This amazing story was contributed by fellow Old New Mom, Jessica Newcomb. Thank you so much for sharing this experience and lessons learned, Jessica. And, congratulations to you and Vinny on the birth of your beautiful baby boy, Dylan!
On December 17, 2020, my husband and I arrived at the hospital for my scheduled c-section for our fourth baby. My nerves were already shot. I hadn’t been through this process in thirteen years! While I was eager to meet our new baby boy, Dylan, I felt somewhat unprepared for this experience…and I had no idea what I was in for.
The first thing the nurse asked me when I reached my room was, “Have you done your COVID-19 test?” Prior to the surgery date, I asked the doctor about the procedure for getting a COVID-19 test and was told it would be done along with the pre-surgery work-up. When I told the nurse what the doctor relayed, she informed me that I would be tested before I went into the operating room.
In preparation for my scheduled c-section, my doctor requested to have a more experienced doctor accompany her during my surgery because it was my fourth c-section, she was a fairly new doctor with the practice, and she wanted to make sure everything went as it should. As luck would have it, my doctor was unable to be there for the surgery, so I ended up having two doctors I had never met before perform my surgery. Honestly, I felt more comfortable with them because they had been practicing medicine longer and had the experience to handle my condition.
The surgery took place and everything went well. In addition to delivering our son, the doctors were also able to remove my tubes to ensure that this would be my last baby. My husband, Vinny, watched the cleanup process and held our son next to me while they finished up. After the surgery, I was moved to a hospital bed where I held my son, kissed his head, and did everything else a new mom would do.
Unfortunately, my world was turned upside down when we made it to my room.
“Mrs. Newcomb, your COVID-19 test was positive. Have you been having any symptoms?” The nurse proceeded to go over the symptoms – shortness of breath (yes – I have asthma), fatigue (yes – I was pregnant), headaches (yes – I get migraines), loss of taste or smell (no), fever (no – My temperature was 97.7 when I walked into the hospital).
They sent my husband downstairs to the emergency room to be tested. Initially, he was told that if he tested negative, he could come back to the room. However, once he was down in the emergency room, they told him that they’re sorry, but even if he tested negative, he wouldn’t be allowed back in the room because my test was positive.
My son was immediately removed from my room and taken to the “step down unit” since I was unable to walk. The nurses held a meeting to see what can be done about this situation. Our new son, Dylan, had now been exposed to COVID-19 because of me, and there was nothing I could do. My husband wasn’t allowed to be there to comfort me and tell me it was going to be okay.
I felt completely helpless.
About three hours later, I was told to have my husband come back to the hospital and get tested. If he was negative, I was told he would be able to come to the room with the paperwork showing that he tested negative and that they would mark it as an “extenuating circumstance”. If he tested positive, I would need to have a backup willing to come get tested immediately after him.
My husband returned to the hospital and was tested for COVID-19 – his results were negative. Both he and Dylan were allowed to come back to my room. Unfortunately, I wasn’t given the option to breastfeed or pump because of my own COVID-19 diagnosis. I was told that we needed to limit my exposure to my son as much as possible. I could not hold my baby for almost 24 hours. The only time I was allowed to have contact with my newborn son was when my husband was not in the room (we still had three teenagers at home that needed to be checked on occasionally). Any contact with my baby was strictly limited to “just feedings and diaper changes”.
After 24 hours, baby Dylan was tested for COVID-19. I prayed like you would not believe for his results to be negative. I already felt so guilty that I had exposed him – I didn’t know how I would have reacted to his results coming back positive, as well.
Thankfully, his test was negative.
Shortly after my son’s results came back, one of the nurses started thinking it was odd that my test was the only positive in the room and asked if it would be ok to retest me. This time, they would not do the rapid test, but it would take longer to get the results because the test would have to go to a sister hospital. I immediately agreed – I didn’t understand how my test was positive, while my husband (who works 40+ hours in a grocery store every week) was negative.
