Pregnancy Through the Pandemic – On pregnancy and childbirth during COVID – YMM Moms share
It’s difficult, if not downright impossible at times to have a conversation without the words COVID-19. A stark reality of our times as we navigate daily life. Now imagine being pregnant and having a newborn through all this. YMM Parent caught up with two local moms who shared their birth stories after COVID-19 changed lives in mid-March 2020 and what happened when they entered quarantine with a newborn.
Alyssa Hueser was eight months pregnant when self-isolation started. Between closed services, delayed doctor visits, and uncertainty all around, her pregnancy instantly became “challenging.”
“There were several times when I was hoping the doctor would just induce me before our local cases grew higher as I was terrified of being in the hospital if we had an outbreak. Many times, it played on my mind: What do I do if that happens? Do I want to have a baby in a hospital when there’s a COVID outbreak? What will happen to my baby? It was even more challenging then because I needed to secure childcare for doctor’s appointments as my girls weren’t in school,” recalls Hueser, who was born and raised in Fort McMurray and has been a resident for 29 years. A stay-at-home mom, she has four children aged seven, five, three, and four months.
The four-month-old is her baby boy, Lukas Christopher Pelley, who arrived on April 18, 2020. Hueser appreciated all the help provided by Dr. Phiri’s office, a local obstetrician/gynecologist.
“They did a great job keeping everyone safe and distanced during appointments. I seriously could not have asked for a better doctor to go through this crazy journey with. Plus, Desiree, our nurse at the Northern Lights Health Centre (NLHC) was great.”
Crazy times continued for Hueser when her newborn was only a week old, and her home flooded during the 100-year flood this spring.
“The pediatrician’s office flooded, as well. Plus, COVID on top of it all, so we didn’t end up seeing a pediatrician until about a month after Lukas was born. Public Health was extremely helpful during this time, the nurses called me every few days to make sure he was doing okay with eating and sleeping,” she added.
Despite all this, Hueser reminds new moms to remain positive.
“It gets easier, it might all seem like chaos right now but it does get better, especially when you get to hold your little bundle of joy in your arms for the first time! There is light at the end of this tunnel.”
For Warda Syed, who moved to Fort McMurray two years ago, quarantine started on February 11, 2020, when she had her first child, Zayd.
A professional resume writer, like most new moms, Syed had a list of plans once the baby was to arrive.
“I would daydream about planning my ‘Meet the Baby’ party, my first trip with the baby, getting a nice post-pregnancy massage, going to the dentist for a tooth extraction as they couldn’t perform it during pregnancy, and planning to go see my family abroad,” shared Syed.
“During the last weeks of pregnancy, I was pretty much stuck inside the house because of the snow. After giving birth through a C-section, the confinement period was prolonged. I was already a bit apprehensive about how everything was going to work out after the baby as none of my family lives in town and then COVID happened, something none of us had ever imagined,” she said.
“It was very scary and confusing considering how uncertain everything was. All the plans went down the drain and pretty much everybody was confined to the house. I had ordered a few baby essentials earlier that took ages to come, courtesy COVID. I had to be extra cautious about how to keep my baby safe doing all this. This meant meeting no one, staying inside all the time, taking extra measures to keep the surroundings and everything sanitized. This brings back horrible memories of trying to find sanitizers and sanitizing wipes, which were so short at that time. For the first five months, the only people my son had met were just us or my family through the screen via Skype and WhatsApp,” recalls Syed.
Syed appreciated her husband, and the staff at the NLHC for their support during all this.
“My friends and family were amazing through this. Friends even more because they live in town. In fact, they brought me home-cooked meals for the first few days after the birth of my son without even asking, and showered me with love and presents.”
She advises new or expecting moms to take care of themselves first as they navigate a pandemic.
“Don’t hesitate to ask for help or to accept it when offered. It is extremely crucial to take care of your health and wellness, especially because to do your job as best as possible as a new mom, you need to be in the best possible physical, emotional, and spiritual condition. A healthy happy mama would be able to better take care of her baby. If you feel something is unsafe for your baby, speak out. If people near you aren’t practicing hygiene as COVID demands, put your foot down,” she emphasized.
Syed and Hueser’s stories are similar to many local women. The Wood Buffalo region saw 488 births from mid-March to mid-August.
Murray Crawford, Senior Operating Officer, Area 10, NLHC, shares highlights of COVID measures at the hospital, which included delayed Ambulatory Care appointments, cancelled/delayed non-emergency surgeries, facility upgrades such as Plexiglas in reception areas, and removing all non-essential seating including in the lobby to encourage social distancing, to name a few.
As for challenges for pregnant ladies, Crawford said, “the biggest (issue) we had was with the follow-up leading up to the birth.”
“With the natural concern of coming to the hospital during the COVID outbreak coupled with the flood, many appointments were cancelled by expectant mothers. The aversion to coming to the hospital was not unique to expectant mothers, Emergency Department visits were down approximately 40% during this time as well. We tried to maintain as many services/programs at the hospital as we could safely provide. The safety of our patients, residents, visitors and staff was paramount in all our plans,” he notes.
The Government of Canada advises pregnant women to take the following precautions to help protect themselves from becoming ill. The following advice is for new mothers and moms-to-be during COVID 19. Visit the Government of Canada’s website at www.canada.ca and search ‘Pregnancy Childbirth COVID’ for more in-depth information.
- Stay home as much as possible, except for important medical appointments, and work from home if possible.
- Talk to your doctor, obstetrician or midwife about the possibility of telephone or video conference appointments.
- Avoid visitors to your home, unless for medical purposes.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or, if not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Practice physical distancing. Keep a distance of at least two metres from others.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
- Avoid touching frequently touched surfaces when in public.
- Avoid crowded places and peak-hours. Make limited trips to the store for essentials.
- Avoid travel by public transit.
Source: Government of Canada