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Nothing about Lauren Coward’s delivery was going as expected.
COVID-19 had caused things to change so quickly that week in March 2020 that Lauren and her husband, Luke, were taking their own temperatures several times a day just to try to feel some semblance of control and preparation.
A neonatal ICU nurse at Norton Children’s Hospital, Lauren had been dreaming of her family members meeting her baby son after his birth. She had chosen the Family Birth Place at Clark Memorial Health for delivery after hearing positive recommendations from several friends.
She was looking forward to taking her little boy on walks with her sister and niece and being able to snuggle him in a baby carrier while wandering around Target. Now she was having an unplanned C-section, and only Luke was allowed in to support her.
“Pretty much everything that I had in my head on how he was going to come into this world was completely squashed,” she says.
But now, Lauren can say there were a lot of positives amid the chaos of delivering baby Eli.
“Looking back I couldn’t imagine having all those people in and out when trying to learn how to breastfeed, having a newborn, trying to recover from a C-section, so it was a really good bonding experience for the three of us,” she says. “I feel like we got to know each other a lot more and then really recover.
“That’s kind of what you were left with was, OK, how can we find the good out of this? And turns out, there was actually quite a lot.”
The anesthesiologist in the operating room provided one of those good moments for Lauren and Luke by using Lauren’s phone to capture photos of the birth.
“Everybody was fantastic,” Lauren says. “I think they realized it was kind of different not being able to have your family there with you.”
Dr. Inna Russell, OB/GYN with Clark Just for Women Health Solutions, delivered Eli. She says that the uncertainty around the pandemic has caused greater anxiety for her patients, but that the Family Birth Place at Clark Memorial Health has taken the steps to ensure safe deliveries and postpartum care.
“That’s our job, [to deliver with] education and expertise,” Dr. Russell says. “The whole hospital and staff are understanding of the problem and are accommodating for the patients and safety for all.”
All delivering mothers are tested for COVID-19 prior to admission, and women with a scheduled C-section or induction can do a drive-up test without leaving their cars. Masks are used for both staff and patients whenever possible, and mothers who test positive for the virus are cared for in designated rooms.
Dr. Russell advises her expecting patients to try to stay as healthy as possible by eating a nutritious diet, exercising appropriately and practicing recommended hygiene. Though it’s tempting to indulge in unhealthy food choices while staying home quarantining, Dr. Russell reminds patients that eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables will boost their immune systems and help protect them from the virus and other illnesses.
Dr. Russell is also recommending to her patients 36 weeks along and later to work from home to limit exposure.
Though she felt isolated at times, Lauren says she wouldn’t trade her first weeks home with her son. She used FaceTime often to connect with her family and took lots of walks with Eli in his stroller.
“I had all these grand plans for my maternity leave,” she says, “but really I just think snuggling on the couch together for those 12 weeks were probably the best 12 weeks of my life so far, just getting to know him and getting to know each other.”
What will Lauren tell Eli in the future when he asks about his birth?
“I think I will tell him, ‘During that time it was just you and me, and then the crazy world that we were up against,’” she says. “But we really kind of just leaned into each other and figured each other out. We learned a lot and we got through it.”