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A mother seeking help for her mental health loses custody of her children, instead—and it’s so wrong

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We've come a long way when it comes to talking about maternal mental health. These days celebrities speak openly about their experiences with perinatal mood disorders and many regular mothers share their experiences on social media. In 2019 it's okay to say "this is hard and I need help," but what actually happens when we ask for help varies and, in some instances, is downright unacceptable.

Recently an Alabama mom to a 2-year-old and a 2-month-old—we'll call her Beth to protect her privacy—showed up at her obstetrician's office seeking treatment for depression and unwelcome thoughts. But Beth didn't get the help she expected. Instead, her children were removed from the home she shares with her husband and were placed in the care of a relative.

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What Beth experienced here is not uncommon and evidence that more work needs to be done to support mothers with their mental health.

Research indicates that maternal descriptions of violent, intrusive thoughts can result in children being taken out of a parent's care when that is not necessary. But research also indicates that such thoughts are common. A study published in the journal BCM Psychiatry this year found "unwanted, intrusive thoughts of harm-related to the infant are reported by the vast majority of new mothers, with half of all new mothers reporting unwanted, intrusive thoughts of harming their infant on purpose." But preliminary evidence suggests that these thoughts are not associated with an increased risk of harm to infants.

Beth's case is similar to one out of California last year and highlights how much work needs to be done to ensure that when vulnerable mothers seek treatment the systems and people receiving them are able to help them in a way that doesn't feel like punishment.

Beth is now bravely speaking out about what happened to her. In an exclusive interview with Motherly, she explains how she went to her OB's office (with her exclusively breastfed infant in tow) to seek help for a feeling she thought was postpartum depression. She says she described her feelings to a nurse at the OB's office, including a fleeting, intrusive thought she'd had about ending her life and her baby's. She tells Motherly it was not a thought she would act on—that the thought of harming her baby repulsed her—but the fact that such an image would pop into her mind concerned her a great deal.

When the doctor came into the exam room about an hour later Beth told her story a second time, telling her OB: "I feel hopeless and I'm crying a lot, and I had this fleeting thought of hurting myself and my child," she says. According to Beth, the doctor then left the room and returned with a plan for Beth to go to a nearby Emergency Room. Beth says she was told she could keep her baby with her, would be evaluated and sent home that evening with medication.

But things did not go as she expected once she arrived at the ER. While she was waiting to be seen by a doctor she called her mother, who suggested she leave the hospital, but Beth says nursing staff encouraged her to stay. Hours later Beth was admitted to the women and children's hospital where she'd given birth just weeks earlier. There, Beth was evaluated by a psychiatrist. Shortly afterward, her husband (who had been at work) arrived. It was now after 5 p.m. and the couple was growing concerned.

With her husband and her mother-in-law now by her side, Beth decided to sign out, advising staff she wanted to seek outpatient treatment. Hospital staff tried to convince her to stay, but she decided to leave with her husband. As they left the building a security guard followed them, telling them Beth was now on a "psych hold."

As Beth tells it, while the couple was getting into their cars (they had arrived separately) the hospital issued a Code Adam (a code for a missing child or baby) for her infant daughter, but Beth was able to simply pay $14 to leave the parking structure with no issues. The couple didn't go home, but rather to pick up their 2-year-old and head to Beth's mother-in-law's house. When a neighbor called and asked Beth why there were several police cars in front of her house she realized how serious the situation had become.

Beth's mother-in-law went to speak with the police and called Beth to bring her daughters to meet police and social workers from the Alabama Department of Human Resources. Beth was not allowed to spend the night with her children and was told to be in court the next morning.

In court, Beth was told she was a danger to her children, and they were placed in the care of a cousin. "My husband, since he was helping me leave the hospital, he's not allowed to have custody of the kids. They can't come to our house. I have to be supervised with the children at all times. I can't spend the night with them. It's just a big mess," Beth tells Motherly.

The Department of Human Resources responded to Motherly's request for comment on this case with the following statement: "All information regarding child welfare investigations is confidential under state law".

Joy Burkhard is the founder and executive director of 2020Mom.org, a national organization dedicated to closing "gaps in maternal mental health care through education, advocacy, and collaboration." She says Beth's case illustrates how much nuance and support is missing from maternal health care right now.

