Even as the first COVID-19 vaccine is distributed, it will still take time to roll out and pregnant women don’t have time to wait. COVID-19 cases are on the rise, sparking concern about what the rest of winter might hold. This month, 3,124 deaths in the United States were recorded in one day, which is more deaths than on 9/11. And 1 million new cases were reported in the span of five days.
I was in my third trimester when “social distancing” and “quarantining” became terms we heard on the news on a daily basis. I stopped meeting friends for lunch, stopped going to the grocery, and stopped taking my toddler to the playground. At that time, there was a lot of uncertainty about how the virus spread and how it might impact pregnant women. There was a real concern that hospitals would be overrun with highly contagious COVID-19 patients.
The world adjusted, delaying a lot of plans. But one plan I couldn’t change (and wouldn’t have wanted to) was the imminent arrival of my baby. Instead of delaying, I had to adapt.
There is less fear and uncertainty now than there was this spring, so a lot of the current challenges COVD-19 presents are logistical. As COVID-19 cases surge, here is some advice from a pandemic mom.
Get your medical records
With my first child, I never thought about my medical records. This time around, I got a hard copy of my medical records. That way, if my primary hospital shut down due to COVID-19 and electronic transfer was delayed or unavailable, I could take them to the backup hospital. My hospital bag was a little heavier, but the extra weight provided a comfort.
Give yourself time for those records to be processed and sent to you.
Decide who is in the room
In March, NewYork-Presbyterian and Mount Sinai Health System announced they intended to ban anyone from being in the room with women laboring and delivering babies. Thankfully, due to serious concerns about how this restriction might impact moms and babies, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an order blocking that decision and requiring hospitals to allow one support person.
But all over the country there are limits on visitors being imposed.One person is better than none, but for many women who wanted to use a doula, this policy of only allowing one person in caused a big change in their birth plan. Those of us who have been through labor before know that having someone there as a support partner is essential — not only to provide comfort, but to help make decisions during labor and delivery.
Look at your hospital’s rules and be ready to adjust who is in the room based on those rules.
Prepare for a positive COVID-19 test
Fortunately, we didn’t have to deal with a positive COVID-19 test. But I’d recommend coming up with a plan for what you would want to happen if you, your husband, or your baby tests positive for COVID-19. And check your hospital’s policies to make sure you are comfortable with them.
Plan for your postpartum appointments
Taking your baby in to show your doctor is one of the joys of parenthood. My doctor’s office quickly implemented a rule that no children were allowed. That meant I couldn’t bring my kids to my postpartum appointment. This policy causes some logistical challenges, especially for a breastfeeding baby who hasn’t learned to drink from a bottle. For one appointment, my husband drove us, and I nursed in the car right before and after the appointment.
Come up with a plan for mom’s postpartum care.
Accept the differences
I absolutely treasure newborn photos. Photographers weren’t allowed to work in my area when my baby was born. I bought a ring light and did my best at taking some photos on my phone. Objectively, the photos aren’t as good as those by a professional. But my child will know I tried, and we made some special memories, especially when he signaled he had enough of me moving him in different positions by peeing through his swaddle.
Plan for visitors
Set a plan for who is going to help take care of you and your family. Have candid conversations about social distancing or quarantining rules you’d like people to follow before meeting your baby. You get to set the rules. If family or friends are unwilling to follow the rules, let them know that they should wait a little bit longer to meet your baby.
There are often people who want to help, but help looks different in a pandemic. Pre-pandemic help might mean visiting and holding your baby for an hour. During the pandemic, we especially appreciated meal delivery.
Having a baby during the pandemic will likely add some stress to the experience, but I can assure you that the baby snuggles are still the same.