It took me a while to sit down and write my COVID-19 birth story. Even though things went well, the anxiety leading up to my delivery at the end of April was a roller coaster.
Like all of us, I started to hear about this virus shutting everything down in China and was crawling its way to Europe. The U.S. was in flux at the time, with an outbreak in the Seattle area. We had no idea how or if the virus would spread to all 50 states, but the news changed hourly. Soon enough, almost every state had enacted stay-in-place orders on or around March 15 (coincidentally, my Mom’s birthday). I was around 7 months pregnant.
Too Much News
As the first week of quarantine passed, it became increasingly clear that this was going to be more than a two-week thing. Then I heard that birthing mothers were not allowed a support person during labor, and there were women actually giving birth alone in New York. Not ideal in the least, only compounded by the fact that I’m a black woman, and I am more likely to have complications and die during childbirth. I needed my husband AND my doula to ensure my wishes would be honored. In the end, I was allowed one support person, so my husband could see his second son being born.
The onslaught of bad news on COVID-19 popped up on my phone all day. While out on a walk with my husband and 4-year-old son one afternoon, I actually broke down crying because the Mayor announced the DC area would be at peak infection rates around my due date. Right after this happened, I turned off all news alerts on my phone.
I decided that I had to control my news intake. Nothing was going to change the fact that I was pregnant during a global pandemic. The baby was coming, and I would have a COVID-19 birth story no matter the news.
The Start of Labor
The days started to blend together as my husband and I tried to (unsuccessfully) homeschool our four-year-old, until I woke up with cramps one Saturday morning. The previous night I felt some infrequent cramping, but I went back to sleep, assuming they were Braxton Hicks. However, the cramps that morning for closer and closer together. My husband went on an errand around 9 a.m. By the time he got back, I had taken a shower, timed my contractions and they were between 2-7 minutes apart and lasting about 30 seconds. I had decided these were not Braxton Hicks!
As the morning went on, my contractions got MUCH stronger and were lasting over a minute. We called my sister to pick up our son and called the doula. By about 11:45, I had this feeling that I needed to push. Something told me it was time to go to the hospital. My husband freaked out.
A Race to the Finish
We raced to the hospital, even running a red light. Luckily, we called the hospital ahead of time to let them know we were on the way, the fact that I felt like pushing and about my intense contractions. They met us at the car with a baby warmer just in case I had given birth.
I was rushed into a birthing suite, an IV was hooked up and a COVID-19 test was administered. I was in such pain from labor that I didn’t feel the swab up my nose!
About 40 minutes after I checked into the hospital, my son was in my arms. It was only about 4 hours from my first intense contraction. After a 20 hour labor with my first, I prayed for a short labor—but not quite this short! I’ve since learned I was on the cusp of a precipitous labor.
Thankfully, labor was smooth and I was able to go home the next day, after only about a 30-hour stay. The hospital was serious about its COVID precautions, which made my husband and me comfortable. I did not feel like I was at risk from COVID.
The stress leading up to delivery was worse than the actual experience. I recently looked at DC’s COVID-19 data for the day I gave birth and indeed the city’s COVID-19 rate spiked. I’m glad I didn’t know at the time.
I wish every pregnant mama out there a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and COVID-19 birth story during this odd and difficult time. Who woulda thunk it?!