Stephanie Gandelman was nearing the end of her pregnancy when the threat of Covid-19 began to affect everyday life in the New York area. Today we are honored to share her story of having a baby during the Covid pandemic.
Having a Baby During the Covid Pandemic: Stephanie’s Story
After undergoing four rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF) for over three years and miscarrying three times, last July I discovered I was finally pregnant. My original due date was April 3rd. However, I began to feel concerned about having a baby during the Covid pandemic.
My due date approached. So did Covid-19.
My original birth plan was to carry to full-term and deliver at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. We planned for my husband, mom, sister, and sister-in-law to all be in the room with me for support. But things changed quickly as the Covid-19 pandemic hit the tristate area hard.
My husband and I ultimately decided to induce labor a week early, on March 27. I was 39 weeks pregnant. I was fearful that if I waited, the hospital would be overrun with more coronavirus cases. Also, I was worried I might contract it there. While it wasn’t our original plan, we determined we’d rather have our baby as soon as possible without endangering the pregnancy.
On Monday, March 23rd, we received an email from our doctor’s office and the hospital. It informed us that their visitor/support person policy was changing. I would no longer be able to have my support team with me for the birth.
A very different birth day.
On Friday, March 27th, I arrived at the hospital for my scheduled delivery. No support person was allowed in the room for labor. Nor was anyone allowed for visiting afterward due to social distancing rules set in place by the hospital to limit exposure. As sad as I was that my husband couldn’t be there with me, I definitely understood and respected the hard decision that the medical team had to make for the safety of its patients and staff alike. After everything we had gone through to get here, I knew that as long as our baby was okay, nothing else really mattered. So, I gave birth to our son while my husband watched via Zoom conference. Surreal, I know.
At the hospital, I was required to wear a mask throughout my labor and delivery. At first, I found the mask to be pretty annoying, and hard to breathe in. But the longer I wore it, the more I got used to it. It became a little complicated during labor because I was exerting so much energy and the mask made it even harder to breathe. I was also SO SWEATY, so my mask was DISGUSTING once I finally delivered. Eating, drinking, and sleeping were also not ideal. But again, just like anything else, you get used to it.
Since this is my first baby, I wouldn’t know what kind of labor support there usually is during a hospital delivery. But as I labored, I felt extremely supported and very well taken care of by the hospital staff. If I needed anything, such as water, ice chips, or more pain medication, all I did was push a button. Someone would be at my side in a matter of minutes to help!
My husband watched his son be born through Zoom.
Labor really was just that: labor. During labor, my husband was on the computer screen blowing me kisses every time I looked at him and waved. After pushing for two hours, my doctor informed me that I needed some help getting the baby out and recommended we use clamps. I guess that was a big deal because all of a sudden the room was flooded with eight more doctors and nurses. Honestly, it was petrifying, considering everything. Thankfully everything was okay and the baby was perfect.
I cried. A lot. And my husband cried too. One of the only times I’ve ever seen him cry in an over 10-year relationship. The nurse brought the computer over to me as I held our baby for the first time, and in that moment, when it mattered most, he was right there with me.
For the duration of our stay in the hospital, my son and I were FaceTiming with my husband as often as possible. I found his “virtual” support to be much more comforting than I initially thought it could be. It obviously wasn’t the same as having him next to me, but I felt him in spirit. The day after I gave birth, Governor Cuomo put out an executive order that allowed a partner in the delivery room. While I could have been bitter and angry at this news, instead I just laughed. I was just so happy that my little guy is okay. I wouldn’t have changed a thing and my husband agrees.
Postpartum care in a hospital filled with Covid pandemic patients.
Normally, the hospital would keep a mother and baby for 48-hours after labor. But because of the Covid pandemic, as long as baby and mom were okay, they discharged 24-hours after delivery. Also, on the day I delivered, the policy in the hospital changed from testing only Covid-19 symptomatic moms-to-be to testing every mom-to-be. Then, the postpartum floors were divided. The moms who tested negative were on one floor, while the moms who tested positive were on another floor.
My postpartum nurse was actually an angel from above. I had a very large tear on the right side of my vagina, so I could barely walk. Every few hours when my nurse came into my room, she’d give me my meds and go to the bathroom with me. She’d prepare my ice pack, topped with a pad, topped with witch hazel pads, topped with cooling spray, that all went into a pair of mesh underwear. These underwear ice packs saved me for the 24-hours post-delivery in the hospital, and then for a solid week once I got home.
My plan was always to go straight to my parents’ house after delivery to spend the first couple of weeks at their place. We always felt as though this baby was as much theirs as it is ours. We were so looking forward to spending this special time together. We’re missing them already, as well as the extra help they could have provided. Once it started sinking in that this would not be an option for us because of the Coronavirus, it definitely left me feeling more anxious about life post-delivery. However, we are 1-week postpartum and doing just fine.
Despite all the challenges, we’re so thrilled to finally be parents to the most delicious little guy. We feel so extremely blessed.
Thank you, Stephanie, for allowing us to share your story of having a baby during the Covid pandemic! We are so thankful you and your baby are healthy and home safe!