Giving Birth without My Husband: A COVID Story

Giving Birth without My Husband: A COVID Story | Twin Cities Mom Collective

COVID-19 prevented my husband from being at the birth of our baby. Just three days before our youngest daughter was born he was diagnosed with an asymptomatic case of the virus that was silently and rapidly moving through the world. During a time when so many people were experiencing tremendous loss and suffering, this virus crept in and took something incredibly special from us when we were least expecting it. 

I found out I was pregnant the day before 2020 began. At that time my biggest concern was figuring out how to pass up a glass of celebratory bubbly on New Years Eve without blowing my cover. 

My babies are all rainbow babies, so once I made it through New Years unnoticed I was on to the usual song and dance that happens during my pregnancies: carefully balancing fear and hope the best I could. Typically pregnancy is terrifying to me despite wanting to enjoy it. I was really hoping this time it’d be different. 

Milestones were met, our healthy baby was growing, things seemed to be going really well. My husband was by my side at our first appointment. I learned in previous pregnancies that going alone was too hard when it had only been met with heartache. This time, I could finally breathe a bit better and ease my pregnancy fears. Expecting this to be my last, I was eager to finally enjoy this pregnancy.

Then the world changed.

On the day I entered my second trimester our state was ordered to shelter in place because of COVID-19. The day I was going to share the news with my colleagues, I instead closed my classroom doors and was ordered to start working from home. At a time I’d been preparing for my pregnancy to become more public, I no longer stepped foot out of our yard. My pregnancy became very private as much of our lives did at that time. Most people didn’t even know I was pregnant. 

All my healthy glowing skin, shiny pregnancy hair, and that big round basketball belly never really had a chance to be shown off this time. 

We didn’t know yet what this meant for women’s pregnancies, for our deliveries, or our babies. All I knew is suddenly women were not envied for being pregnant, many putting off their plans to grow their families as a result of these unknowns. I was grateful to not be a first time mom during all of this. Though that didn’t take all the struggle away, I was still doing alright. 

In an effort for safety, clinics closed their doors to our partners. My midwives joked that they hadn’t seen a man walk through their doors in months. Sometimes going to appointments alone was hard, but I must admit eventually they felt like a mini-vacation from feeling stuck at home for so long. 

Around that time, I began hearing of women in some parts of the world giving birth without their partners because of the pandemic. This, coupled with laboring with a mask and being separated from their newborns, seemed like the most terrifying scenarios to me. I remember reading their stories in the news. I cried for them. Certainly things would be better by the time I delivered. 

As we neared my due date we had all the typical COVID preparations for birth in place. We would self-quarantine two weeks prior and be tested right before. We decided my husband would also be tested. Because of the nature of his job we didn’t want to risk bringing any unnecessary germs into our home with a newborn. 

One thing I’ve learned in this pandemic that we are never really ready. Not for anything. Not even the normal parts of life can truly be prepped for, despite all our best precautions and efforts. My low maintenance plans for my delivery were about to be proven pointless. 

Late in my pregnancy I went to the hospital one night to have our baby monitored. Coincidentally, it was the same night my husband was out of town for work for the first time in over six months. What are the chances? During that hospital stay it was discovered that, while thankfully our baby was healthy, I was not. My midwife sat me down and explained our baby would be delivered next week. 

I felt like I was on top of a waterslide and someone snuck up behind me and unexpectedly pushed me down. I was confused and unprepared. Having had my previous two babies arrive on their due dates (all on their own!), we were not ready for our baby to come quite yet. Thankfully she’d be full term and with almost no risk to her being on the outside, we all began our preparations and started to get excited. 

I say almost no risk because we were still in the middle of a pandemic. We hadn’t begun our pre-baby quarantine and it was still unknown what life would be like for our newborn during this time. In fact, the best part of my pregnancy during the pandemic was that I felt like my baby was actually safer inside of me than outside. Safe from the stress of all that was happening. Safe from the sadness. Safe from illness. Safe from feeling scared and worried. 

I sometimes envied her.

We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, so we moved through the week trying our best to feel as ready and excited as possible. I was nervous and eager to meet her.

Then life changed. Again.

Three days before I was to be induced I got a phone call. I was about to meet my husband and our other kids at our son’s swimming lesson but wanted to get a few things done at home first. The person on the other end of the phone said they were calling with my husband’s COVID results. I took the message and quickly called my husband so he could call them back. 

An unsettling feeling in my gut began to kick in. Why are they calling? While I am a worrier by nature, I do have a keen sixth sense that can differentiate between normal worry and knowing when something bad is actually happening. I felt myself getting pulled into that place between the unknown and known. It was like I was being seated in a waiting room before being pushed through the door the rest of the way. And what was on the other side of that door was going to be the exact thing I didn’t want. 

