What It’s Really Like to Have a Baby During a Pandemic

As you may have seen on my previous posting, we welcomed our much awaited rainbow baby, Charlotte, on October 29th.

As we all know (and I’m sure, feel) 2020 has been anything but ordinary. While up nursing the babe at 4am today I came across a posting from another blog, Her View From Home, about how a 2020 baby was a light during the dark year and it made me think. While yes, Charlotte is definitely a positive thing that happened this year, I’d say having a baby during a pandemic has been anything but a positive/perfect/easy experience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m 1000% so thankful for Charlotte it’s just that having a baby during a pandemic is definitely not something I’d add to my list of things to do again. πŸ˜‚πŸ€¦

When we found out we were pregnant the first week of March, covid had barely started here. Rob went to my first appointment confirming the pregnancy and doing an ultrasound but, after that he was only allowed back at one other appointment (anatomy scan ultrasound) and then her birth.

In the first few weeks of my first trimester, office closures started and fertility clinics had to limit their appointments. I had luckily already become pregnant so I was still seen while so many others had to put their cycles and family planning on hold. I remember going to my second scan by myself just praying that the ultrasound would show that baby grew as expected. When I got the news that she had, and when I was able to hear a heartbeat (for the first time out of our 3 previous miscarriages) I was alone. This was the first of many pregnancy milestones I wouldn’t really get to share with anyone or celebrate and it was bittersweet.

As the pregnancy went on, and the pandemic grew in severity, Hannah started staying home from daycare (which eventually 100% shutdown – and still hasn’t reopened), we stocked up on groceries, and we quit seeing most of our family and friends. Throughout the pregnancy we were very cautious about exposure (with all of the unknowns of covid for pregnant women) and hardly saw anyone. In the beginning we kept to just our household and Rob was the only one who went out. As the weeks and months passed, I eventually went out to the store more and my dad started helping with a few days of childcare here and there.

Despite expanding our bubble to include immediate family members, it felt like I didn’t get to share my growing baby bump with anyone. If it weren’t for my work colleagues, I really wouldn’t have done anything to celebrate the pregnancy. They were amazing and threw me my only shower for Charlotte. Our work team is all spread out across the country so doing things remotely wasn’t new for us and they didn’t miss a beat. It was a baby shower over Google Hangouts where they all came together to ship presents to my house and organize games for us to play together. It was fun and, looking back on it, so so appreciated and special. Having had three miscarriages previously, Charlotte deserved to be celebrated so much so it makes me sad that that wasn’t able to happen really. With our local friends and family, we didn’t have a baby shower (or sprinkle, what they call it for second babies) and most of our friends never even saw me when I was pregnant. Getting ready to have Charlotte was so isolating and lonely. We missed out on a fun family vacation in July (with a whole side of the family I hardly ever see) because we didn’t feel it was safe (and if we weren’t pregnant we probably would have gone). I was so selfishly bitter about missing it and not spending time with all of my family in a massive lakehouse on Lake Wylie. It would have been our last little *family of 3* vacation before the baby came.

The family got a photographer to do family pictures while they were all in Wylie

Then, once I had Charlotte in October, the isolation only grew more intense. The pediatrician recommended we not see anyone outside of our household that wasn’t necessary. She recommended that family visit and meet Charlie through our glass front door (“pope visits” as some of our family called it). With flu and RSV season also upon us (alongside the pandemic) we were asked not to take Charlie out of the house, unless to the doctor, at least for two months. Two months takes us into January so I’m sure it’ll be longer than that but we aren’t there yet. This advice meant that the bubble we had pre-delivery (that included our immediate family) was shrinking again.

