Labour is not easy. Recovering from labour or a c-section is not easy. Caring for a newborn is not easy. Yet during this 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, these things have become 10x harder because you need to go through that alone. Having a baby during Covid-19 is an entirely new experience.
I chatted this week with some of Toronto’s bravest new moms. They had their baby during the last few weeks and this is their story to share about having a baby during a pandemic and adjusting to the life of a new mom.
If you are expecting your baby soon, we advise you to contact the hospital and your doctor for specific instructions. The hospital’s policies change more frequently right now.
At the end of this post, you will find our guide and tips for having a baby during COVID-19.
This experience is what I can only call the most difficult thing I’ve had to do my entire life.
Carly, 34 years old, first-time mom, Toronto (North York)
I had my baby on April 10, 2020, at the Sunnybrook Hospital.
I laboured alone during a pandemic, got tested for COVID-19, and cared for a newborn alone with a fever after surgery. All in all, I was at the hospital for four days.
Labour is not easy. Recovering from a c-section is not easy. Caring for a newborn is not easy. Yet during this 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, these things have become 10x harder because I had to do it alone… This experience is what I can only call the most difficult thing I’ve had to do my entire life. Due to COVID-19 rules at the hospital, my husband was not allowed to be with me for part of labour and all of postpartum.
I laboured for 12 of the 26 hours alone. During labour, I developed an infection and baby and I was at too much risk so we got a C-section. During the surgery, I developed a fever but my husband had to leave as soon as the baby arrived. For the first 12 hours, I could not sit up or get out of bed.. yet somehow I had the ability to still care for the newborn. It was the biggest struggle of my life.
While at the hospital, during my c-section, I developed a fever so they had to test me for COVID-19. The results came back 24 hours later and I was tested negative. During those 24 hours though of course, they have to treat you like you have COVID-19 so every nurse and doctor that came in to see me during that time was fully suited. I also had to breastfeed the baby while wearing a mask.
With only 4 hours of sleep over the four days at the hospital, I had a mental breakdown trying to do all of this alone. Even though the staff are great, the support they provide is not the same as what your significant other can provide during such a life-changing moment.
Coming back home with my baby for the first time was the best feeling I had in my life. I couldn’t be happier being in the comfort of my own home and with my husband to help support me and the new baby!
The most challenging is not being able to see grandparents and get help from other people. Even an hour or two of help makes such a big difference for newborn parents. Our first night at home with the newborn we each got 1 hour of sleep. The second night was better, we got 2 hours each.
My tip is to prepare to have your plans/expectations change. The sooner you are prepared to accept the fact that labour and delivery may not go 100% as you planned the easier it will be for you to deal with those changes when they do come about.
Also, prepare your hospital bag ahead of time and have enough items in case you need to stay longer at the hospital by yourself.
The last item that I think would have helped is to set up a webcam/facetime video chat with my husband so it would have felt like he was there with me even though he wasn’t physically.
My husband had to leave as soon as I was discharged from the delivery room
Amanda, 29 years old, first-time mom, Toronto
I had my daughter Adele on April 8th at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. I tried to stay as calm as possible leading up to the big day. We hired a doula to be with my husband and I, but the doula was not permitted at the hospital.
To prepare, I printed out the hospital’s online policy, highlighted the part about birthing partners and was armed and ready to present it. I was in such active labour when I got to the hospital. They let us right in with just a few quick questions and ensured our hands were clean.
My stay at the hospital was 24 hours. My husband had to leave as soon as I was discharged from the delivery room, which was around 3 hours after delivery. The rule is 2 hours, but I needed some extra time to recover so he was able to stay until it was time to move me over.
Coming home with baby for the first time was exciting. A few differences were that I had to wait for a porter to come to my hospital room at discharge to help me carry my belongings while I held the baby. The porter wasn’t coming after waiting an hour. Luckily, there was a kind nurse who was finishing her shift who offered to help me instead.
My family has been very helpful in getting us the items we need and making us food! It’s disappointing that we have to stay far away from them and they can’t hold Adele. We are grateful for their support thought even though it sometimes feels like we are taking a risk letting them in with care packages.
Right now I miss feeling free to just take the baby out in the world!! I wish I could take her in the stroller care-free. I also miss having friends/family come by to meet her, which I know they would love to do. It would be so nice to be able to take the baby, grab a coffee, and enjoy our neighborhood.
