Labor and delivery nurse shares a message to expectant mothers during pandemic

"As hard as it is to have a baby, adding a worldwide pandemic to the mix makes it almost too much to think about."

I fell in love with labor and delivery when I was a nursing student. After seeing my first birth, I was hooked. There’s nothing like watching a new mom hear her baby cry for the first time. But I have to admit, when I decided to become a labor and delivery nurse, I wasn’t expecting to do it under these conditions.

Even in the best of times, having a baby isn’t easy. On television they make it seem like it’s one push and boom, the baby comes out. But it’s not like that in reality. And that’s part of what I love about it. I get to help empower women to feel like they can do it, even when things get really hard. So many of them thank me for everything I did and all I can think is, You’re the one who did all the work! I’m so lucky I get to make such an emotional connection with so many people.

Here I am in my personal protective equipment required in labor and delivery wards now.courtesy of Samantha Benson

And as hard as it is to have a baby, adding a worldwide pandemic to the mix makes it almost too much to think about.

But here’s something that may sound hard to believe. The labor and delivery experience now, even under these trying circumstances, is very much the same as it ever was. And we have plenty of new procedures in place to keep all the women, their partners and their babies safe.

I know it may seem scary to come into the hospital at a time like this, but truly, the risk of transmission here is very low.

Where I work, we’re still allowing women to bring a support person with her to get through the birthing process, although of course, nothing is guaranteed and each hospital has to adjust policies depending on the situation to keep everyone safe. Before a woman enters the maternity unit we take her temperature and that of the support person, and we ask some questions which can determine whether they may have COVID-19.

When we have had expectant moms test positive for the virus, it really hasn’t changed our procedures drastically. All the nurses, doctors and the rest of the staff wear gowns and gloves for every birth. The only difference really is that we wear N-95 masks with a surgical mask over it, instead of a surgical mask alone.

For the mom, going through labor with a mask on may sound intimidating, but it’s really not. Very often when women are in labor, we use an oxygen mask, so at some point during the process they’ll probably end up with that mask on anyway.

As nurses we have really been trying to step it up. We know how disappointing and scary all of this can be — delivering during a pandemic was probably not part of your original birthing plan. So we do our best to offer extra support and care. We take lots of pictures for moms to share with their family and friends and do our best to cheer them on. We even do foot printing digitally so they can make keepsakes for family when they get home.

I live alone, and I’ve been avoiding other people, just like everyone else these days. I admit, I’ve felt fairly isolated at times. And here in the labor and delivery department, we’re a really tight-knit group. But because of the virus, we stagger our breaks, so we never have a chance to sit down and chat anymore. So I go home and I can’t be with family, I come to work and I can’t be with my work family —it’s been a bit difficult, to be honest. So bonding with my patients has become a source of comfort to me, as well.

It may sound crazy but I actually feel better when I go into work. I guess because in our unit, we’re bringing new life into the world. So I wake up each morning, and I think to myself: I don’t know what else is going to happen in the world, but one thing I do know is that there’s a baby who’s going to be born.

And that’s always a good thing, pandemic or not.

This essay originally ran on The Well by Northwell.