For the first few weeks it was just the 4 of us. Charlie was jaundice in the beginning and a weak/lazy babe until her bilirubin levels were back to normal. This made nursing and weight gain hard for her. Her first two weeks home consisted of doctors appointments almost every other day. Her struggle to have regular weight gain and her poor latch early on meant we spent the first 3 weeks triple feeding (nursing, pumping, and supplementing a 1oz bottle) for each feed, even overnight. It was exhausting and I felt like my supply wasn’t ever going to recover from her low demand early on. I wish I knew poor latch meant poor demand and I would have started pumping as soon as the latch discomfort started. Still, pumping after nursing you don’t get much (if baby actually latched right), especially when they’re newborns, so it always felt like a let down (no pun intended) measuring out the half oz to an oz I got each session. It was just a rough few weeks for me. I was so down on myself no matter what positive encouraging words Rob tried to remind me of. Postpartum life is hard.

Luckily, as the days went on, her bilirubin levels evened out and she eventually did get the hang of nursing – several visits to a lactation consultant definitely helped us – weighted feeds too. We quit triple feeding at every feed at week 4 and were down to one bottle, then no bottles, shortly after. Having our nursing journey take a more positive turn helped with my stress a lot. The postpartum hormones, plus a lack of sleep and a busy toddler, were wearing on me (and Rob) so we decided to widen our bubble once again to include my dad. He is retired and strictly follows all the covid guidelines so we felt he was the best next person to include. He was able to watch Hannah a few days a week to help out and, just that little bit of support, helped us so much.

All of this to say, it truly does take a village to raise kids and, not being able to lean/rely on your village is the hardest. Postpartum life is hard already and having support from loved ones can do so much for a new/growing family. When we needed people most, covid took our village away from us and for that, I hate 2020 a little bit more.

We couldn’t get friends and family together to celebrate this pregnancy – even just a barbeque to share our happiness. We couldn’t have a photographer document Charlotte’s labor/birth like we did with Hannah. Our family didn’t meet us at the hospital to celebrate. My sister hosted an online meal train for us and only two friends and my neighbor signed up. (My mom and Rob’s step mom did bring us dinner too, just outside of the meal train sign up – my mom loves to drop goodies off at our house.) My mom or Rob’s mom/step mom couldn’t come over to help or snuggle the baby while I showered. My friends couldn’t come see the baby and visit with me to see how I was doing – I’ve only seen three friends in person since I’ve given birth even. We couldn’t let Hannah go to her grandparents for a sleepover and some 1:1 attention. Hannah wasn’t enrolled in a daycare and could hardly get out of the house to burn off energy due to a fear of germs from others (at a park or places like the aquarium). All around, covid robbed us of all of that support and all of those special moments so far. So yes, while Charlotte is and has been a light during the dark year of 2020, I feel like this journey has been anything but what you typically envision having a new baby to be. Of course, because of covid there’s been a lot of time where it’s just us and we’ve been able to bond with her but, honestly, I feel like we still had that with Hannah too. I didn’t allow company everyday when Hannah was a newborn anyways. I guess as much as I want to focus on the good things that came from 2020, it’s hard and the year definitely dealt its fair share of challenges.

With Charlotte being 8 weeks now she’s only met a portion of our family (pope visits or actual physical visits). Only 4 family members outside of our household have been able to hold her – and that says a lot when we have so so much family locally. Luckily we did just recently decide that we’re going to expand our bubble a little bit more to include my mom and Rob’s step mom and dad. They can help more with Hannah and we need it. Sometimes we have to make decisions for our sanity and this was definitely one of them. Our bubble is still small but the change is worth it. She hasn’t met all of her grandparents or great grandparents but this way we get to include a few more. Her aunts still haven’t been able to snuggle her yet either. And, to be honest, I’m not sure when everyone else will get the chance to meet her – great grandparents, cousins and such. At least after a ten day quarantine period maybe, right?? 🀦 The distance is something I’m always trying to come to terms with; something I’m always feeling guilty about. Something I know I’m doing for her own health and safety but still hate nonetheless. Net net: raising a new child in 2020 is for the birds. With Christmas just a few days away, I’m trying to focus on us getting to enjoy a calm holiday home but I’m sad about all of the things we’re missing out on; I’m human and it’s okay to be sad. Normally we’re that huge busy family who does 6 holiday gatherings all across the city in just over 3 days so this year is very different.