Thankfully, my second COVID-19 test results came back negative. I cried when I got to snuggle with my son for the first time since he was born – more than 24 hours later. I no longer had to be a bystander while my husband cared for our son – I was able to help! I could finally BE with my son for more than 15 minutes at a time. It was the best feeling in the world.
Looking back on this entire experience of delivering a baby during a pandemic, there are a few things I would have done differently prior to going into the hospital.
Ask Questions About Procedures Related to COVID-19
Prior to delivery, talk to both your doctor and to someone at the hospital about protocols and procedures related to COVID-19. Most maternity ward tours are virtual now, however, there should still be someone available to answer your questions. First, ask if you should be tested for COVID-19 prior to being admitted to the hospital. I asked my doctor and was told that I would be tested the day of the c-section. The hospital’s policy, however, was to ask that expectant mothers be tested in advance at 38 weeks (I was admitted on the day I hit 38 weeks, so that was a moot point for me.) Ask what happens should you test positive for COVID-19 upon being admitted. Changes to visitor policies become especially important if you are having a c-section, so it’s important to know the “what ifs”. We learned the hard way that our chosen hospital was NOT fully prepared to handle our situation.
Prepare for Breastfeeding Resources to Be Limited
If I had it to do over, I would have taken an in-person breastfeeding class. Unfortunately with COVID-19 running rampant, most classes are virtual. The WIC office did go through the basics over the phone at my last appointment, however, this is not a preferred method. If in-person classes are not available, take a virtual or even try to locate instructional videos on the subject. I relied much too much on the availability of a lactation consultant at the hospital when I shouldn’t have. I should have asked specifically about the possibility of breastfeeding and being COVID positive. We wrongfully assumed that I would have access to a hospital-grade pump and a lactation consultant once Dylan was delivered. Due to my initial positive COVID-19 test, these were no longer options. Unfortunately, we did not think to grab my pump out of the closet and take it to the hospital.
Understand That Hospital Staff Are Stretched Thin
Many doctors and nurses are working multiple areas of the maternity floor. Should a doctor or nurse come into your room in full PPE gear, just go with it. Maybe even say, “Thanks for trying to keep us safe during this time.” Some of these hospital workers are simultaneously caring for NICU babies as well as COVID-19 positive mothers and they are doing their best not to spread the germs. We made the mistake of forgetting this a couple of times during my hospital stay, and one doctor explained she was the only one working the floor at the time.
Understand That Hospital Amenities May Be Stretched Thin
Especially if you are going to be having a c-section, you may want to ask what type of hospital bed you will be given and if a traditional hospital bed is an option. The hospital I stayed at used the pull-apart labor and delivery beds as the hospital bed for the duration of my stay. Having staples and stitches in my abdomen and trying to stay in a bed that is designed to come apart was definitely not ideal. I’m also about 5’8, and my feet were hanging off the end of this particular bed. This discomfort caused me to have back spasms that were incredibly painful (despite the fact that I was on pain medication for the c-section).
Above All Else, Trust Your Gut
I had serious reservations about having my son at this particular hospital. Unfortunately, there are only three hospitals in my area that will do voluntary sterilization (e.g., tube removal), so my options were already limited. My other two options were Catholic hospitals that only perform these if it’s deemed medically necessary. I did my research and the people I talked to who had delivered babies at this hospital said their experience was great. My husband and I had discussed our options many times before deciding on the hospital. Since I was having a c-section, we felt it was most appropriate for me to have my tubes removed while I was already in surgery instead of having him to go through a vasectomy several months after Dylan’s birth. In the end, we decided to go with this hospital.
Still – I had a nagging feeling telling me to go elsewhere. This post is only about my COVID experience during delivery, but my experience at this hospital didn’t end there. I was readmitted several hours after discharge for possible sepsis, which caused me to lose another two days of bonding time with my baby (and gave me a whole new list of reasons why I won’t go back to that hospital). My initial instincts told me that this experience was going to be a bad one and to go somewhere else.
I chalked my feelings up to the stressful pregnancy, but I should have trusted my gut.
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