The Deep Loneliness of Having a Baby in a Pandemic

Having a baby, caring for a newborn, and recovering from childbirth are exhausting, stressful and often overwhelming experiences under normal circumstances. But for those who have babies in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, safety precautions, health fears and social distancing create the perfect storm of isolation and anxiety that makes the postpartum period all the more more difficult.

In addition to several health professionals, I spoke with four newly postpartum women when reporting this piece. They were kind enough to share their views on how bringing a newborn home during a pandemic was a unique challenge for them and their families, from hospital visit policies to induced isolation by social distancing. Each described feelings of fear, anxiety and loneliness – in some cases, while holding back tears. Here are their stories.

The new standard in hospitals

At around 8:00 p.m. on March 11, after giving birth earlier in the morning, Cheryl Despathy from Atlanta was transferred to a recovery room. She had a restless night’s sleep between her newborn baby needing food and the nurses and staff hospital visits. At 2 o’clock in the afternoon. the next day, a nurse entered. “I remember thinking,” It’s strange, they were just there at noon, “” she says. The nurse had news for her: because of the coronavirus, the hospital was about to close. This meant that no one but her husband was allowed to visit her or her new daughter – a blow to Despathy, whose mother had just landed in Atlanta from Minnesota to meet her grandchild .

Barely three hours later, the nurse returned and offered to release Despathy and her newborn early, not even 36 hours after the baby was born. She has accepted. “You could just say that the staff seemed to be feeling stressed, which made us feel more like we had to go home,” she says. “When we left, they had a security person and a nurse at the door, blocking it and driving back visitors unless you got a bracelet [indicating you were a parent of a newborn]. We became really thankful to leave when we did, ”she says.

In the weeks following Despathy’s birth, hospitals across the country adopted equally careful policies to protect workers, health care providers, visitors and newborns. the CDC offers recommendations in hospital obstetric care settings, which include the isolation of all pregnant women who have confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, limitation of visitors, limitation of hospital entry and exit points, and the isolation of newborn babies born to mothers with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID -19.

As an example of how these new recommendations materialize in practice, Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University, describes the policies that Yale has implemented: “ We have strict isolation rooms for women who have been exposed or are ill. We had to reduce our support person policy to one person, and you cannot rotate (that is, have your partner for a while, then your mom – it must be ‘a person designated to minimize traffic in the workplace), ”she said. said. Beyond that, most of the women I spoke with mentioned that their partners had been screened before entry, which meant that hospital staff asked them about their symptoms and travel history. , and took their temperature before authorizing them.

Although the exact implementation of these new guidelines may differ from hospital to hospital, the overall effect is that the atmosphere in the labor and delivery floors has changed.

Jenny Lentz, of Mount Kisco, New York, gave birth to her second child on March 16. “It seemed strangely calm,” she said. No more breastfeeding and outing classes at ground level which she remembered having followed her eldest son. “I didn’t see any other patients when I was there. We could hear the babies, but that was it, ”says Lentz. His whole experience was marked by his solitude. “My husband had to go home to take care of our son, so it was just me and the baby. Don’t have someone there – even just to hang out with me! – was very, very strange, ”she said. The isolation triggered an intense protective instinct on her newborn baby. “I didn’t want him to go somewhere. The doctors and nurses came in and said,” Can we take him to the nursery for that? ” And I would say: I prefer the doctor to come here. I prefer you to shed blood here. “


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