Our current health crisis has put a stop to many things, from bustling classrooms to leisurely Target strolls. But when it comes to giving birth, moms tell us it’s been business as usual. Reporting from across the continent, we spoke to seven women who shared their beautiful and awe-inspiring stories, proving to us that bringing home a new addition right now is just as joyful as ever.
Read on to learn what seven moms experienced while giving birth during COVID-19.
The Birth Experience I Needed
Melanie, N., Washington: When I heard I couldn’t have a water birth because of the virus, I was devastated. I’d already lost my doula, I was limited to one partner (my husband), and with fears and anxiety mounting, my planned water birth had been my silver lining.
At that point, I assumed my entire birthing experience would be defined by the pandemic and that even my daughter’s life would be characterized by it. But after the hours of intense labor that led to her birth, I could only think of her, stare at her, and sniff her fresh baby scent. I did it, and there she was as living proof.
Was it weird that everyone was wearing a mask the whole time? Yes. Do I wish it had been different? Not at all.
Even with a supportive nursing staff, fantastic housekeeping team, encouraging doctor, thoughtful partner, and healthy baby girl, I didn’t have the birth experience I’d wanted. Instead, I had the birth experience I needed. So to all other mamas-in-the-making, I’ll pass on wise words from my mom, mother of six: “Once that baby is born and you know everything is all right, you won’t care how it happened.”
The Last-Minute Home Birth
Clara H., CA: In the Before Times, the thought of giving birth in my dining room would have sounded horrifying to me. But when our state went into lockdown, my anxiety peaked. So, I sweet-talked my wife into switching, last minute, to a midwife who would oversee a home birth. I was 36 weeks.
I love being home. It’s where I feel safe and nourished. So, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that I felt so comfortable laboring in a baby pool inside my dining room. Initially, I just wanted to be alone—just me and my cat—with my wife nervously outside the door timing contractions. I’d get on all fours and rock back and forth to ride out each wave—until, that is, I felt my body do something all on its own: push! I screamed to my wife that I wasn’t at the wheel, and she called the midwife immediately.
In some ways, these scary global circumstances pushed me into my power … rewarding me with a truly beautiful and awe-inspiring birth.
The next hours melted into mush. I had no idea how long I’d been pushing when I felt the ring of fire—that extraordinary pain of an unmedicated crowning. The intensity of that propelled me forward and I kept thinking, “You’re almost there! You’re almost there!”
My wife and I cut baby Jude’s cord together, and he laid on my chest like a beautiful ball of warmth and light. I can’t quite put into words the incredible peace and beauty of this experience. In some ways, these scary global circumstances pushed me into my power—forcing me to step outside of my comfort zone, rewarding me with a truly beautiful and awe-inspiring birth.
Look for the Helpers
Sadie S., New York: So often during recent weeks, I’ve thought of Mr. Rogers’s famous words: in a scary moment, “Look for the helpers.” And that’s the advice I’d give to other women giving birth right now.
Before I gave birth, on April 3, I was actually most stressed out by other people’s reactions. “I just feel so sorry for you!” one older lady said to me, out of the blue, on Riverside Drive. When others heard my due date—before total lockdown, when there were more distanced encounters—their faces would get grave and concerned. “Are you worried about the hospital?” they’d ask. “Aren’t you scared?”
NOT HELPFUL! I wanted to shout. I don’t really have the luxury of thinking that way! But as with most unsolicited parenting-related commentary, it was easier to smile blandly and say something anodyne. I knew they meant well, and something about the fact of giving birth—something so inevitable, inexorable, and typically joyful—seemed to underpin the harsh realities for people and cause them to project in ways they probably didn’t even realize.
Of course, there were real things to worry about. But between rising fatalities and changing hospital policies, there were so few things I could control that I quickly decided that the best way to maintain my sanity was to focus on what I could: a positive attitude and the concrete ways we could make this work. The Mr. Rogers approach. Maybe that sounds Pollyannaish, or like denial, but I really believe it helped me; at any rate, I am not sorry that I didn’t worry more before my son’s birth.
Instead, I packed more chargers, as so many people wouldn’t be there. I bought more snacks and water, since my husband and I wouldn’t be able to leave our delivery room. I switched out the special new robe and slippers I’d been given for cheap ones I wouldn’t mind disposing of at the hospital. I reminded myself over and over that I was going to Mt. Sinai for the happiest imaginable reason and of how incredibly lucky I was.