We talk to my friends and family frequently over the phone, FaceTime and House Party and this has helped us stay connected.
The best tip I can give a mom who is expecting soon is to know that, for the most part, the hospital experience will be the same. Make sure you know and accept that your partner will have to leave 2 hours after delivery. Prepare to use that time to share the moment of meeting your baby together. Don’t be afraid to ask for privacy!
As a first time mom, the regular anxieties of having a baby were just compounded by the anxieties of the pandemic, to the point where it could have put my baby at risk.
Stefanie, 37, first-time mom, Willowdale
I had my son, Isaiah, on April 4, 2020, at North York General Hospital. He was induced. His original due date was April 11, 2020.
I was definitely anxious in the run-up to my due date. First, the social distancing measures. Next, the mandatory masks. Then, having to go alone because no one was allowed to accompany us. By the time I got to the appointment a week before my due date, my blood pressure, which had been normal throughout, was so high they sent me to be induced right then and there.
The doctors and nurses at NYGH were all fantastic. With only one visitor and no swapping allowed, my poor mom had to spend long hours at the hospital. My labour went on for 24 hours before my baby’s heart rate started to drop and they moved me into surgery for a c-section. After delivery, I finally convinced my mom to go home and get some sleep. But that meant I was on my own at night. I was in excruciating pain from the surgery, which made even getting out of bed to feed my crying baby near impossible. The nurses were often too busy to help. Those nights alone, I think I must have cried right up until morning when my mom would come back.
The staff were great and definitely trying to keep in good spirits for their patients. Their job is not easy, especially now, and I am forever grateful for their help.
Coming back home has been tough. None of my extended family have been able to meet the baby. My grandmother is 96 years old and in a long term care facility and I wonder if she’ll ever get the chance to meet him. It really breaks my heart.
We have been isolating with my parents since this all began and they have been godsends. They help take the late-night feeding shifts when I’m about to lose my mind. They also help with groceries and errands so that I don’t have to go out and expose myself to any unnecessary risk. I honestly couldn’t have gotten through this without them.
I miss not having to worry about taking him out or having people over. I’m anxious enough as a first-time mom, worrying about things like SIDS, without having to worry about a pandemic.
Stefanie’s Tips For Having a Baby During COVID-19
1. Make sure you have a support person at the hospital who is willing and able to put in the long hours to be there. Avoid going through as much of it alone if you can.
2. Accept that it may suck. I find that if you acknowledge going in that the next few days are going to be painful, fearful and some of the most challenging of your life. It’s easier to get through because you know it’s temporary.
3. Be flexible. I didn’t have a birth plan but I know a lot of women who do. Just be prepared to have it all go out the window. Trust the hospital staff to do what’s best for your baby
4. Bring comfort snacks. At the hospital, they give you dinner around 6pm and breakfast around 8am. If you’re up all night in pain and with a screaming baby like I was, comfort snacks can give the pick me up you need at 3am.
5. Bring an extension cord to keep your phone charged beside your bed and get your support person to take lots of pictures and videos!
6. Make sure you have a support system once you’re out. If you don’t live with a partner, is there someone who can start quarantining with you now in order to be there to support you when you’re discharged.
7. Get your supplies in order beforehand. You’re not going to want to go anywhere once you’re back home with the baby. Make sure you have enough diapers (newborn and size one) and formula (in case you have breastfeeding challenges) on hand to last a few weeks.
8. Practice gratitude. I had a miscarriage last year and know many women who suffer from infertility and are in their years-long struggle to conceive. Always remember how lucky we are to be having a child, in a pandemic or not.
9. Go easy on yourself. My dad told me I can’t be hard on myself for at least the next year. Between the hormones, the fatigue and the new responsibilities, you will have moments when you wonder if you can do it. You can. You did.
If you want more guidance in planning your pregnancy, my friend Emily Edwards offers a 6-week virtual planning experience. This course guides moms to be through their pregnancy. It is designed to help you understand what choices you can make during your labour and birth. Beyond that, it helps new moms prioritize their desires and needs
Now more than ever it is essential to plan ahead and know your options.
I would like to personally thank the new moms who shared their stories and tips with us.
I welcome to share your comments below and ask any questions you have. You are welcome to continue the conversation on our Facebook page here.