Giving Birth During COVID: Krystan’s Story

The morning of May 13th will be a day forever etched in my mind. At the first light of day we were off to become a family! I was to be induced at 7am.

If you recall the situation in May: No mandatory mask, Europe and New York were on fire with Covid-19, and the economy was in a forced lock-down. The maternity wards were being kept safe, in some cases we had to give birth there alone, without our husbands, and with a mask on. Hospital rules changed daily as our nation struggled with a rising case count.

After dropping me off at the hospital, my husband has to wait in the parking lot since he was not allowed in the hospital until I was admitted. We live over 40km from the hospital and to our surprise we learned that May is the month with the highest number of births at our hospital.

After receiving my first dose of medications I was told to walk around to help start labour, but since we were in a pandemic I could only walk around my stretcher in triage. Throughout the morning my blood pressure rose and at 1pm just before the second dose of medicine I was admitted. Finally, my husband could join me. I had felt no contractions during the day the nurses warned us we were in for the long haul. She explained the procedures for a C-section as a precaution, but told us that it really wasn’t necessary in our case. When I was given the second dose of medication at 2pm, the doctor came in and said “I don’t like this, it’s time to go to the operating room.” And with those words 8 nurses and 2 doctors came rushing in the room. By 3:03pm Ela was welcomed into the world. We had a great time with 48 hours in the hospital and we left with our tiny (5lbs 10oz) healthy baby girl.

48 hours after discharge we had to go back to the hospital for the routine “healthy baby check” due to covid my husband could not come in so they needed to call a porter to come help me bring the baby up to our appointment. It was less than 4 days since I had a c section and I couldn’t carry the car seat. Baby was sleeping so the nurse and I were talking about eating, sleeping, car seat safety, and all the things you go over with a sleep deprived, emotional, and post opt mom. We were doing things “okay” but each point was like well that’s okay, but you should be doing it like this. I now see she was trying to be helpful, but at the time I felt like the worse mom ever! And I didn’t even have my husband to help me deal with any of this.

Then the nurse examined baby Ela and asked if she always had the bump on her cheek? I thought she just had cute chubby cheeks? She quickly left the room and the doctor who assessed her after delivery was there and explained that she did not have this at birth and how could I have not noticed this? Again, felt like I had failed her! However, 3 nurses and a doctor hadn’t noticed this either. Ela had her first ultrasound at that appointment to see what the lump was. Being hormonal and sleep deprived I was doing my best to update my husband by phone as he was still in the parking lot. Once the ultrasound was complete, the doctor comes in and says Sick Kids in Ottawa or Toronto, you need to pick now. So, I call my husband and we pick Ottawa, we have no idea of the time frame and didn’t know if she being air lifted out today or was this an appointment in the future. Was a wreck at this point and for the fifth time I pleaded for my husband to join me. They told me “it’s not that serious he doesn’t need to be here” The doctor finally comes back in and says “well good news it’s not cancer” I was stunned and had no idea that was even something that was being considered. Ela has Lymphangioma which is common and compared to a birth mark.

The cell reception was terrible, I couldn’t keep him updated and we had no idea this whole process would take hours.

At just 2 weeks old, and amidst a global pandemic, we venture to Ottawa four hours from home, to get Ela an MRI. Again, my husband isn’t allowed into the hospital and had to wait in the parking lot. The cell reception was terrible, I couldn’t keep him updated and we had no idea this whole process would take hours. It was confirmed that Ela had Lymphangioma and it would require a “procedure” to correct it. Ela’s condition was a bit more complicated then, most since part of the growth was in her airway. During the 3-day procedure Ela would have to stay in ICU as she would be partly sedated for the 3 days. The doctors made it seem like no big deal or nothing special. The procedure was booked for the 1st week of July. Before the procedure we had weekly doctors’ appointments to make sure Ela was fine but the single parent rules were still in effect and I was that single parent. Ela’s breathing was getting worse, thankfully my husband was off on paternity leave and we would take shifts to stay awake to make sure she was still breathing. Anybody who met Ela had to ware mask and to this day, only our parents and my sister in law have come in our house since Ela was born. Everyone else has a driveway visit.

She is so small they don’t even have a gown that will fit her.

The first week of July comes and we head down to Ottawa for what wethink will be 3 days in hospital. I bring Ela in for her OR time. She is so small they don’t even have a gown that will fit her. I hand off my baby and I am now forced to wait in the waiting room, alone to see what happens. Mask wearing was mandatory now and that was good news as masks absorb tears very well and hid how upset I was. Several parents have come and gone and still no word on Ela. Finally, I get the word that the “procedure” went really well and she is resting and I can see her shortly. I finally get to her room and she is hooked up to more machines then I have ever seen, with tubes running everywhere. She is swollen and looks to be in pain. My husband is now allowed in but we can only be in Ela’s room together for 30 minutes to “switch off care”. We were both crying by her bedside, wondering if we have made the right decision. We are told since she is sedated that we do not have to stay. That was the hardest thing ever we have ever done, to leave our 1 month old at the hospital. While her procedures were being done, I spent the days alone at the hospital usually a 16 hour day and then come back to hotel at night. After 5 days in the ICU her procedure was done. Unfortunately, she was having trouble eating so she was moved to a regular floor and somebody had to be with her 24/7. Again, only one parent at a time and 30 minutes to overlap. After a total of 8 days in hospital and 2 full weeks in a hotel we could finally come home.

Ela turned 2 months old in the hospital and we were so excited for her to finally be able to be held by her grandparents without a mask. Ela was sent home with some meds to help stop the Lymphangioma from coming back that wipe out her immune system. So now we have to be even more cautious. Unfortunately, grandparents still to this day have to wear a mask. This medication requires antibiotics and monthly fasting blood work so we still spend a lot of time at the hospital. This also comes with so much concern for her health we are constantly on high alert. Being a new parent is hard but thankfully there are many who have come before you. But being a new parent in the beginning of a global pandemic with a sick baby is uncharted territory. All we are trying to do is make the best decisions for our baby with the information we have. Fortunately, Ela is responding really well to treatments and it such a happy wonderful little baby!

So, if you know somebody who has given birth in the pandemic or is pregnant please send them a virtual hug and don’t question their decision. They are doing the best they can in this new and scary world.

Written by: Krystan Pinard

Photo by: @ljeanphotography

XOXO Renee Reina

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Giving Birth During COVID: Krystan’s Story