"Our health care system is completely failing so many mothers, like Beth, who speak up because they want to get treatment. By taking a mother's babies away, the system has failed not once but twice," she explains.

Burkhard is concerned that doctors still confuse symptoms of postpartum depression (including intrusive thoughts) with the more serious postpartum psychosis, which does increase a mother's risk of harming her children. She says that while awareness of maternal mental health disorders like postpartum depression has increased in recent years, "most doctors still aren't adequately trained in the nuances of these disorders and nuances matter."

Back in Alabama, Beth believes the nuance was lost in her case and insists she would not have acted on the thoughts that entered her mind and was not a danger to her child. "That's not me. I know I would never do that. I just wanted help to control the thoughts," she explains.

Her case highlights some serious issues with how mothers seeking mental health help are treated, but her experience should not discourage mothers from seeking help when they need it.

"If you are experiencing intrusive thoughts about harming yourself or your baby, the number one thing is safety. If anyone is in immediate danger, call 911," says Diana Spalding, Midwife and Motherly's Digital Education Editor.

Spalding continues: "If you know that you need help but danger is not imminent, try to find a professional that specializes in postpartum mood disorders. They'll understand the nuances of what you are experiencing. If this type of help does not exist, or you find yourself in the ER, ask for an interdisciplinary approach between an ER Doctor, an OB or midwife, and a psychiatrist. Together they may be able to provide a more holistic view of what you're going through."

Meanwhile, Beth is hoping no one has to go through what she is going through. She and her husband and doing everything they can to get their children back home. Beth is seeing a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a counselor and she and her husband are attending parenting classes five days a week. She says the deadline given to her by DHR was December 23, and that she will have met all the department's requirements long before then. She is hoping to be sleeping under the same roof as her children by Christmas.

2020mom is now circulating a petition addressed to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, noting that it is "critical doctors, nurses, child protective services and judges receive training in the range of disorders and symptoms so they know when a mother is at risk of harming herself and/or her baby (with postpartum psychosis), and when she is not (with postpartum intrusive thoughts/anxiety)." More than 2,000 people have signed the petition.

If you are struggling with your mental health right now check out these resources to find the help you need, mama.

You might also like:

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Easter meals bring the family together in ways that few other meals can. Spring is finally in the air and the feeling of new beginnings and hope is all around. But we know it can be hard to find the time to make delicious meals, and even harder to find recipes your little bunnies will agree to eat.

But fear not, mama! We've searched around the internet and found some of the easiest, most delicious and, yes, kid-friendly recipes out there that will take your entire family from morning until night. So happy cooking and happy Easter!

Here are our 13 favorite easy + kid-friendly recipes:

1. Easter bunny waffles

easter_waffles

Fork and Beans

Waking up on Easter morning is a pretty magical experience as a kid. Add to the fun with these adorable, easy and actually kind of healthy waffles!

Ingredients:

  • frozen waffles
  • strawberries, sliced, for the ear, mouth and bow tie
  • banana slices, for the eyes
  • blueberries, for the eyes
  • raspberries, for the nose
  • shredded carrots, for the whiskers

Instructions:

1. Toast 3 waffles.

2. Slice one waffle in half and use it for the ears. Slice another waffle in half and use one part for the shoulders and then cut out two circles for the cheeks.

3. Add the strawberry slices and place them on top of the ears to fill in.

4. Assemble the face and bow tie.

Recipe from Fork and Beans

Baked French toast

french_toast

The Pioneer Woman

Breakfast meets casserole in this delicious make-ahead dish. It's perfect for prepping the night before a busy day, especially if you have overnight guests.

Ingredients:

French toast

  • Butter, for greasing
  • 1 loaf crusty sourdough Or French Bread
  • 8 whole Eggs
  • 2 cups Whole Milk
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract

Topping

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
  • warm syrup, for serving
  • butter, for serving
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, for serving

Instructions:

1. For the French toast: Grease the baking pan with butter. Tear the bread into chunks, or cut into cubes, and evenly distribute in the pan. Crack the eggs in a big bowl. Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover the pan tightly and store it in the fridge until needed (overnight, preferably). Or you can make it and bake it right away—it's delicious no matter what!

2. For the topping: Mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and some nutmeg in a separate bowl. Stir together using a fork. Add the butter and with a pastry cutter, and mix it all together until the mixture resembles fine pebbles. Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

3. When you're ready to bake the casserole, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the casserole from the fridge and sprinkle the topping over the top. Bake for 45 minutes for a softer, more bread pudding texture or for 1 hour-plus or more for a firmer, crisper texture.