Although we have prayed for this baby girl so much (and don’t get me wrong, my negativity is not directed at her), I wish the year would have gone a bit differently and I can’t wait for life to be normal again. I just hope she won’t have to be a year old (or even older 😡😱) before the rest of our family and friends get to meet and hug her. She’s definitely a blessing during this dark shitty year but man how I wish I could have given her a better 2020 too. ❀️

Finally a Family of 4

Welp..  we did it! On October 29th we welcomed our second baby girl and rainbow baby, Charlotte, to our family.

Delivery was quick but we’re both healthy and doing well; we were even able to come home the next day!

Now, for birth story time:

Wednesday the 28th, the day before delivery, was hard on me mentally. I was so over being pregnant. I was swelling and uncomfortable all over. My lower back hurt and I was probably eating 4 tums a day to curb the heartburn. Rob even helped me put on some sexy compression socks Wednesday night before bed. 😡

In the morning I worked (from home, cause ya know – corona) and then left for a baby doctor appointment in the afternoon. It was my 38 week baby check up at 1:45pm. Just before the appointment I was having some cramping but nothing earth shattering (I thought just Braxton Hicks contractions and assumed the baby wasn’t coming anytime soon).

At my last appointment I was 1cm and at this appointment, I was up to 3cm. Decent progress for a week I thought. 🀞 The appointment was fast and I scheduled a follow up for the next Tuesday, November 3rd. The doctor said that, if the baby didn’t come before Tuesday we would discuss being induced at that next appointment.

After the appointment I was still having some cramping (I chalked it up to having had an exam) and my lower back pain was still dull but lingering. I came home and worked a few more hours outside while Hannah and Rob played in the yard. I was up walking around a little but mainly sitting so I could work.

Later that evening, after we put Hannah to bed, I was watching TV with Rob. I was having some more cramping/possible contractions and even got out my baby app to track them. They were a low intensity and were kinda all over the place timing wise so I didn’t track them long – I was annoyed to be having more Braxton Hicks and it just added to my day’s sour mood. I instead decided to jump in the shower, have Rob help me with my compression socks and then go to sleep.

Around 1am I woke up needing to pee (yay pregnancy). Normally I was getting up around 3am. After I went the bathroom I got back in bed and had two little contractions. I think the contractions actually are what woke me up I just didn’t have another until after I laid back down. I decided to get my app out and time them just to see. They were each about a minute long and we’re about 5 minutes apart. A few were 3/4 minutes apart and two were 6/7 minutes apart. Everyone says if they’re “inconsistent” they’re not real labor pains so I still felt skeptical but I decided around 2am to call the doctor and check in with them.

The on call doctor called me back (he was actually the same doctor who delivered Hannah). After chatting with him and explaining what was going on (coupled with the fact that Hannah’s birth was only 7hrs), he said I should come to the hospital to get checked and worst case was I’d get sent home.

I went in to wake up Rob and tell him what was going on. He got up and started getting ready and I called my mom to come over and be with Hannah. I had a few straggler items to add to the hospital bag as I got ready and my mom got to our house in record time – even though she forgot her toothbrush. πŸ˜‚ Next time (if there is a next time) I’ll be sure to remind whoever is on babysitting duty to pack a “go bag” ahead of time so they’re not caught off guard. Sorry, mom ❀️

It was raining outside but, at 2:30am there was no traffic so the drive was quick. At the hospital we parked close out front and, I waddled up to the front door. It had a sign up that said the “use emergency room entrance” (which is inconveniently across the parking lot). 😡 Luckily a worker was entering at this door with her badge right behind us and let us in. Go that lady ✌️

Upstairs at the birth center we checked in with triage (can’t believe I didn’t have my driver’s license on me 🀦). Luckily I was in the system from Hannah’s birth and also still had my (more important) insurance card with me. πŸ˜‚

After check-in I was put in a triage room and asked all the typical check-in questions. At this point I was still contracting but not timing them. The nurse got me all checked in she did an exam and said I was at 3cm and 70% effaced. I was super discouraged to still be at 3cm (since that’s where I was at my appointment like 12 hrs earlier and I had been contracting for 2 hrs at this point). To be fair, at my appointment the doc didn’t say if I was effaced or not so maybe that’s progress or maybe not. Either way – I almost felt like the whole thing was gonna be a fluke. How annoying.

