to your concern about the nursery. I delivered very late at night after man-days of no sleep. By the time that Glory was born, was born, I was exhausted and could barely keep my eyes open. Our hospital has a policy that doesn't allow newborns to sleep in the bed with parents, but Glory did not want to be in the bassinet, so my nurse volunteered to take her for 1-2 hours so I could just get a little bit of sleep under my belt. Initially, I was really torn about what to do, but eventually I allowed her too because I was just so exhausted. That act of kindness was what I needed to just gather myself for a few moments and to take the pressure off and Glory did fine with the nurses and in the nursery. She wasn't there long and it was what I needed to show up for her better.
This is such a personal choice. I have never had my babies leave the room in the past and it was hard making the tough decision to do it that time, but many of these hospitals have so many things in place to keep you and your baby safe, from COVID, from kidnappings, from all of the things. Trust your instincts and move accordingly, but I personally feel there should be little fear about utilizing the nurseries during this time.
What were the pre-delivery appts like?
I became pregnant in May and we were full on in the middle of COVID. My pregnancy wasn't confirmed by a doctor until I was 13 weeks along. My pregnancy with Wisdom was confirmed at 5 weeks, and with Courage at 6 weeks, so having to wait double that time to make sure all was okay and well, and that baby was developing perfectly was really anxiety inducing. We were in Phase 1 at the time, so I had to attend all of my appointments on my own. I found out the gender on my own and brought that information home. I saw her for the first time alone and spent most of my appointments on my own. By fall, we moved into Phase 2 and I was allowed to bring one person to appointments with me, but school had stated and my oldest was doing remote learning so Ike had to stay home and hold down the house. I was able to find a baby sitter for one ultrasound so that he could see her in person and I am so thankful I did, because shortly after that appointment we moved back into Phase 1 and I was back to attending all of my visits on my own. Because this was my 3rd pregnancy, I didn't mind. I had done all of this before, but I can see how devastating these requirements and limitations might be for a first time mother. In addition, every appointment, I had to be masked up (my office provided the mask to guarantee it met exceptions), have my temperature taking and fill out the COVID-19 survey.
How do you decide who gets to visit/touch baby when your home again (parents and In laws)? with COVID?
Now that I am on the other side of this, I can answer this honestly. Glory has been in the world 17 days and no one outside of our pod (the people we have seen all year during this quarantine period) has seen her. The same people we were seeing prior to labor and delivery are the only people we have seen since. There have been no visits, no meet and greets and anyone who has brought gifts or food, have left them on our porch. The people who we saw before that have been supporting us now, have been or are constantly COVID tested (weekly) or have already received the vaccine, and that is how we have been handling the visits. For everyone else it has been Portal by Facebook, FaceTime and Zoom.
It has been really hard wrestling with the reality of this postpartum experience (one I plan to share in another post), but it is what is necessary to flatten the curve and to keep people safe. I have compiled a list of things to do to protect yourself in this 4th trimester when so much of this we have to do alone, so stay tuned for that post.
Are you or have you given birth during COVID-19? What was it like where you were? Do you have any advise or tips/tricks for others who may give birth during this pandemic?
If so, drop them in the comments and let's help support other mamas & papas and partners out there.
I hope you found this blog post helpful and would love if you did, if you told me in the comments.
With wisdom & courage for His glory,