Updated: Feb 8
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 contr