The nurse checked in with the doctor again and he said to let me labor in my triage room for an hour then we’d reevaluate. The nurse unhooked my monitors so I could move freely around for that hour. While she was gone I kept contracting and just working to breathe through them. I felt like I was going to throw up a few times (but luckily didn’t). All I could do was pace around the room/bathroom, sit down to pee like every two minutes, and lean over Rob/his chair swaying my hips. Towards the end of the hour Rob started timing my contractions again. They were a minute long now, a minute apart and definitely more intense.

When the nurse came back we filled her in on how the last hour had gone. By this time it was about 4:45am. She checked me again and now I was 5-6 cm and 80-90% effaced. “Looks like we’re gonna have a baby today”, she said, “time to get you in a room”.

The process of moving to a room started with them needing to set an IV line and do a blood draw. The nurse wanted to try and do that in triage but a) my veins move and are hard to find and b) I was contracting every other minute so she didn’t have much “calm time” to work with. She tried but didn’t have much luck so instead we opted to just go to the room, #383. She offered for me to have a wheelchair but, with the contractions, I preferred to walk; it wasn’t far.

Once we got to the room, it was just about 5am, and a series of other nurses got to work on me. My main nurse was a sweet woman named Eva. She got me hooked up to the monitors and asked me a series of questions that I answered while pacing around the bed. Then she set my IV line and did my blood draw. You need the bloodwork done before you can get an epidural but honestly, at this point, there wasn’t time for the epidural it seemed.

As I kept laboring by the bed, during one of my contractions, my water broke. This baby was coming quickly. Before getting into bed I went the bathroom to pee, I thought, but the urge to push was already there. The nurse didn’t let me sit on the toilet long and asked me to get in bed to be checked.

At this check I was 7-8cm and then quickly hit 9-10. The pain was unreal. The urge to push was definitely there but the nurses kept telling me to wait until I was at 10cm, to wait until the doctor was there. For anyone whose had a baby, you know that you can’t not push. The nurse said for me to just not “encourage it” by pushing more myself but to let my body do its thing. Each contraction I gripped so hard onto the bed and Rob’s hand just breathing and groaning/moaning through the pain. Just as I hit 10cm the doctor came in the room (he was the same doc I spoke with before – the one who delivered Hannah). He asked me to breathe through the next contraction (despite the baby crowning! 😱) and then said I’d push on the next one.

When it was time to push I gave it literally all I had in 3 good ones. As I went to ease up and breathe the doctor and nurses said to keep pushing. I literally felt like I had nothing left to give but one nurse next to me said something along the lines of “you only got half a baby” or “you only birthed half of the baby”. For some reason I immediately feared she’d be stuck and get hurt or something and that fear gave me the added strength for about 3 more good pushes and out she came. Thank God that the pain is immediately relieved and, for easier healing, thank God for no tearing ✌️ πŸ˜…

She came out crying, which Hannah struggled with because of her lungs, so for Rob and I, hearing her cry was everything. Rob even got to cut the cord. Afterwards the doctors checked her out, cleaned her up a bit, and diapered her. They put her on my chest for skin to skin and she stayed there for the next 2-2.5 hours nursing and getting lots of snuggles. She was born at 6:02am, 8lbs 6.7oz and 20.5″ long. 100% perfection.

Not getting the epi and not tearing left me feeling great post delivery. It’s such a different experience to have a term baby vs a preemie – a welcomed difference for sure. There’s already so many new things to learn about the newborn phase that we hadn’t learned with Hannah and our nursing journey is already so different (also in a good way).

We got to come home from the hospital together, Friday around 1pm and Hannah was/is so smitten with her new baby sister.

She is constantly bringing Charlotte toys for her to play with and loves to give her snuggles every morning.

Seeing Rob with Charlotte and the two girls together just makes my heart so full. It feels like we can now begin the next chapter for our family. We’re feeling very blessed for sure.

Smash Brothers Dad mode