There we were: sitting side-by-side in a dimly lit room, finishing our dinners before we moved on to dessert (key lime pie and chocolate mousse) and contentedly watching a movie together.
“Well, this was an unexpected date night,” I said to my husband as we held hands, our matching hospital security bracelets coming together. Sure, I might have been wearing postpartum granny panties and compression socks but as a newly-minted mom of five living in a pandemic, this was as close to a romantic date night as I had had in almost a year.
I admit that when I first realized I would be welcoming my baby in COVID times, I mourned the hospital birth I’d grown accustomed to but wouldn’t have: No siblings coming in to see and hold their newest brother, no relatives and friends stopping by to say hello, no balloon or flower delivery, no seeing other babies in the nursery, everyone in masks, everyone on guard, nobody comfortable.
But in the end, my COVID hospital delivery ended up being one of my favorites. Here are the silver linings to welcoming a baby in the middle of a pandemic that even this veteran mom didn’t see coming.
A Different Kind of Bonding
The aspect I knew I would miss the most was the tradition of our other children coming in to meet the new baby. I delight in seeing them come in the door to greet their new sibling for the first time. It’s usually where our first family photo happens.
In the end, however, I have to admit having the no sibling rule was a nice break. While we did have to arrange childcare up front, once that was out of the way, it allowed both my husband and I to focus our attention on our newest addition and ourselves. Our day wasn’t interrupted by the coming and goings of our kids, hearing them fight over the buttons on the hospital bed, asking if they could have some juice, and having someone pounce on my lap right after I had given birth.
And when we got home? Well, we got the exact same kind of wonder and awe-filled “first meet” moment that we get at the hospital. Plus a few extra hugs for those days away.
A Quiet Floor
When you are coming from a very loud house and have just had a very tiring birth experience, quiet is exactly what you want. My previous hospital birth experience included hearing the repetitive sounds of people walking and talking past my door: doctors, nurses, delivery men, excited friends and relatives, and of course, very loud older siblings.
This time? Not so much. We were amazed at how calm and tranquil our floor seemed to be even though I knew they were quite busy.
Reassuring Hospital PPE and Safety Protocol
Another fear of mine that lingered on my mind during pregnancy was the fact that everyone I met would be masked. Obviously, I knew this was a safety requirement, but when you’re going through labor and delivery, scared and tired and breathing your way through intolerable contractions, it’s reassuring to see a friendly face smiling back at you.
Despite my fears at missing that reassurance, the medical staff I encountered during both labor and delivery and postpartum could not have been friendlier. Most of the staff at my hospital had a picture of their actual face pinned to their scrubs. And while I couldn’t see their smiles, I could definitely sense their care and concern.
In addition, instead of making me feel more nervous about a COVID delivery, the hospital employees took actually made me feel safe and protected. Every single person was masked and every single person made it clear to either wash or sanitize their hands before they came near me or the baby.
Peace of Mind
Okay, so getting a COVID test isn’t the most fun thing to do when you’re in the middle of contractions, but it did make me feel better about my hospital delivery. While not pleasant, at least I knew I was COVID-free and that the people in my hall were too. (If you tested positive, you were isolated from the rest of the hall.)
More One-on-One Attention
During a pre-COVID delivery, I would have been asked if I wanted to go to a lactation class or attend a post-birth meeting with other mothers. I might have been seen by a couple of different nurses, if my assigned nurse was busy. This time, however, with a focus on limiting interactions, none of that happened and it was actually wonderful.
Instead of being asked to go to a lactation class, the lactation consultant came to me. My nurse that was assigned to me was the only one I saw during that shift. Instead of taking the baby away for things like the hearing test, they were done right in the room. And while we were confined to our room and not encouraged to roam the halls, it never felt stifling or restrictive. It was our own personal retreat.
No Sharing Rooms
Part of the reason we may not have felt constricted to staying in one place, was the fact that we had a large hospital room to take advantage. In past hospital births, there was always the caveat that should the hospital wing get too crowded, patients would have to share rooms.
Although this has never happened to me, it has happened to a couple of my friends, especially those in bigger cities. But now, during the time of COVID? Guess what? No sharing allowed. So for a couple who hasn’t had a date in over a year, that hospital room was almost like a hotel stay. Almost.
Getting Away From My Own House
This year has been hard for everyone. As a mother of young children ages 7 and under, most of my past year has been confined at home, living with a bunch of loud, loveable, but overall exhausting little ones that I am responsible for. I would be lying if I said that leaving my house for a couple days (even if it involved excruciating labor and recovering from surgery) wasn’t something I was looking forward to. As sad and pathetic as it sounds, giving birth at the hospital this year served as a break and a respite for me.
It was wonderful not having to worry about anyone other than myself and the little bundle I was holding who slept most of the time. It was comforting having someone come and take my temperature, check my vitals, and ask how I was doing. And it was most amazing having someone else do the cooking and bring me food in bed while I watched old reruns of Home Town that I had never seen before. Even if it was only for a couple days. Having a hospital birth gave me the break I needed from being homebound and was a reminder that I need to make some more time for myself, no matter what.
A Simpler Experience
This COVID delivery definitely was different than any others. It was void of sibling surprises, bouquets of flowers, and visits from friends. In its stead, it was full of masked faces, 6 feet distance, swabs up the nose, and lots of cautionary steps. But, overall, it was a much simpler and quieter birth experience, providing just enough time away to appreciate what I have at home.
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