So, what I’d tell people is: pack chargers and cheap slippers. Know that, yes, these are unusual times, and it won’t be what anyone planned, but that you’ll also learn more and faster than you can imagine. If you have a partner, they’ll be there with you. That you’re not on your own. And yes, to absolutely look for the helpers.
Don’t Mourn What Is Lost
Brit T., Ontario, Canada: I knew having a baby during COVID-19 would be different. The actual experience at the hospital wasn’t too bad, and I was prepared for how unique it would be compared to others’ experiences [before this crisis]. What I wasn’t prepared for was the isolation at home afterward, with no one able to visit and all interactions being via video calls. Although in some ways it’s nice to adjust to this new human on our own, I’m sad for the fact that he doesn’t get to meet his cousins or spend time with his grandparents (some of whom live in Vancouver and likely won’t meet him until it is safe to fly to Toronto).
Follow-up appointments for him have been a bit complicated, since they try to do them virtually—I feel like I am winging it a bit more than most moms. That being said, we take it day by day and hope that maybe by the end of summer he’ll be able to meet his extended family.
My advice for women facing delivery in the upcoming weeks is to try not to mourn what is lost. In some ways, the hospital time was even better without visitors as we were able to get so much one-on-one time with nurses without distractions. I’ve heard from nurse friends who work in the maternity department how much they’ve noticed less stress in the new moms who don’t have to be “on” for visitors, and some hospitals may even petition to keep the no-visitors rule in the maternity department after this all has passed.
I Gave Birth Alone
Kami V., Illinois: Already an anxious mom, I was worried about giving birth in a hospital with my husband while someone else watched my older kids. After weeks of tortured indecision, we finally made the call: I would go alone to give birth. Even though it was a hard decision to make, we felt it was best for our family. We didn’t want the risk of having a friend watch our older kids and didn’t feel it was fair to ask of anyone when everyone was social distancing.
Once we decided, I felt much more relaxed and the very next day my water broke—nine days before my due date. I labored at home, and when it was time, we all got in the car. I hugged my family and then the hospital staff took me to labor and delivery.
My nurse was amazing. She set up my laptop and FaceTimed my husband (who had put the kids to bed), so he could see everything. She checked on me as much as she could, and my husband was there talking with me the whole time.
When it came time to push, an additional nurse came in to take pictures and videos and make sure my husband could see everything from the computer. They were an amazing team. They laid my baby boy on my chest and I couldn’t have been happier. Nothing was lost in the pure joy of bringing my baby into this world.
Every New Precaution Was a Surprise
Kristi S.T., New York: I delivered my daughter via C-section on March 13, the day that all the major pandemic changes began in NYC.
Every new precaution was a surprise. We checked in for my induction to find no visitors would be allowed in the delivery or recovery rooms other than partners. This new policy had been implemented only hours before we arrived. My mother-in-law had flown in from Colorado to be with us during delivery, so we were very disappointed when she couldn’t be present or even see the baby until we left the hospital.
By the next week, many hospitals even stopped allowing partners to be present. It was upsetting, but remaining flexible and focusing on my baby was what got me through it. My advice for women facing the delivery room right now is to mentally prepare yourself for the possibility that you won’t have loved ones physically present with you. I would also try to let go of the idea that it will be exactly what you imagined. In the end, it’s about you and your baby being safe. You are strong, you can do it, but you need to be as flexible as you can.
I Felt a Sense of Power and Strength
Carly W., Oregon: I’d like to think I went into labor as cool as a cucumber, but that would be a lie. I was terrified of entering the hospital healthy and leaving it with the illness that’s been sweeping the globe. Couldn’t I just give birth from the safety and discomfort of my car parked in the parking lot? My husband’s answer was a hard “no.”
Instead, I labored at home until the pain felt unbearable. My husband paged the doctor, and soon, we were meeting in triage at the hospital, donning masks and getting our temperatures checked. At this point, I was 9 centimeters and could think of nothing else but the breath coming in and out of my body.
Truly, in these moments, I felt a huge sense of power and strength. I wasn’t scared of being in the hospital and getting sick—I was 100 percent focused on conquering each contraction so that I could meet my baby.
When I held this little girl in my arms for the first time in our lives, I sobbed tears of relief and joy.
And boy, was that baby worth the wait and agony! When I held this little girl in my arms for the first time in our lives, I sobbed tears of relief and joy. Bringing my baby into the world taught me an amazing lesson about presence: I could live inside that moment, working to welcome my daughter into the world, and shut out everything else around me.