4. Scoop out individual portions. Top with butter and drizzle with warm pancake syrup and sprinkle with blueberries.

Recipe from The Pioneer Woman

Hashbrown egg cups

hashbrown_eggs

Life Made Simple

If you're craving something savory, these hashbrown egg cups will absolutely hit the spot. Just consider leaving out the cayenne for those littler taste-buds.

Ingredients:

  • 20 ounces refrigerated hash browns
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 tsp kosher sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk or half and half
  • 4 sliced cooked bacon, crumbled
  • chopped fresh parsley (optional garnish)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Generously spray a standard size muffin tin pan with baking spray, set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the hash browns, 1/2 cup cheese, salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne. Press the mixture into the bottom, creating a nest.
  3. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese, eggs, milk, and bacon. Pour into the baked hash browns, then return to the oven to bake for 12-15 minutes or until fully set.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before removing.
  6. Garnish with a pinch of salt and pepper and freshly chopped parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.

Recipe from Life Made Simpleife Made Simple

Cucumber sandwiches

cucumber_sandwiches

Cherished Bliss

If your littles will be off hunting eggs, these quick and easy to grab sandwiches will be just what they need to keep them going.

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf of extra thin sliced bread
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ⅓ of an English cucumber
  • 3 tbsp finely shredded carrots
  • ½ tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
  • ½ tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp garlic and herb seasoning
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. With a bunny and Easter egg cookie cutter, cut out an equal amount of bread for each sandwich and set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, add cream cheese, shredded carrots, fresh chopped chives, fresh chopped parsley, and seasonings.
  3. Combine all ingredients and mix well.
  4. Cut an English cucumber in half and slice thin slices of your desired amount of cucumbers.
  5. Spread the carrot and herb cream cheese on both sides of a sandwich. When spreading the carrot and herb cream cheese on don't forget to do the mirror side of the bunny.
  6. Place your desired amount of cucumber slices on each sandwich and top with the other the matching bread cut out.

Recipe from Cherished Bliss

Ham and cheese crescents

crescents

Six Sisters' Stuff

This is the perfect recipe for a busy lunch. It only has three ingredients, and is so yummy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8-ounce) can refrigerated crescent roll dough
  • 16 deli ham slices (you can use carved ham leftovers)
  • 8 slices cheddar cheese

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Separate dough into 8 equal pieces (they usually separate into triangles).
  3. Place 2 slices of ham and 1 slice of cheese (folded in half) on the larger end of the triangle.
  4. Roll the crescent up with the ham and cheese inside, and place it tip side down on a baking sheet (you can use a baking mat, or line it with aluminum foil for easy clean-up, too).
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, until tops are golden brown.
  6. Serve warm.

Recipe from Six Sisters' Stuff

Bunny veggie dip

bunny_dip

The Nesting Corral

Eating veggies has never been so fun… or cute!

Ingredients:

  • Bread loaf

Dip:

  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 container (16 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 package Knorr Vegetable recipe mix
  • 1 can (8 ounces) water chestnuts, drained and chopped

Veggies for dipping:

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • cherry tomatoes
  • celery sticks
  • bell peppers
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower

Decorations:

  • olives

Instructions:

1. Combine all ingredients and chill for about 2 hours.

2. Carefully cut out a circle from the top of the bread loaf for the bunny's head. Then, cut the opening bigger so that dipping was accessible.

3. Using your hands, hollow out the rest of the shepherd loaf so that it can hold the spinach dip. Save the chunks of bread that you pull out for chowing down on with your dip.

4. Cut the two ends off of a baguette and situated them as the bunny's ears.

5. For the face, used black olives cut in half as the eyes, and quarter a half of a black olive to make the nose.

6. Make the whiskers from thin strips of celery, and the mouth is a cross section piece of celery. Put a little dip on the back of each of the facial features to keep it adhered to the bread.

7. Pour the dip into the bread bowl, arrange the veggies, and serve.

Recipe from Nesting Coral

English muffin bunny pizza

english_muffin

Kid Friendly Things to Do

These little bunny pizzas are perfect for serving your kids while the grown-ups eat their fancier dinner (though we totally get it if the grown-ups decide they just want to eat these, too).