I sat in that place for the next 30 minutes as my husband tried to get through to his results. 

The pain in my stomach grew. The kind that gives you tunnel vision. I was hyper focused, glancing over at my phone as I continued to drive to swimming lessons. All that changed around me was the scenery – inside I felt a tingly and painful kind of frozen. The feeling grew until his message came through a few moments later. 

Positive.

I pulled over and slumped my head into my arms as I sat in the driver’s seat of our new minivan outside of Costco. I wept. The feeling in my gut dissipated into a cloud of sadness. I wept months worth of pandemic tears and fears for my pregnancy, knowing this word, positive, meant one thing. While the privilege of escaping true illness will never be lost on me, my husband had COVID and as a result, he would not be allowed at the birth of our daughter.

I would need to give birth alone. I would be like all those women I cried for. 

My seemingly healthy, currently asymptomatic, always sleeping by my side, eating at our table, breathing the same air and currently driving in a vehicle with our other two kids without a mask husband somehow had the disease that was tearing our world apart. And our entire household had been exposed. Three days before I was to give birth. 

The next three days were just sadness for me. I cried a lot. Sometimes, hyperventilating-weeping out of nowhere. The weight of what I was about to do felt so heavy during a pandemic. 

This was not how it was meant to be. We were supposed to have our baby together. We were supposed to finally have some time away together after months at home with our children (quarantine does weird stuff to our thinking when you realize a date away with your husband is going to the hospital together). I was looking forward to having him by my side and to see him fall in love with our newborn. I had envisioned this day from the beginning of my pregnancy. I needed this day. I needed him there. 

My rather low maintenance birth plan was missing a very important component: my partner. 

The next couple days I tried everything to figure out how to get my husband in that delivery room. I exhausted all options. Even if we could find a way to get him there, no one could watch our COVID-exposed children while we’d be gone. No matter what, we needed him home to be with our two sons and to not expose anyone else. 

On a Tuesday morning I woke up early and my family dropped me off at the front doors of the hospital. I walked in with my little roller bag being pulled behind. I am someone who hates the anticipation of what is to come, but will muster up strength once I’m there. That is what happened that morning I went in to the hospital. 

Rather than having this time with my husband, I would spend this time with our daughter. So many women throughout history and throughout this pandemic have given birth without their partners. I felt a little push forward coming from all of them. 

As I was checking in at the front desk I was asked if my partner would be coming. With a tightness in my chest and watery eyes I said, No, it’s just me. 

Later I would learn that while the pandemic prevented my husband from physically being my by side, there was always someone there to hold my hand or rub my back and my feet when I needed it. I was never really alone. 

I was tested and retested when I arrived. Previously, I had been terribly sick with something for over a month and exposed to COVID in our home. Yet. Negative and negative. This meant one very special thing for our story – my mom was able to come and be with me. Since my family had been exposed, most everyone was still awaiting their test results. My mom, thankfully, already had hers. Therefore, I was able to leave the negative pressure labor and delivery room that they had been holding me in and could labor in a regular, non-COVID room. 

What could have been a very complicated delivery, turned out to be speedy and, dare I say, easy. 

Early that next morning, in a room full of wonderful, supportive women, with my mom by my side and my husband’s face glowing on a laptop screen next to me, our beautiful daughter was born. A playlist my husband made of female-only musicians playing in the background. 

I did the hardest thing I thought I couldn’t do. 

While the grief of not having my husband physically by my side hit me hard the first few weeks, and even now as I see pictures of other parents together at their babies’ births, our daughter’s birth is not a sad memory for me. Her birth is one of unexpected surprises and joy, deeply woven into a time in history that none of us will forget.

She is a beautiful, and perfect gift to our family and by far, the best thing that happened that year. 

The year 2020 brought unexpected losses all around the globe. While there has been a shared sense of grief, each loss was as unique as those experiencing it. Some small, some grand, yet all significantly painful and challenging. The pandemic has reached us all, no matter how safely nestled at home we’ve been. This is what happened to us. And while I am only one of many women who had this experience, it was profound and will forever be a part of me. 

Maureen Zhao
Maureen is an educator and a mom to a sweet and wild seven year old named Leo and newborn named Remy. She and her family can be found digging in the dirt, seeking adventures outside, traveling, hunting down thrifty deals, visiting local museums and parks, discovering new global flavors at local restaurants, and looking for resourceful ways to be involved in their community together. Maureen is eager to connect with those around her regardless of where they come from and is passionate about raising a son who cares for the world around him. Both her and her family have a strong desire to be where the action is, yet yearn for the solace that is found when they're surrounded by nature. When not in the city where home and work is, they can often be found venturing north and setting up camp where the only thing they need to worry about is where to bike that day and where to find the best view of the sunset. You can follow Maureen and her family's daily adventures on Instagram {@maureenshealer}.

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