A New Jersey mom shares how she had to shift her expectations about her March 2020 delivery during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like most first-time mothers, Nancy Baxter was excited about her upcoming delivery in March. She would have her husband, Matt, there with her at Jefferson Washington Township Hospital – as well as her best friend, a fellow nurse who lives in Central Jersey.
Then the coronavirus started making headlines; before long, Nancy realized her expectations were changing as quickly as the headlines about the mysterious virus.
Creating a Birth Plan During COVID-19
“I had been asking for about a month what would happen during the delivery, and would I still be able to have my support people with me,” the Sicklerville resident recalls. She was originally told three people could be in the delivery room with her; then it went down to two. By the time she delivered in late March, only her husband could be by her side as COVID-19 cases began surging in the region.
To be honest, I was getting nervous and I wanted to be in the hospital for the least amount of time as would be safe.
“I was very glad to know Matt would be with me, but it was a blow not to be able to have my best friend there as well,” says Nancy, a home care nurse. “But I understood it. Everyone’s top priority was safety.”
So she did her best to adjust to the quickly changing healthcare landscape. As she got closer to her due date, Nancy learned that, due to safety concerns, she’d have to attend any appointments alone, without her husband. She was still on target with her March 30 due date when hospital visitations were stopped and mask-wearing by the general public began.
“As the COVID-19 crisis took hold, we had to–as a health system–make some major decisions based solely on patient safety,” says Dr. Kenneth Covone. “That being said, we were very committed to ensuring a good birth experience. We know how special labor is and we wanted to make sure that it remained so.”
Originally, when the idea of a planned induction was initially posed–Nancy, who, at age 35, was considered high-risk–needed to talk it over. Planned inductions are often recommended for high-risk moms to promote vaginal delivery, which can result in a quicker discharge.
As COVID-19 started turning into a pandemic, Nancy and Matt decided that a planned induction would be for the best: “To be honest, I was getting nervous and I wanted to be in the hospital for the least amount of time as would be safe. Plus, the reasons for having a planned induction totally made sense in my circumstances.”
Welcome Baby Corbin
Nancy was admitted to the hospital on Monday night, March 23. She remembers everything was fully in place from the moment she walked through the doors.
“I never saw anyone’s full face, not once–but I can’t say I was upset,” Nancy says of Jefferson Health’s universal masking policy to help prevent any spread of coronavirus. “I knew it was for everyone’s safety.” Nurse Megan Woods was with Nancy every step of the way from admission to delivery, and recovery: “She made me feel important and special, but everyone was very encouraging.”
Nancy gave birth to a healthy, 7 pound, 11 oz. baby boy, Corbin, at 5:19 a.m. on Wednesday, March 25. The new family of three was on its way home less than two days later.
“It was certainly not the birth experience I had anticipated only a month or so sooner, but everyone went so out of their way to make it still as special as possible,” she says. “I am very grateful.”
The first few weeks at home were challenging, simply because Corbin’s two sets of grandparents weren’t able to hold him–although live FaceTime videos provided “virtual” introductions.
He wasn’t a “teeny-tiny baby,” as Nancy puts it, by the time he met his grandparents in person, but again, she understood the need for social distancing.
Dr. Covone says that while it has been challenging for new moms to only have one support person in the delivery room with them, they have adapted well to the challenge.
“We encourage the support person to stay in the hospital the entire time for safety reasons and that can provide an extra level of support for the expectant mom,” Dr. Covone says. While no one can anticipate when the birth experience will go back to normal at area hospitals, he states, everyone on the care team is committed to making new moms still feel as excited as ever.
“I’m in full protective equipment–the N95 mask, gown, a face shield, the whole bit; but the new mom still knows it is me and I’m still talking to her and supporting her through the labor and delivery process,” Dr. Covone says, adding that the frequency of in-person OB visits has been reduced, with telehealth visits becoming more prevalent.
As for Nancy, she has “nothing but gratitude” for how supportive and caring her health care team was.
“Everyone was beyond wonderful to us,” Nancy said. “And we are very thankful.”