On a Sunday evening I received a text from a friend: she had read that New York Presbyterian health care would ban spouses and partners from the delivery room because of an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19 disease by new types of coronavirus. At that point it was the day before I was supposed to be treated in one of her hospitals.
My immediate reaction was rejection. I furiously searched for information I could find on social media, but Twitter, Facebook, and even the hospital’s website were not helpful. At that point, I just held onto the hope that the rumors were not true.
My husband and I tried to call my gynecologist, but since it was Sunday at the time, I was unable to reach anyone. In desperation, I called a COVID-19 hotline that the hospital had set up. The person who replied confirmed that from this morning they had switched to a no-guests policy (the only exception was the circumstances of the end of life). She recommended that we speak to my gynecologist before we go to the hospital as the guidelines changed quickly.
I couldn’t stop crying.
I have a daughter who is 2 years old and she kept asking me: “M.Mom, why are you so sad??“”
My husband told me that he felt guilty that he couldn’t be there for me. And of course he was devastated that he would not be present when our daughter was born.
I called my gynecologist the next day (Monday) at 9:00 a.m. and she said the hospital had put in place the policy to stop the virus from spreading and to save lives. She said limiting the number of people physically present in the hospital is the only way for medical professionals to do so. I told my gynecologist that if my husband could not be there physically, I wanted him to participate virtually, which fortunately encouraged her.
Although I staggered, I couldn’t think of any other way to go to a hospital outside of New York City. Because of previous pregnancy complications – at some point my baby’s placenta covered part of my cervix, and then my doctor discovered some blood outside the blood vessel between the placenta and the wall of the uterus – my doctor didn’t want me to go last 40 weeks. I was supposed to leave our apartment to go to my planned introduction in eight hours.
On Monday evening we put our daughter to bed and a neighbor came to stay with her in our apartment.
My husband and I went half a mile to the hospital. There was no other soul on the street; it was so scary.
We arrived at the hospital shortly before 8pm. My husband wasn’t even allowed to lead me through security. I was given a standard surgical mask to wear (which I should keep throughout my labor). Then I had to say goodbye to him in the hospital lobby. I cried so hard that I practically hyperventilated.
The security guard led me to the work and delivery room. As I was admitted, the staff gave me a COVID-19 test by taking a swab sample in my nose.
I called my husband on FaceTime, and every time someone examined me, he also spoke to him so he could stay up to date. All of the nurses, medical assistants and hospital staff have given us great support, and I know that in a difficult situation they did the best they could. Nevertheless, I had assumed that the hospital would support people who were there to help me with my work. But most of the time I was alone. The only time anyone came into my room was to repair my IV bag or check my progress.
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During the 90 minutes of active work, I almost always texted my husband and sister (who is a nurse). “Is it normal to feel sick, itchy and have a headache?” I would ask her. I felt pressure and asked if that meant the baby was about to give birth. It felt strange not being able to ask someone on site, but later a nurse told me that they were understaffed because a lot of people were calling sick (I’m not sure if it was with COVID-19 or any other disease).
Due to staffing problems, the nurses told me that they would no longer give me medication to induce my labor pains to prioritize other deliveries that were more advanced or more prioritized. That slowed the process down for me.
Lonely and sad. That’s how I felt during labor.
My husband phoned me all night while our older daughter was sleeping. We didn’t even talk much while we were on FaceTime. It was just nice to have someone on the other end of the line.
By the way, this mask that I was allowed to wear? It made breathing difficult during labor. My COVID-19 test was negative 10 hours after I did it. I was told to continue wearing the mask, but was given permission to remove it when it was me Really Difficulty breathing.
On Tuesday around 11 a.m., about 13 hours after my first induction, my doctor told me I could start pushing. My gynecologist, nurse, and nurse were the only ones in the room with me. My husband stayed at FaceTime all the time – I had to put my iPad on the bedside table so he could see.
I was not very emotional during labor. I just focused on getting the job done. I had to be strong, stay calm, and rely on my gynecologist’s instructions to get through.
That changed as soon as my daughter was born.
I was overwhelmed with emotion when the nurses gave it to me for the first time, but I was so sad for my husband that he was not with us and could only see what was going on through the video stream.
Ultimately, however, I was only relieved that she was healthy.
The nurses volunteered to take a few photos right after they handed me my daughter over. I have a cute but extremely sad photo from the first meeting of the three of us. You can see my husband grinning as expected – but he’s on the iPad screen.
Recovery was strange too. I got a private room with my first daughter. But this time these rooms were reserved for COVID-19 positive mothers, so I shared a room with a roommate. I was impatient for my husband and toddler to get to know our new baby, so we got permission to go home early (instead of two days after recovery, we only stayed for one). I also wanted to get out to reduce the potential risk that my daughter or I would get the novel corona virus.
When I was pushed out in a wheelchair, my husband was waiting for us in the lobby. There he officially met his daughter for the first time.
You’d better believe I signed a petition asking hospitals to lift partner bans.
Birth can be scary. Sometimes it felt dangerous to be delivered alone. I was worried because during labor I didn’t often have people who asked me questions or looked after me. And that comes from someone who has done it before. I can’t imagine going through this if I was a mother for the first time. My husband is my rock and his presence and support have been taken away from me.
The partner ban went into effect on Monday, March 23. I had my daughter on March 24, and on March 28, Governor Cuomo issued an ordinance instructing hospitals to provide women with a support partner. I am glad that you lifted the ban. Although I understand that the hospital had to get everyone to safety, the decision felt rushed and not well planned. Unfortunately, the timing did not work in my favor. Still, I’m glad that other women don’t have to know what I’ve done.
While the experience was surreal, our daughter is healthy. In these sad and uncertain times, I only concentrate on this fact and enjoy our new arrival.