As Rebecca got ready to visit her ob/gyn for one of her last few routine pregnancy check-ups, she had no clue that her baby boy due in mid-April was arriving way sooner than expected.
In Early March, COVID was still rare and something you’d catch a glimpse of on the news bulletin from time to time. There were a handful of cases in the country but still nothing too alarming that would concern excited new parents, Rebecca and George.
As the doctor ran the doppler over her bulging abdomen, Rebecca could feel something was just not right. The confused expression on the doctor’s face compelled her to ask what was up. “I’m afraid you’re running out of amniotic fluid fast.” Rebecca didn’t know what to make out of it. How bad was it? Would that mean she would have to deliver prematurely? And how early to be exact? Because the infant car-seat was still in transit and the nursery was most definitely not ready to be inhabited by a tiny little resident as yet. George hesitantly asked the doctor what their next steps would be.
“Go home, pack your hospital bag, have lunch and come right back to get admitted. The baby is coming.”
Not that they were completely unprepared to welcome the little one but there was just so much to be done! With the pregnancy going so smoothly up till now, they had not been expecting any hiccups ahead. On the drive back home Rebecca could not stop bawling. “How are we even going to take him back home without a car seat? How will we put him to sleep with no rocking-chair in the nursery. The paint on the changing table is still wet! Why did this have to happen to us? Where did I go wrong?”
The fact of the matter was that none of this was really in their control. They couldn’t have done anything about it. But for Rebecca and George, this was their worst nightmare. Big on punctuality and organization, they were the kind of people who would always be over-prepared for everything. So naturally the news totally caught them off-guard.
Once admitted, Rebecca’s labor lasted for a good 6 hours rather uneventfully. The epidural was in and she was completely dilated. Now all she needed was to push for an indefinite amount of time. Having George buck her up and help her navigate as she marathoned her way through a series of breathless pushes, undoubtedly made the struggle less painful. She could not even imagine doing it on her own.
Seeing little James for the first time however, made all the tears, anxiety and panic attacks worth it. It was pure love at first sight for them both. Born 6 weeks prematurely though, meant little James had to spend the next couple of weeks in the NICU. Sitting by the side of their wee little newborn, Rebecca would often well up and think to herself about the unfairness of it all. Not being able to have enough skin-to-skin with him, or to tuck him in in his brand-new bedside sleeper, this unexpected episode was just not part of their plan.
After what seemed like ages, James was finally cleared to go home with mom & dad. Needless to say, what followed his discharge was a series of countless sleepless nights, burping sessions and a strict diaper changing roster.
In parallel, as news kept pouring in about the novel Coronavirus, it started becoming more and more clear to Rebecca and George why their baby’s early arrival was actually a blessing in disguise. According to the new labor and delivery guidelines, most hospitals and medical facilities were banning the presence of any attendants with patients. That included not having even your partner with you in the delivery room.
As for NICU patients, parents could only meet their newborns via FaceTime for certain times during the day with no one except hospital staff being allowed inside the ward. As the grim realities of COVID gradually started unfolding, Rebecca slowly realized why their little plot twist saved them from an incredibly difficult childbirth experience.
The car-seat bought in haste and George’s office chair turned into a makeshift rocking chair were not nearly as painful to experience as what a solo delivery would have been like.
For new parents who had had to deliver their newborns in the middle of the pandemic, one cannot even imagine the kind of circumstances they would have had to go through. As hospitals gradually ease down restrictions on the number of attendants allowed with patients, there’s hope that we are slowly inching back towards some form of normalcy, albeit under strict safety protocols. However, stories like Rebecca and George’s, and millions of other new parents, serve as a constant reminder of how gravely the global pandemic has impacted the lives of everyone, especially those who have had to experience parenthood amidst this incredibly unusual new reality.