Are you newly pregnant or thinking of starting a family? It can seem daunting, thinking of bringing a baby into the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. My husband and I had wanted a third child for a long time, but life kept getting in the way. I’m sure many of you can understand that. Our first two are 18 months apart and the plan was to have them all back-to-back-to-back, but it didn’t work out that way. We were finally ready to have our third and I got pregnant in September 2019. Then COVID-19 happened. To say I was a little worried is an understatement. I was nervous about my doctor’s appointments. Would my number of OB appointments be limited? or would they be changed to over the phone? What about my ultrasounds? Would my husband be allowed to come? I was worried I might have to give birth alone if restrictions got tighter. It was scary!
OB Appointments and Ultrasounds
During my first trimester everything was business as usual. I went to my OB appointments once a month and had the standard blood work done. Pretty normal. In February, I had my first ultrasound which my husband attended. In March, the state of emergency came into affect for our Province. Then Bam! Just like that, our whole world as we knew it changed. Due to the high restrictions in place, my OB appointments remained monthly during my second trimester, instead of changing to bi-weekly. My husband was not allowed to come with me to medical appointments. Which is still the case for anyone receiving care through any of the Ottawa Hospitals. The mask bylaw wasn’t in affect yet, so it was scary going to appointments. Was I going to catch the virus? I go to the Family Medical Centre, Civic Campus. Being in a facility that was not only connected to the hospital, but also close to the emergency entrance was unnerving. I was given masks from my work, so I wore them to my appointments even though I wasn’t ‘legally’ required to. I was doing everything I could to minimize the risk of exposure.
In April, I had the anatomy ultrasound. The results of the scan showed that I had marginal cord insertion. I know! What the heck is that!? I had never heard of it. This happens when the umbilical cord does not insert into the right spot of the placenta. Normally, the umbilical cord will insert in the center of the placenta or slightly off center. Where it gets riskier, is when it inserts less than 2cm from the edge of the placenta. My case was not so severe, I was just on the edge of the 2cm mark, but it did put me into a higher risk category. After finding this out I had ultrasounds and OB appointments every two weeks until the day I delivered. Hubby still wasn’t allowed to accompany me. A couple times I had to bring my two oldest children with me because I didn’t have anyone to watch them. Luckily, my doctor’s office allowed them to come with me. Some might not have.
Between 24 and 28 weeks I was supposed to get the gestational diabetes test. I got the requisition at 24 weeks and put off going to get the test done. I was still working throughout all of this, so I told myself “I’ll get it done after work”. I was nearing my 28th week when I finally went to the lab to get the test done. When I arrived, they told me they were not allowed to perform the test because it would require me to wait inside the facility for 2 hours. With the current bylaws in place they couldn’t allow me to stay. I started to freak out inside my head. I told them I needed this blood work and test done. They apologized and gave me the name of another lab where I could get the test done. I quickly drove over to the other lab and thankfully they agreed to perform the test and do the blood work. The very next week this lab stopped performing these tests as well. I just made it in time. If I waited one more week then I would have had to go to the hospital via emergency to get the tests done. Go to the hospital 28 weeks pregnant? Uh, no thanks! However, this was the case for many women who needed this test done after the restrictions went into place.
So, there I was, my due date looming closer and closer. With my first two deliveries I was nervous, but excited. This time, I had this overwhelming feeling of impending doom. But why? I had already delivered my two oldest children at the same hospital. I knew where to go. I did a virtual tour and met the team of OBs who might deliver my baby. So, what was the big deal? Well, with COVD-19 restrictions, when the day came for me to deliver, I knew things were going to be more complicated than they used to be. You used to just walk in through any entrance, walk on up to labor and delivery and get checked. If you weren’t dilated enough, you could go walk around the hospital or get something to eat in the cafeteria. You didn’t have to worry if you forgot something in the car, because you could just go back to get it. Not this time!
Arriving At The Hospital
- When you first arrive at the hospital the mother must go in to get checked by herself. Partners or spouses are allowed in, until the mother gets admitted to the hospital. Meaning she must be at least 4 cm dilated.
- The mother and partner must also be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 upon entering the hospital, then again when you get to labour and delivery.
- You were only allowed one birthing partner.
My husband is amazing! And was my partner of choice. He’s my best friend. But imagine if you had to choose between the father of your child being there for the birth. Versus someone who might be able to help you get through the labor. Like, you love your husband, but know he won’t be overly helpful? Sadly, I know this is the case in many women’s situations. You might desperately want your mother by your side, your sibling, your best friend or even a doula. However, you only get one person, so you must choose. I was sad because I desperately wanted my sister to be there. I thought of her many times during my labor.
I had false labor for 3 days. Contractions would start up, get quite regular, then just abruptly stop. I had an anterior, but not low, lying placenta. My baby was facing my placenta. His spine, to my spine. I think he had more room that way. Finally, I woke up the morning prior to my son’s birth and was in the real early stages of labour. We went to the hospital at 6pm. My husband had to wait in the car while I got checked. I had to go up to labor and delivery, register, then get checked. I was there for over two hours, only to be sent home because I was only 2cm dilated. What the heck was going on? This didn’t happen with my two previous deliveries. They were quick. In and out of the hospital in 16 hours or less. I was experiencing back labor and it caused my labor to progress slowly. We walked and drove around until 2am. My contractions got closer together and strong, so we drove back to the hospital and I went in to get checked again. The whole time worried I would have the baby before my husband could get to me. Finally, they admitted me, and I was able to call my husband to tell him he could now come up. It took him about 30 minutes to get to me, so it was lucky my labor wasn’t progressing quickly.