Ingredients:

  • English muffins
  • Pizza sauce (jarred is great)
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella shredded cheese
  • 2 black olive pearls, sliced olives
  • 1 piece of sliced pepperoni
  • 1 stick of mozzarella string cheese
  • 1 breadstick

Instructions:

  • Spread some pizza sauce onto the English muffin (a few tbsp should be enough).
  • Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the sauce.
  • Add 2 sliced olives for eyes.
  • Cut the piece of pepperoni into 1/4 pieces and position a piece for the nose.
  • Bake the breadstick according to the package directions.
  • Bake the pizza at 425 degrees F for about 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is turning a little golden on the ends.
  • When the breadstick and pizza are done, slice the breadstick in half.
  • Grab a plate and place the pizza in the middle, add the halved breadsticks for your bunny ears.
  • Pull some pieces of mozzarella off of the string cheese to make whiskers and serve

Recipe from Kid Friendly Things To Do

Instant Pot leg of lamb

leg_lamb

Simply Happy Foodie

Is there anything the Instant Pot can't do? The answer is a definitive no—including the fact that it can make your Easter dinner a complete (and easy) win.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cloves garlic, divided
  • 4 lbs boneless leg of lamb (or bone-in)
  • 3 tsp Kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup chicken broth, low sodium
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar

(Optional) to thicken, mix together:

  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp cold water

Instructions:

  1. Slice 4 of the garlic cloves lengthwise. Pierce the lamb in several places and push the garlic slivers into the cuts. Then sprinkle 2 of the tsp of salt and the pepper over the entire roast.
  2. If the roast is coming apart from the bone being removed, tie it together with butcher's string.
  3. Turn on the pot's sauté setting. Wait for it to get hot, then add the olive oil. Place the lamb roast in the pot and let it brown for several minutes. Then turn it over and brown the other side. Remove it to a plate.
  4. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot, using a wooden spoon.
  5. Add the wine and continue to cook, still scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot (called deglazing).
  6. Add the rosemary and thyme sprigs, remaining teaspoon of salt, remaining clove of garlic (minced), chicken broth, and the red wine vinegar. Stir well. Then turn off the sauté setting.
  7. Add the lamb roast back into the pot.
  8. Press the pressure cook/manual button or dial. Then press the +/- button or dial to select 70 minutes (20-30 minutes for a rare roast). For a bone-in roast, select 85 minutes. This will yield a nicely fork-tender leg of lamb. If your roast is larger than 4 lbs, increase the time by 5 minutes.
  9. The pot will take a few minutes to come to pressure. When the cook time ends, let the pot sit undisturbed for 20 minutes (20-minute natural release, 10 minutes for a rare roast). Then turn the steam release knob to the Venting position to manually release any remaining pressure/steam. Turn off the pot.
  10. When the pin in the lid drops back down, open the lid. Carefully remove the roast to a platter and cover. Remove the herb stems from the pot.
  11. Skim the fat off the top of the liquid in the pot, or use a fat separator to defat the liquid.
  12. OPTIONAL: Return the liquid to the pot and turn on the sauté setting. Mix up a slurry of 1 tbsp cornstarch to 2 tbsp cold water. When the liquid is simmering, whisk in the slurry and stir until it thickens.
  13. Serve the roast sliced, with some of the defatted sauce over it.

Recipe from Simply Happy Foodie

Slow cooker ham with brown sugar glaze

ham

This Delicious House

Ham is, perhaps, the most quintessential of Easter meal choices. And with the ease of a crockpot, this recipe will become your go-to favorite.

Ingredients:

  • 1 boneless ham
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Spray the inside of a slow cooker with cooking spray. Remove ham from packaging and place in a slow cooker set at low heat.
  2. Make the glaze by combining the brown sugar, dijon, and vinegar in a small bowl. Pour over the ham. Cook ham at low heat for 5-7 hours or until thermometer reads 140 degrees F.

Recipe from This Delicious House

Brown butter garlic honey-roasted carrots

carrots

Rasa Malaysia

These carrots are so good you won't have to convince them to eat their veggies before dessert.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb baby carrots
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 dashes ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp chopped thyme or parsley

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Heat an oven-safe skillet and cook the butter on medium heat until it starts to form and turn into golden brown. Add the garlic and quickly saute before adding the carrots. Stir a few times, then add the salt, black pepper, honey and thyme or parsley.
  3. Transfer the skillet and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the carrots become tender. Serve immediately.

