Giving Birth during COVID-19: One Mother’s Experience
The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the birthing experiences for many new parents, with many changes in place to keep patients, teammates and communities safe and healthy and reduce spread of the virus.
For Jill Howell, the key to weathering these changes was patience and a focus on staying well informed. “Every time I went to my OB’s office, I asked questions, so I would have an idea of what to expect,” said Howell, who gave birth to a baby boy at Wayne UNC in late June. “I tried to educate myself as much as possible beforehand.”
Enhanced Safety Measures
When Howell and her wife, Beth, arrived to Wayne UNC Labor & Delivery, they were both given masks by the team. The couple understood that they needed to wear their masks any time someone was in the patient room and in all other areas of the hospital.
Under the hospital’s current visitor policy, patients are allowed one designated visitor during their hospital stay. As Howell’s designated visitor, the team screened Beth at the entrance and provided her with a visitor badge. Beth was also asked not to leave the hospital campus more than once daily to help protect teammates, patients and visitors.
Relief through Recovery
Howell said the limitation on visitors was actually a relief for her and for Beth. “When we had our first son in 2017, we had a lot of visitors in and out of our room,” she said. “It was like I was having to try and entertain while I was also trying to heal. It was very stressful.”
The restrictions also meant that their oldest son would not be able to meet his new baby brother in the hospital. Their son also had never spent time away from his parents before. But, Howell said the couple took these challenges in stride.
Howell went in to have labor induced but had to deliver by C-section. After the C-section, her wife had to return home unexpectedly to care for their older son. “It was traumatic having to leave him at home, but he seemed to be doing fine. He understood that something was going on,” said Howell.
While Howell missed her wife’s presence, she said the time she passed in the hospital was very quiet and peaceful. “I had my phone on me, and I stayed connected with the people I wanted to stay connected to. I also had my social media and my text messages.”
Keeping an Open Mind
In light of her experience, Howell said it’s best for expecting parents to try and keep an open mind about delivery through the pandemic.
Howell said she socially isolated herself for three months prior to her due date, with the exception of her prenatal appointments, which also looked different from what she had expected. “Many of us were not able to have our partners with us at OB appointments and for the ultrasounds and other visits we looked forward to,” said Howell. “I think it was important for us not to be set on one certain thing going into labor.”
With this pregnancy, Howell said she let go of many of those expectations. She asked questions of her doctors at every appointment and tried to become as educated and prepared as possible.
As a result, Howell said her birthing experience exceeded her expectations. “Everyone was so accommodating and so caring,” she said. “Aside from the pandemic and not being able to have my wife there the whole time, the experience was above and beyond.”