Labor and Delivery
- You must stay in the birthing once you are admitted. Make sure you bring everything you need for the birth, your hospital stay and for the drive home. You cannot leave the room, and neither can your birthing partner.
This made me nervous and made going in to get checked very cumbersome. Keep in mind the whole time I am in labor and having contractions. The labor and delivery unit were all the way across the hospital and up to the 4th floor. I had to lug my luggage up with me, all by myself while in labor, each time I got checked. I knew my husband couldn’t carry all the other stuff we had to bring by himself. We had my luggage, my purse, diaper bag, a bag of snacks and drinks, my laptop, and the car seat.
- You and your partner must always wear your masks, even in the birthing unit. As if it wasn’t hard enough laboring and trying to catch your breath. Now you must keep a mask on the whole time!?!
The doctor said I could remove the mask when I was pushing. However, I had to remove it earlier. When my contractions got a lot stronger, I took my mask off. I felt like I couldn’t breath. The nurses didn’t say anything and changed into different PPE. It is a strange thing to experience. Seeing a friendly smile and other facial expressions really help when you are laboring. I couldn’t even see my husbands face to feel reassured I was ok. A kiss on the cheek or forehead for comfort, happened through a mask.
- Nitrous Oxide is off the table. You guessed it! Thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, you were not allowed to use it.
I gave birth to my two previous children naturally. No drugs. No epidural. The only thing I used was nitrous oxide. It helped manage my pain while providing me with extra oxygen. Well, this time around I had to go without. It was extremely tough, to say the least. With the back labor I felt extreme pain at 6cm dilated. This same amount of pain I normally felt after I had reached 9cm dilated. It took 7 hours to progress from 3cm to 10cm. The whole time in sheer agony. I held my ground even though the nurses kept offering me an epidural. I thought deep down. I can do it; I can do it! I was so wrong. The pain was unbearable and I’m a pretty tough cookie. Especially after already giving birth naturally twice before. I got stuck at 9 cm for 3 hours, I finally caved, asking for something for the pain. I didn’t want the epidural, so they gave me fentanyl through the IV in my wrist. It helped take the edge off, but I was still in a lot of pain. I hated myself for caving. I know it was ok, but I do not like taking drugs of any kind while pregnant.
The time came for me to start pushing. During this stage with my two previous births, pushing felt like a great relief. The painful contractions would go away with every push. Well, not this time. Thanks to the back labor, it was excruciating. I felt everything. The pain of the contractions, along with the stretching as my baby came down the birth canal. I pushed for 30 minutes. It felt like a lifetime. I was scared I couldn’t do it, but the pain was so bad, and I knew it would end once the baby came out. I pushed harder and harder until finally our sweet baby boy entered the world. I had a second-degree tear which needed to be repaired. I held my little boy in my arms as the doctor’s stitched me up. I tore with my two prior births as well, so it wasn’t that bad. The worst part is when they freeze the area with local anesthetic. Once we left the birthing unit, we went to my hospital room where we had to stay inside.
- We were not allowed to leave our room. My husband had to stay in the room with me. If he decided to leave, he couldn’t come back. Thankfully, the hospital provided meals for myself and my birthing partner.
One of my worries going into all of this, was that food wouldn’t be provided for my partner. As was the case in the past. Food was only provided for the mother. However, with the current restrictions in place, hospitals had to provide food for the partners. They could no longer leave to purchase food or go home to eat and come back. If your partner decides to leave at any point, they aren’t getting back in. The nurses were wonderful. They asked if we needed anything and were very attentive.
Leaving The Hospital Early
I wanted to leave as soon as possible because I didn’t want my baby, myself or my husband to be infected with the virus. I had heard there was a COVID-19 outbreak on the floor above us. Of course, it only takes one case to institute an outbreak. I still wasn’t taking any chances. You are required to stay at the hospital for 24 hours, following the birth of your child. This way the hospital can [perform all the necessary testing your baby requires. However, if you choose to leave early, you must go back 24 hours later to get the testing done. Normally, this testing happens at the hospital, but again, thanks to COVID-19 you cannot go back to the hospital after you leave. Unless of course there is a medical issue, then obviously you have to go back through emergency.
The hospitals outsourced the out patient care to “The Monarch Centre“. They booked us an appointment to get our newborn’s testing and final screening done. I was incredibly happy with the care they provided and felt safer being there, rather than if we had stayed in the hospital. The only people we were exposed to were other parents with their newborns. Whom all went through the same screening procedures we did.
- Hearing screening tests are no longer performed in the hospital or by the Monarch Centre.
We received a phone call from the Hearing Screening Test Centre. They notified us that due to the current restrictions they weren’t currently operating. They told us that the screening must take place within the babies first 8 weeks of life and that they would call us to make an appointment. Restrictions were not lifted in time and my little one was not able to get the testing done. Instead, we did a little research and performed our own tests at home. I think he hears perfectly well, but we may decide to take him for testing in the future. It is my understanding that some childcare facilities require a copy of your child’s hearing test. Fortunately for us, and thanks to family support, we have never had to place our child in a daycare setting.
I know that was a long read and if you have stayed with me through this whole account of my experience, I thank you. I hope that you found it informative, as it’s an accurate telling of what it was like for me to be pregnant and give birth during these uncertain times. If you like what you read please like and share this post with someone you know. Maybe you have a family member or friend that is worried about this issue and it might help them hearing my story. If you had a different experience or have something to add, please leave a comment. I would love to hear from other moms who are pregnant or have given birth during the pandemic. Take care and God bless!