I never expected to be pregnant again so soon. After years of trying and doing fertility treatments to get pregnant with my son, Hudson, I simply assumed that we would be headed down the same path with our second child. So it came as a total shock when a few weeks after I became COO and Co-Founder of NeighborSchools, I found out I was pregnant.
My second pregnancy was radically different from my first. Despite being more exhausted from growing a company and chasing a rambunctious toddler everywhere, I was more relaxed, felt more confident in my decisions, and knew a bit more of what to expect with birth and postpartum. All of that changed as I crossed the 37-week threshold. It became clear that COVID-19 posed a serious risk to all of us.
In a matter of weeks, my doctor’s appointments went from happy occasions to hear my little one’s heartbeat to nervously standing alone in a waiting room fearful to touch anything, acutely aware that everyone else had masks and I didn’t. My final ultrasound, which provided the first real chance to see this tiny human’s face as it was always hidden in prior scans, was done without my husband. My non-stress test to monitor the baby’s heartbeat once my due date had come and gone was done all alone.
I called the hospital almost daily to monitor the changing protocols and procedures. Would I be forced to give birth on my own? How long would we stay in the hospital? If we had a boy, would they still perform a circumcision? Could my son or any family members come to visit? What precautions should we take and am I or the baby high risk? At night, I would lay awake wondering what would happen and my mind raced with worst-case scenarios.
Each day brought new information, and I slowly began to accept my new, uncertain reality. Everything I had envisioned for the arrival of this precious little life… the first time my son would meet his little sibling, the first cuddles given by grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, how long we’d stay in the hospital, postpartum visits, lactation advice… all of it was changing and there was nothing I could do about it.
I was grateful for my work as it offered a distraction, and I told myself to be thankful as others are far more seriously impacted by this deadly virus, but I silently mourned the loss of everything I had imagined about this joyous moment for my growing little family and braced myself for the unknown.
And yet, when my labor began, my world narrowed and suddenly COVID-19 was the last thought on my mind. All I could think about was the tiny human who was preparing to make their grand entrance. With my toddler safely tucked into his bed, I watched Once Upon A Time in Hollywood to distract myself through the early contractions. I laughed as my husband entered full-on freak out mode and tried my best to get some rest. When my contractions started to get more frequent and intense, I wondered if it was time to go to the hospital or if it was still too early when suddenly my water broke, and we knew we should hurry.
The hospital asked us some COVID screening questions over the phone so we would be cleared when we arrived and told us to go through the ER entrance. We were given masks to put on and were escorted through the eerily quiet ER to the Labor & Delivery floor. Aside from everyone wearing masks and giving verbal consent on all forms since sharing pens was off-limits, you would never have known that there was a pandemic because every doctor and nurse was focused on one thing… helping me bring this new life into the world.
Like all laboring mamas, a nurse checked my progress and laughed as she predicted our baby would be born within the hour. Once we were in the delivery room, all of the nurses cheered me on, massaged my back and brought my husband juice and cookies when they thought he might faint. My OB remained completely calm and helped me through an intense period of final pushes when my baby’s heartbeat dropped and they discovered the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck 3 times. Even as my little one lay on my chest slightly blue and not breathing, the medical team offered words of encouragement as they massaged limbs and added blankets to warm up this tiny human until the most beautiful cries pierced the air. Everyone cheered as they announced that we had a not so little boy at 9 pounds 4 ounces and 22 inches. We were on cloud nine!
Running on pure adrenaline, we FaceTimed with family and friends, asked nurses to take photos of the 3 of us, agonized over our final name choices (finally landing on Brooks Henry) and soaked in those first few newborn snuggles. Every hospital team member, from those delivering our meals to the pediatricians making rounds, greeted us with such warmth and shared congratulatory wishes. For those brief 30 hours in the hospital, we were in a blissful cocoon. How strange to think that the situation that had filled my weeks with dread and anxiety now brought the first real moments of human connection, love, and pure joy since this outbreak began.
So while it may not have been exactly as I had pictured it (what in motherhood is?), I will always remember Brooks’ birth as a beautiful beacon of hope during these dark and challenging times.