Still, babies are born during world-wide pandemics

Masked man and woman in hospital room
Masked new parents with baby in hospital room
Family portrait with parents and two small children

The morning of May 5, 2020 I welcomed my son into the world. My husband and I pulled up to the hospital in near complete darkness at 5am in the morning, induction papers in hand. The main doors to the hospital were locked and displayed signs declaring that visitors were not allowed due to COVID-19, so we walked around until we found an unlocked door. An attendant in a mask sitting at a make-shift desk inside the doorway sent us up the elevator to the delivery floor.

Delivery floors are typically buzzing with the joy and excitement of families waiting to welcome new babies into the world, but that day the waiting room was empty. No conversation or laughter, no teddy bears or balloons. Just an unsettling and eerie silence punctuated by the opening and closing of electric doors.

I choked back tears several times that morning as I considered the stark difference between my expectations for my son’s birth and my daughter’s birth four years prior. There would be no family and friends waiting for us after the delivery or visiting in the coming days. No one would be coming to our house with hot meals in hand, ready to give warm hugs and offer congratulations as we recovered. No parents would be there to help with chores or keep our daughter occupied while we focused on our newborn.

After settling into our delivery room I asked my husband to play some happy music on his phone. We tried to be as kind and upbeat with our nurse as possible; it wasn’t her fault that no visitors were allowed in the hospital. We engaged her in conversation about her life and children, laughing when we could. When her shift ended she thanked us for being such a pleasure to be with. Apparently other parents on the floor were taking their stress out on the nursing staff.

Our nurse told us that “the hospital encouraged masks but could not enforce it.” For the first and only time during the pandemic my husband and I made the decision to take our masks off around others. Who can give birth with a mask on? We had already given up so much of a normal birth experience and I didn’t want a mask as a barrier when I met my son for the first time.

But even a world-wide pandemic could not take away the joy that I felt when I held him. One of the nurses took a photo of the three of us on my phone. It would be months before we got another photo of all of us since no one else was around to hold the camera.

My son is now 8 months old. His sweet smile and easy-going nature have offered a place of peace and rest for me during 2020. Most of his grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles still haven’t met him.

The fact that most of my family will have no memories of my son in his first year of life makes me sad sometimes, but I know that our decisions to disengage from physical closeness with others is protecting lives, and if we can all stay alive there will be time in the future for more memories.