Recipe from Rasa Malaysia

Birds nest cookies

birds_nest

Dinner at the Zoo

These no-bake treats are the perfect easy Easter dessert (and oh-so-cute)!

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces milk chocolate chips
  • 12 ounces butterscotch chips
  • 12 ounces chow mein noodles
  • 36 candy eggs

Instructions:

  1. Place the milk chocolate chips and butterscotch chips in a large bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments until melted. Stir until smooth.
  2. Add the chow mein noodles to the bowl and toss until coated in the chocolate mixture.
  3. Spoon 2 tbsp of the cookie mixture onto a piece of parchment and shape into a nest; top with 3 candy eggs. Repeat the process with the remaining cookie mixture and eggs.
  4. Let nests set until firm, then serve. These cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Recipe from Dinner at the Zoo

.

Easter egg fruit pizza

fruit_pizza

Persnickety Plates

For a dessert that is delicious and healthy, this Easter egg fruit pizza checks off all the boxes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package sugar cookie mix (1 lb 1.5 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted & cooled
  • 1 egg
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup strawberries chopped
  • 3 cups fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries) sliced

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and grease a 13″ pizza pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, add the cookie mix, melted butter, and egg and mix with a spoon until a soft dough forms.
  3. Press the dough evenly onto the pan.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Let it cool completely, about 45 minutes. Cut into an egg shape (I just used a butter knife).
  5. In a food processor or blender, add the softened cream cheese, ½ cup chopped strawberries, powdered sugar, and vanilla and pulse until fully combined and smooth.
  6. Spread the cream cheese mixture onto the cooled cookie.
  7. Decorate with the cut-up fruit.
  8. Slice with a pizza cutter and serve.

Recipe from Persnickety Plates

Easter chocolate lasagna

chocolate_lasagna

Oh My Goodness Chocolate Desserts

There's really no explanation needed here. It's chocolate layered with more chocolate. Done.

Ingredients:

Oreo crust:

  • 36 Oreo cookies
  • ½ cup unsalted butter-melted

Cream cheese layer:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter-softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup Cool Whip

Chocolate pudding layer:

  • 2 (3.9 oz.) packages chocolate instant pudding
  • 2 and 3/4 cups cold milk

Topping:

  • 2 cups Cool Whip
  • 1 ½ cups crushed Oreo
  • Peeps bunnies, Easter egg candies, and other fun toppings

Instructions:

  1. In a food processor, finely crush Oreo cookies into fine crumbs. If you don't have food processor, place Oreo cookies into ziplock bag and crush the cookies with a rolling pin.
  2. Using a fork mix crushed Oreo with melted butter, then press the mixture into the bottom of 9 x 13 inches dish. Place in the fridge to firm.
  3. Beat cream cheese, softened butter, sugar and vanilla until it's light and creamy. Stir in 1 cup Cool Whip. Spread the mixture over the crust and place in the fridge.
  4. In a medium bowl mix chocolate instant pudding with 2 and 3/4 cups cold milk. Whisk for a few minutes until the pudding starts thickening. Spread the pudding over the cream cheese layer. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  5. Spread 2 cups Cool Whip on top and sprinkle with crushed Oreo. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.
  6. Garnish with Peeps and Easter egg candies.

Recipe from Oh My Goodness Chocolate Desserts.

Lifestyle

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."

FEATURED VIDEO

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.

News

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.

FEATURED VIDEO

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.

News

There are really no words to express the debt of gratitude each and every one of us owes to the men and women on the front lines against coronavirus. The doctors and nurses treating patients around the clock at packed hospitals are putting their own health on the line—especially as dire shortages of personal protective equipment like mask, gowns and gloves persist—but they're doing so for one reason: to keep the rest of us safe.

One man experienced that heroism firsthand when his wife came down with the virus, and expressed his thanks in an emotional (yet socially-distant) fashion. He held up a touching sign outside New Jersey's Morristown Medical Center reading, "Thank you all in emergency for saving my wife's life. I love you all."

