Childbirth during quarantine is both hard and rewarding at the same time. It’s
contradictory feelings, sometimes of loneliness and sometimes of community. Covid-19 has changed the rules of pregnancy, from the screenings to the labor hours: everything has changed.
Journalist Raffi Elliot described in the Armenian Weekly his wife’s experience. She got pregnant before Corona was even a virus to worry about but her pregnancy slided into quarantine and lockdown. It started with her checkups, when her tests were moved to Zoom. The online obstetrician, rightfrom the screen, trying to screen Elliot’s wife. It might sound like a movie headline, but it is the new reality. As the due date approached, she was eventually let in the hospital, but she had to wear gloves and masks and the husband wasn’t let in. He wasn’t even let in the delivery room -like many other fathers before and after him. He eventually met his son, but no other family member was allowed in.
“Once I was in, I couldn’t go back out again. No other family members were allowed in either,” wrote Elliot.
During labor and delivery in the Covid era, the mothers have found themselves alone in many hospitals. The rules change depending on what part of the world the mothers live. In some countries, the only people allowed in the rooms are the doctors and nurses, all dressed up in Protective Personal Equipment (PPE), zipped from hair to toe in suits that protect them from any hazard. Instead of the warm if scared hand of their partner, the mothers are met with smiles behind plastic masks. Mothers are alone during labor because, as one nurse explained,
“Just taking a big, deep breath and pushing can sometimes result in droplets being in the air, and that exposes people in the room.”
In other countries, only one person is allowed in the delivery room and after, in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The support person is there from labor to postpartum, but still, this person has to go through Coronavirus testing and they should not have not been sick or suspected to have been sick with the Coronavirus. Depending on where in the world these women are, the rules change, but one detail stays the same. No grandparents to meet the newborn in the hospital, no balloons to make the sterile rooms festive and sometimes separation.
The mothers and their doctors have a difficult yet necessary talk in the weeks leading to childbirth. Should they separate the mother and the child at birth? The idea behind this question is to consider if the mother should be quarantined for two weeks, to make sure she didn’t get Covid-19. Another lonely choice for the women, a struggle between love and precaution.
Precaution also leads to self-quarantine at home, when the new family finally leaves the hospital. With lockdowns still effective in many countries around the world, the new parents can’t count on the support from their family -sure, there are always video chats, but grandma is better in person. In the countries where the lockdown has eased, newborns and their parents still face difficulties and sometimes, the family decides to self-quarantine. They shut off from the rest of the world for at least two weeks and then they take one more Coronavirus test.
Giving birth during the pandemic is hard, even harder than childbirth already is. Mothers face a lot of loneliness and sometimes fathers can only see their baby from the hospital’s windows. Grandparents, uncles and friends of the couple wave from the gates, unable to hold the baby. Still, they might feel alone but they aren’t.
”Those of us giving birth now would be sent home to quarantine with our babies, after a quick lesson in feeding and swaddling, and the messages, the gifts of food, the interest and phone calls would get us through,” wrote Sadie Stein on Vogue.
Those babies and these mothers, they will have a story to tell. When the lockdowns are over and they meet their families again, perhaps around a Christmas tree. And what a painful yet beautiful story that will be.