Join pediatric nurse, midwife and Motherly's Digital Education Editor Diana Spalding as she answers your frequently asked labor and delivery questions.
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The fight against the coronavirus in the U.S. reached a heartbreaking milestone this weekend as Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the death of an infant in his state believed to be caused by COVID-19.
"I know how difficult this news can be, especially about this very young child. Upon hearing it, I admit, I was immediately shaken, and it's appropriate for any of us to grieve today," Pritzker, a father of two, said at a news conference Saturday.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike also spoke, telling reporters, "There has never before been a death associated with COVID-19 in an infant. A full investigation is underway to determine the cause of death."
Officials have not said how old this baby was or what their health was like before contracting COVID-19 but we do know that the youngest baby to die in China did have a preexisting condition.
Still, health officials are asking parents of children without pre-existing conditions to take the recommendations on physical distancing seriously.
While preliminary research suggests that children with COVID-19 usually don't get as sick as adults, the youngest age groups—infants and preschoolers—see more severe cases than older kids do. According to a new study posted online pre-publication by the journal Pediatrics, babies and preschoolers can become severely ill if they get COVID-19, and this case in Illinois certainly proves it.
At the presser in Illinois, Dr. Ezike asked everyone, parents and non-parents alike, to follow the recommendations and stay home.
"We must do everything we can to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. If not to protect ourselves, but to protect those around us, Ezike said.
Earlier this week Motherly reported that multiple hospitals in New York City were asking birth partners to stay home during coronavirus pandemic, which meant people were having to give birth without the support of their partner or birth companion.
Banning birth partners and companions from delivery wards contradicts the World Health Organization's position on childbirth during the COVID-19 pandemic. The WHO states that mothers have the right to have their companion of choice present during the birth—and this weekend New York state's Gov. Andrew Cuomo recognized that, too.
On Saturday Cuomo's office announced an executive order in progress aimed at ensuring "women will not be forced to be alone when they are giving birth," according to Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa.
This follows a New York Department of Health Advisory issued Friday which clarifies visitation policies and " requires hospitals to allow one support person in labor and delivery settings if the patient so desires."
The advisory lays it out clearly: "For labor and delivery, the Department considers one support person essential to patient care throughout labor, delivery, and the immediate postpartum period. This person can be the patient's spouse, partner, sibling, doula, or another person they choose. In these settings, this person will be the only support person allowed to be present during the patient's care. This restriction must be explained to the patient in plain terms, upon arrival or, ideally, prior to arriving at the hospital. Hospital staff should ensure that patients fully understand this restriction, allowing them to decide who they wish to identify as their support person."
This comes as a relief to those who were petitioning for partners and companions to be allowed during delivery, and after a change.org petition demanding that attracted 613,678 signatures.
"I cannot express my gratitude to everyone that signed and shared this petition over the last week. To those of you that went further and tweeted, wrote letters, made calls, spoke to the press: I am forever grateful," New York City doula Jess Pournaras (who organized the petition) wrote Saturday.
Pournaras continues: "Together, we gained international attention and safeguarded the right of pregnant people in New York City to not have to give birth alone or parent alone. We set a critical precedent that should help to ensure the rights of pregnant people everywhere to have support in the hospital."
The WHO makes it clear: Pregnant people have the right to support during birth, even in a pandemic.
I have been pregnant for 245 days, and in the past 12 of those, everything I have come to know about how this baby will enter the world is on the chopping block.
It began when I walked into a lab three weeks ago to do an elective urine test to keep an eye on my proteins. It was two days before things became unglued in California due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and when I walked into the lab everyone was wearing masks and gloves. The woman at the counter pointed to the iPad to sign in.
"I'd rather not," I said hesitatingly, not wanting to touch the screen. "I just need to pick up a jug to pee in."
As I waited for the lab to supply the jug, a man walked through the door with sad and frantic eyes. He went on to plead, "I see on the door it says that you guys don't have the tests and not to come in if you're not well... but I think I have it. I need the COVID-19 test and my doctor told me to find a place to do it. I don't know where to go!"
My stomach dropped and I instantly recoiled, feeling immediately vulnerable. I was standing there, not only pregnant but also with my child. I grabbed my daughter's hand, scared of the world in a way I hadn't ever been before.
Get me out of this room! I made a sharp turn for the door and went straight home. I haven't been out to a medical appointment since that day, and my whole paradigm changed at that lab.
California went on lockdown two days later. And with these snowballing changes, I began questioning what a birth at a medical facility would look like as thousands of people—sick people and healthcare workers—get hit by this pandemic in a place without enough resources to help them out.
There is no short supply of unsettling tales to lose yourself in. I have heard stories of mothers in Seattle giving birth in hallways because there are no beds left. There have been many stories of overcrowding due to the influx of COVID-19 patients. I've read accounts of women in New York being told they must deliver their babies without even one support person or partner in the room in an attempt to keep visitor numbers down and protect undersupplied hospital staff.
These stories replay in my mind as I float through day after day in quarantine at home with my 2-year-old daughter. "Can I kiss baby sister?" she asks innocently.
"Ohhh! Yes, baby," I reply to her as I snap out of my thoughts and into my current reality, smiling at her sweet face.
I am living in a world of two extremes. On one hand, it is intoxicatingly beautiful—we have been "forced" into slow quality family time with one another. But we're also living in anxiety about the fear around us. Thousands of people will need hospital care in California and I can't help but wonder how this will affect my baby's birth.