FEATURED VIDEO

Nurse Allison Swendsen snapped a picture of the moving message and shared it on her Facebook page writing, "In triage the other day, I heard a knock on the window... This was what I saw—this man knew he couldn't come in but wanted to show some gratitude—I asked through the window if I could snap a picture and he nodded, he had tears pouring down his face—I peeked out the door and asked him how his wife was—he said "Great, she is going home today, you are all amazing."


With his hand on his heart and his face crumpled with emotion, you can see just how grateful he is—and it wasn't lost on Swendsen. Her post continued, "I don't know him, I don't know his wife, but throughout the last 13 years as a nurse, I realized, this is why we do it—times are tough but we make a difference."

While we'll never truly be able to repay what we owe to our medical professionals, this powerful post proves that simply saying thank you is a great start.

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Expecting parents look forward to meeting their newborns and bonding in those early days of their infant's life, but the coronavirus has changed so much about giving birth in America, and for some mothers, this means they are separated from their babies to protect their infants from COVID-19.

Separating moms and babies is rare—it is only happening in cases where the mother has or is presumed to have COVID-19. We are not telling you this to scare you, mama, but rather to inform you about the way the maternity ward experience has changed in recent days so that you can prepare, protect and advocate for yourself.

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The CDC's Interim Considerations for Infection Prevention and Control of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Inpatient Obstetric Healthcare Settings states that in order to "reduce the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 from the mother to the newborn, facilities should consider temporarily separating (e.g., separate rooms) the mother who has confirmed COVID-19 or is a PUI [person under investigation] from her baby until the mother's transmission-based precautions are discontinued."

That means that when a mom has COVID-19 her doctors or midwives may recommend her baby be cared for in another part of the hospital temporarily.

For Missouri mom Veronica Batton, this meant four days apart from her newborn daughter, Theo. Batton developed a cough late in pregnancy and was tested for COVID-19, but her results were not yet back by the time she went into labor. As KSHB in Kansas City reports, Batton's test eventually came back negative for COVID-19, but not until after she'd been separated from her newborn.

"I saw her and felt her on my chest for like maybe three to five seconds," Batton told KSHB. "And they took her over to get cleaned up and everything, and after that, I didn't see her out of the room and I didn't see her again until [days later]."

Batton was thrilled to finally be reunited with her daughter, but calls the experience "heartbreaking" and hopes that her case can help hospitals determine better practices for keeping moms and babies safe without separating them unnecessarily. The hospital, St. Luke's East, has reportedly already made changes to make testing faster and hospital representatives say delays in testing are unfortunately beyond their control. Batton hopes the different levels of America's health care system can work together to address the delays in processing tests.

"The last day was really, really hard...That was the day I felt like I lost all hope," Batton said, adding that the nursing staff at St. Luke's East Hospital were great.

"They were so kind, they took pictures on their phone and brought it to me. They even used my husband's phone and took it up there so we could FaceTime with her," she explains.

Batton and Theo have been reunited and are at home with Batton's husband and the couple's 5-year-old son, who is finally able to be a big brother. "It feels amazing, like all the stress is gone," Batton told KSHB. "I don't have to wear a mask. I don't have to wear gloves."

Batton is holding her baby now and most moms giving birth in America this week are able to do that sooner than she was. Again, separation of newborns from mothers is not happening without careful consideration.

The CDC says that when it comes to separating a mother and baby due to COVID-19 concerns, the risks and benefits should be explained to the mother and that "if colocation (sometimes referred to as 'rooming in') of the newborn with his/her ill mother in the same hospital room occurs in accordance with the mother's wishes or is unavoidable due to facility limitations, facilities should consider implementing measures to reduce exposure of the newborn to the virus that causes COVID-19."

Basically, separating a baby from their mom is not the only option to protect the baby, depending on the severity of the mother's illness.

If you are concerned about your hospital's practices, discuss this with your doctor or midwife.

If you are healthy now, take care to maintain self-isolation and practice social distancing to avoid COVID-19.

If you do fall ill and your hospital recommends separating you from your baby, know that you are a decision-maker and can advocate for yourself. Ask questions, and if you determine that you should be separated from your child know that you can still pump to provide breast milk. Ask for a pump and frequent updates on your baby.

If you are able to room-in with your baby while recovering from COVID-19, the CDC says it is okay to breastfeed as long as you are wearing a face mask and washing your hands before each feeding.

Again, this is not happening to every woman giving birth, but it is one of the ways in which hospitals are trying to keep babies safe from COVID-19.

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