I Gave Birth as the World Shut Down

I tell people I gave birth as the world shut down.

My little one was born on March 19th, 2020, just as the US was beginning to respond to the threat of the coronavirus. My last week of pregnancy was filled with immense uncertainty, as the hospital where I was going to deliver my baby changed its procedures by day, and sometimes multiple times a day.

I remember not knowing if my husband would be able to be with me in the hospital. I struggled knowing my daughter wouldn’t get to see her new sibling in the hospital. The visitor restrictions were changing constantly, and I finally just gave up trying to make a plan.

Pandemics don’t respect plans. I think we’ve all learned that by now.

I knew being in a hospital during a pandemic was risky, and that was scary.

Since I gave birth in the earliest days of the pandemic, nobody really knew anything. Nobody was prepared. We didn’t know how the virus was transmitted. Nobody knew how deadly it might be. We didn’t know how to treat it. So much was unknown.

And we certainly had no idea how long this would go on.

I Gave Birth as the World Shut Down

I had a c-section, and in the OR, I remember seeing my husband fully clothed in PPE from head to toe, standing next to me. I was so grateful the hospital spared the PPE for him to watch our son being born. Nobody had enough PPE at this point, and I knew the hospital could have easily told him he couldn’t be in the OR with me. 

Due to the pandemic, the hospital allowed us to leave as soon as our son passed his required tests.

This means 26 hours after having a c-section, I was being wheeled out of the hospital. We only spent one night there, and hardly saw anyone the whole time-only the care team we had to see. Some people might have been terrified to leave so quickly after a major surgery, but as a second-time parent, I was ready to leave and be home. The hospital was a somber place, and you could feel the tension of the pandemic. 

Looking back, I don’t see the birth of my son in the same joyful light in which I remember the birth of my daughter.

It was stressful and scary, even though our son was born healthy. We are so grateful to have him in our lives, and the hospital staff was immensely helpful and kind. But having a baby during a pandemic is scary, and I was just glad to be home.

A few weeks later, at the end of March, COVID-19 restrictions were extended through the end of April, and I nearly despaired. I was stuck at home with a brand new, colicky baby and had hardly seen anyone for weeks, and now the restrictions were extended for another 30 days. I wanted to cry. There was no way I could imagine staying home that long.

Oh, how I laugh at that now! 

Birthing a child and surviving the early months of his life in a pandemic was immensely challenging. I felt so isolated from friends and family, during a time when I desperately needed connection and help. We didn’t get to celebrate and share his birth like we did with our daughter. But we survived. Looking back now, I can appreciate that we didn’t have to be anywhere or do anything, but at the time, I just felt stuck at home with a screaming infant. 

My son is a physical reminder of the pandemic. 

Since the pandemic began, I gave birth to and raised him from infancy to toddlerhood. I can look at him and see exactly how much time has passed since the pandemic started. So much has happened, and yet, he’s barely been in public. He hasn’t met a ton of people. Many of our family and friends still haven’t met him, let alone hold him.

It makes me sad that the first year of his life has been shaped by the pandemic, and yet, I’m grateful he’s not old enough to remember it.

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Jen is a mom to two kids, Penelope (19 months) and Jethro (2 months). A graduate of Central College, Jen moved to South Africa with the Peace Corps after college, where she developed school and community gardens. Upon returning to the states, Jen moved back to her hometown of Ottumwa, Iowa, where she met her husband Darin. In 2019, their young family moved to Cedar Rapids, where she began work with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach as a Healthy Food Access Specialist. Despite working full time and wrangling two young kiddos, Jen still finds times for her favorite hobbies-cooking, gardening, reading, and napping.