So this begs the questions I believe we must all ask of ourselves: What do I have control over at this time? What will my takeaways be when I look back and reflect on how these pages of my life were written? What are the things I find the most valuable and how do I retain those things so when I look back at how this all played out, I will still be in awe of the beauty within chaos?
For me, this experience has led me to deeply consider the idea of having our daughter at home as long as that is a safe option for me. After much research, I have found a midwife I trust. I have also started looking into my insurance options and playing out worst-case scenarios knowing that decision time will soon be upon me.
This change means facing my fears about pushing a baby out without the safety net of already being in the hospital should an emergency occur. This challenge means believing in myself, my baby and my midwife to work together in order to do something I feel I was made to do. This new potential birth plan means casting aside worried friends' and my OBGYN's judgments about my having a homebirth and instead, confidently believe in my own decision—should it be the one I make.
But quite candidly, deciding to "follow my mom gut" has been an exciting and freeing feeling from the stress of this pandemic. The idea of walking freely in my backyard while in labor, potentially sleeping in my bed the night of delivery and importantly, holding my husband's hand throughout the birth of our last baby gives me romantic feelings for a reason.
We enter this ocean of motherhood accepting an atmosphere of imperfection and uncertainty. Very quickly after giving birth, our bodies and natural instincts remind us that the world doesn't always feel safe enough for our perfect little babies. Our minds paddle over small waves of fear like surfers going out to sea—distracted drivers, chemical pollutants, too much screen time—we let the water break over our heads, emerging in the valleys of the waves. We see the beautiful break in the water in front of us and forgive ourselves for the fear, as our hair has become wet and our skin a little more wrinkly and sunkissed.
Our children are the future in front of us. We mothers are propelled to move forward and past fears by our innate love for them. When looking at the big picture in front of me—delivering a child at this very scary time—I am finding it more important than ever to remember I am still pointing towards my own destiny, no matter what decision I make.
Have you found yourself already thinking, "Alexa, teach my children" or channeling your inner Ross Gellar saying, "I'm fine" when someone asks you how homeschooling is going so far?
I can assure you, mama, you are not alone.
In these unprecedented times, feeling overwhelmed is an understatement. And totally understandable. The world as we knew it has been completely flipped upside down. You now find yourself unable to go about your normal routine, potentially working from home full-time with your children as your new co-workers and on top of that—homeschooling too (for who knows how long).
You may be worrying like every other parent is likely worrying right now, "How will I make this all work?" or "How can I teach my children? I don't have a teaching degree!"
Well, I hope I can assure you—in any small way—that you can do this. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, you are already an incredible teacher. You've taught your children to walk, talk, feed/dress themselves and have helped them with their math homework (even though it is completely different from how you learned in school—"borrow," "regroup"... potato, potahto).
From me, a teacher and fellow mother, to you, I want to emphasize that your family's well-being comes first. Academics are secondary at this time.
You may be thinking, "Why would a teacher be telling me not to worry about school?!" Well, quite frankly, because this is unchartered territory. I NEVER learned—in college or throughout my nine years of teaching—how to teach during a pandemic.
We, as in teachers, parents, caregivers and students, are making history and setting the tone for these unsettling times.
I am not saying to completely disregard academics, but just be gentle with yourself and remember you're doing your best. These tips might help you and your kiddo both feel more confident on this new-to-both-of-you journey of "distance learning."
1. Provide a predictable routine.
One that you can adapt to your family's situation. Maybe mornings are too hectic because you have conference calls to make, so the afternoons would make more sense to work on academics. Be realistic, flexible—and most importantly, gentle with yourselves.
2. Monitor and keep track of expectations given by your child's teacher.
Maybe it is completely digital, maybe your child has packets to work on—sit with your child when you are able to have focused time together (even if it's five minutes or less!) and create a plan in the beginning of each week. Maybe it's Sunday afternoon, or maybe it's Monday morning after breakfast. Whatever works for you.
This is a great time to teach time management skills—utilize checklists, sticky notes, a notebook—you may have some trial and error figuring out what tools will work best for your kiddo. Don't be afraid to reach out to your child's teacher for help or clarification.
3. Give your child the opportunity to have a say in their learning.
This'll give your little students a sense of autonomy and ownership. For example, ask them which subject they would like to work on first—math or reading. Little do they know, they'll eventually have to complete both! Even small things like giving them a choice to use a pen instead of a pencil can make a BIG difference.
4. You have two new BFFs: Google and YouTube.
Don't know how to teach something specific or you want to give your children some extra practice? All you have to do is type the grade level, skill and "worksheet" in the Google search bar and you'll get links to many different website options—even free ones.
YouTube has a plethora of videos to utilize, although I do suggest screening them yourself first. You can also use Safeshare.tv or Viewpure.com to take away advertisements before and during the videos.
5. Use this time to focus on life skills.
Cursive writing, reading and following recipes, writing a letter, taking care of a plant, completing a research project on a topic of their choice, doing laundry, how to write a check—now is the time to teach or reinforce these life skills (all of which have some sort of academic tie-in).
All in all, just remember this won't last forever.
Despite what any meme says on social media, we are not going to evaluate your teaching abilities—promise. Be patient with your children, their teachers and most importantly, yourself.
Have you ever heard yourself saying (or maybe just thinking) , "If I only had the time…" or "They grow up so fast, I wish I could…"?
Well, now can be that time.
So let them sleep in, wear their PJs all day, make blanket forts in the living room—those are the things they will remember most vividly.
Remember to give yourself some grace, mama, you're doing the best you can.
And know that we miss your (our) kids, and we're cheering you all on!