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Here’s what giving birth during the pandemic looked like

On March 13, 2020 when the world ended in California, I was 20 weeks pregnant. My husband and two girls went for my anatomy scan where we were to find out the gender of our baby. On our way out, we heard that things were shutting down – schools, stores, and consequently, the pregnancy that I had dreamed about.

When I became pregnant with our third child, I was so excited. I was looking forward to playdates with my girls and spending time going places as a family before beginning life with a newborn, including library circle time and playdates with my then-second child. But as everyone would soon find out, plans we made and visions we had didn’t end up that way. 

When I gave birth to my daughters, we had visitors flocking to the hospital and to our home. After the birth of my second daughter, the best moment was when my parents brought her big sister to the hospital to meet her “new baby.” It was precious, something to make every mommy’s heart skip a beat. She was enthralled with her new sister and pictures of us in the hospital as a family of four are some of my favorite.

Giving birth during a pandemic felt like a world away from those experiences. 

Then the “What Ifs” Started

Being pregnant during COVID-19 was anything but normal. I was faced with questions that all of us pregnant moms thought we would never need to answer: would my husband be allowed to go to the hospital with me? Would he be there for the birth? What would we do if we got COVID close to the birth? What if something happens to the baby? What would happen if our families got sick and couldn’t watch our girls when we were at the hospital? What if I couldn’t have the VBAC I wanted and tested positive for COVID with a Cesarean and they took my baby away from me? What if my husband got sick when he had to continue going into work everyday? What if I have to do this alone? What if? What if? What if? 

I was nearly paralyzed with these thoughts, from stories that I had read online and those that kind-intentioned friends relayed to me. When I asked my doctor, she was reassuring and kept me up to date on what was happening in the hospital. But I was reminded that we would have to wait and see how things were looking at the time the baby arrived, and that there isn’t anything good to come from getting stressed out over the what ifs. 

My labor started, thankfully, on the night before my just-in-case Cesarean was scheduled. If I needed the Cesarean I would have needed a COVID test, and I was never given a complete answer as to what would happen if I tested positive. My husband was able to come with me to the hospital (one support person was allowed) and was with me the entire two-night stay. Because we were both in good health and without fevers on check in we were not COVID tested. And my husband was even able to leave the hospital and bring back food for us.

Labor was more eventful than I would have liked; yet 44 minutes before the clock struck midnight, and the dawn of my husband’s 35th birthday, I pushed out a beautiful baby boy. While I was pushing, I distinctly remember a nurse who was holding my leg, stop, reach up and adjust my mask.

After the baby was born, we moved back into our room and I was able to sit up and feed him for the first time. Feeling was coming back to my legs as the epidural wore off. Before the baby was done eating, I unlatched him and told my husband to take him. I then had the first severe anxiety attack that I’d had in several years. After months of keeping it together, I had done it. I gave birth to a beautiful human being and all the supports that I had used to keep myself mentally afloat came crashing down. Looking back, the timing of this event was to be expected. I have struggled with anxiety since high school and the stress of the unknown, pregnancy hormones, and the miracle of childbirth caught up to me in that moment. My husband was supportive; he allowed me the space to feel the feelings. He was present, he didn’t freak out and he talked to me, reminding me that I was safe and that he was there. After a while I calmed and was able to finish feeding our baby.

We spent another full night in the hospital and, honestly, it was a nice time with just the three of us. I never felt unsafe, or in fear that we would catch COVID. There was so much hand sanitizer around that it was a little impressive, even for a hospital. The staff was kind and attentive as we wanted them to be and everything after the birth went smoothly. We put our masks on when someone came into the room but when it was just the three of us, we were able to relax and rest mask-free. 

FaceTime & Masks

We didn’t have any visitors in the hospital. We FaceTimed with our families to show the baby off. In a very different way, it was nice to be the three of us in the little hospital room. It was the only time that it’s been like that since he was born. Being more than slightly paranoid and hopped up on pregnancy hormones, we asked that visitors at home be limited to our immediate family. They all readily wore masks and, thankfully, were more than happy to respect any wishes we asked. 

Today, my baby is nearly seven months old and my oldest just started in-person school as we had been doing “Xoom school” since September. We are starting to venture out into the world again, but it is slow going. We’ve started doing playdates at the park again with a few friends and we even went to *gasp* a restaurant with my parents for outdoor dining a couple of weeks ago. The anxiety that gripped me in the hospital is still around, but is loosening its hold most days. I sometimes need to challenge myself to go out and do things, because I know that it is important for us not to hide in our home filled with fear. Plus, gotta build those little immune systems.

Giving birth is not easy, but every baby arrives with a loaf of bread under its arm and my little mister is no exception. Giving birth in a pandemic is definitely different than giving birth before one: it’s a lot quieter, a less public journey, and more strategic in planning. It’s hard to compare the two. I might not have been surrounded by friends and family the moment the baby arrived, but his coming was definitely celebrated, maybe even more so because he is a gift and has truly been the biggest bright spot in this whole crazy year that we’ve had. We felt love from our family across the country who called, checked in, sent handmade gifts and prayed for us through this whole process. 

Trying to be stress-free

Leading up to the baby’s arrival, what helped me most was staying away from the news and off mommy message boards as both of them stressed me out and didn’t provide much beneficial information. I muted people on my phone who sent information that they felt was helpful but in reality put me into a cold sweat. 

Instead, I chose to focus on what I could control and what I could do, and would even make lists for myself of these things. Planning meals that I could cook, what type of sushi and wine pairings I was going to have after giving birth, reading books that have been gathering dust, watching light comedies, organizing and cleaning our home to an inch of its life. But more than anything, I prayed that God would give me the strength to handle everything. 

Little Mister has been the biggest blessing to our family, the girls adore him and even though he still hasn’t met some of his family or many of our friends. He is definitely loved and we are even more blessed than when we started this journey. I’ve learned to trust more and to rely on my faith and husband during difficult times. When Mister is older, I’ll tell him the story of how he was born during a crazy pandemic and how much I love him. We are battle buddies and I just hope that his toddler years are a little less interesting.

Jena Muhr

My name is Jena. I am a Catholic, wife, and mother of 3 young ones. I have never met a carb I didn't like. I am a fan of mental health and saving the world one run at a time.

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