Author’s note: This is not MY personal story, per se, (despite the “my pandemic pregnancy” headline), but a story told by our readers, week by week. Today’s is shared by Hilary.
You might have heard that being pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or delivering right about now is strange, in this ongoing age of COVID-19. But how? In what ways? We’re going to tell you. To contribute your own experience, scroll all the way down to the bottom of this article and tap the link.
Hilary Blevins wasn’t sure if she’d ever be a mom.
In what now seems like another lifetime, she was married and divorced, and the two of them never had children -- and Blevins re-entered the dating scene well into her 30s.
When the Hazel Park, Michigan woman met her now-husband, she remembers asking on their first date, “Would you do it again?,” meaning, would he ever have more kids? He’s the father to two older children.
“And he said sure,” Blevins recalls. “By the time he and I got married, I was 39. (Having a child) wasn’t something I thought was possible.”
But they got pregnant.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last. Blevins suffered a miscarriage.
But then, a glimmer of unexpected hope: The couple had been preparing mentally for what would have been baby’s due date -- hoping to mark the day in some meaningful way. And then, they learned they were pregnant once again.
“It was terrifying,” Blevins said. “We found out about him the day we would have had the baby we miscarried. It was overwhelming and emotional. We were prepared to memorialize the day, and then it was an emotional roller coaster. And then it’s like, you want it so much more, because you know what it feels like to lose.”
So, there they were all over again: Pregnant, and over the moon with joy.
“To have it and lose it was hard,” Blevins said. “When we got pregnant again, it was like, the happiest I’ve ever been. It was a natural pregnancy, a miracle -- and then, not quite what I expected. ... This (pandemic) changed everything.”
‘Zero social interaction’
It was January 2020 when Blevins started a new job, in the admissions department at the University of Detroit Mercy.
At orientation, she told her boss that she was 15 weeks pregnant.
Blevins was a little nervous about how the news would land, but she said everyone was really happy for her.
A short time later, COVID-19 showed up in the United States.
“When COVID hit, I was really neurotic,” Blevins said. “In admissions, it’s a lot of people to be around. I was really wanting to hide in a cave when we found out (about the pregnancy), in October 2019. I didn’t want to breathe wrong. And then it was hard when the COVID numbers started coming in -- with how bad the virus was becoming. I was allowed to work from home three days before the whole university went remote.”
Considering the job was still fairly new for Blevins, turning to remote work made things fairly anti-social.
“There was zero social interaction. Being pregnant, that’s supposed to be part of the fun. Talking to other parents, or hearing people say, ‘You look ridiculous today,’” she said with a laugh. “I didn’t know everyone that well yet, and I didn’t have as much of that kind of social interaction or support.”
It was tough, at times. She had a virtual baby shower, which felt weird.
Blevins grappled aloud with how important those elements really were. After all, she kept stressing, she and her husband felt extremely lucky to be pregnant at all.
“It just wasn’t what I thought it would be. And it might seem petty in the grand scheme of things, but they were big things to me,” she said.
It was May 19 when Blevins and her husband got to meet their beautiful baby: A son who they named Rowan. It was love at first sight.
But the journey to get Rowan here, involved quite a few twists and turns.
Around mid-May of 2020 was right about the time when many hospitals and medical facilities were saying husbands and partners might not be allowed inside delivery rooms. Blevins wasn’t sure how that would play out, but her husband was permitted by her side at Beaumont Health. She was grateful to have him.
He wasn’t, however, with her when she found out she’d have to be admitted in the first place.
One day, she went in for a regularly scheduled non-stress test, where doctors checked the baby’s heartbeat along with Blevins’ blood pressure, and they noticed her number was high.
“I have white-coat syndrome,” Blevins said. “It’s always high when I go.”
But on that particular day, it was high enough for the doctors to take notice.
They got her blood pressure reading several times, and on what Blevins thinks was the third try, the top number was around 177.
Just for some medical context: The top number refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries during the contraction of your heart muscle. This is called systolic pressure. Readings above 140/90 mm Hg in pregnancy often indicate high blood pressure, or hypertension, according to the American Heart Association. | Read more: Blood pressure readings, explained
“A doctor finally said, ‘I think we’re going to need to send you to the hospital,’ Blevins recalled.
She didn’t expect that.
The doctor said something along the lines of, “You’re not necessarily having a baby today, but go to labor and delivery triage, and they’ll monitor you, give you IV fluids, try to get your blood pressure down, and if they release you, we’ll schedule more frequent checkups,” as Blevins remembers taking in the news.
She asked if she could go home and get her husband, along with some personal belongings, and the doctor said no. She was told she needed to head straight to the hospital.
“I felt like I was going to have a stroke and heart attack in the parking lot,” Blevins said with a laugh.
So, what else could she do? She headed over.
Her husband finished packing up some things, and the waiting game began.
When Blevins arrived at Beaumont, doctors and nurses hooked her up to IVs, immediately put her on a magnesium drip and administered a COVID test.
At one point, her blood pressure went up to about 195/120, which is quite high, and doctors told Blevins that wasn’t good. She recalls saying something like, “If you get to the point where you see I’m definitely going to have to stay, let me know.”
“And the doctors said, ‘Oh, we’re way past that point. We’re just waiting on your room,’” Blevins said.
That was news to her.
She didn’t exactly feel ready. The couple’s final birthing class was set for that very evening, to take place over Zoom.
“So, I had no idea what I was doing,” Blevins said. “And because of the magnesium, I couldn’t get out of bed. I can’t walk around, I have a catheter, I’m all hooked up to IVs. At one point, I had five of them in my left hand, four in my right arm.”
Then, doctors induced labor.
Blevins was given Pitocin, and lots of it, until she reached the maximum amount.
When she was checked to see how labor was progressing, she got some frustrating news: She was dilated to about 1 ½ centimeters at a negative-4 station -- meaning the baby still had a long way to go.
“The baby was just kind of up in my ribcage,” Blevins said.
She had been working on her breathing, and even receiving compliments from the nurses on how well she was handling everything. But the baby didn’t seem like he’d be making an appearance any time soon.
Finally, after about 28 straight hours of Pitocin, Blevins said, she was in agony. A doctor finally told her it could be weeks and the baby might not progress -- they’d need to do a C-section.
“At that point, it was just relief,” Blevins said. “I couldn’t walk to have gravity helping me out. The heart rate dropped when I even moved to the one side. I was all about controlling my breathing, doing yoga, all of that.”
But those measures weren’t making a difference. A C-section would get the baby out safely, and that’s what mattered.
In the midst of the chaos, Blevins remembers a special moment -- something she’ll always cherish.
“As soon as the C-section was decided, it was like the Avengers ascended in the hall,” she said. “One thing I wanted to do, before he was born, was have a braid in my hair. We’re Scottish, we’re Viking, I had braids for my wedding; I had done them for special things in the past. I really wanted a braid in my hair. In the middle of all the crazy, one of the nurses came in and said, ‘I’ll braid your hair!’ It was the sweetest moment that someone would pay attention to that.”
Braided and ready to go, she was wheeled into an operating room, and about 20 minutes later, she and her husband had their precious baby boy.
Rowan weighed 6 pounds, 9 ounces.
So, even though he delivered early, he was a great size -- meaning relief all around.
‘Staring at the clock’
After the birth, Blevins and her husband got to hear Rowan cry, but nurses still had to take him to the NICU to be checked out. He ended up staying there for 12 days.
Rowan was born early, but he never needed oxygen and didn’t even struggle with jaundice, which is a fairly common newborn problem. He had some blood sugar issues, which doctors had to wait on to resolve, but “he ended up doing great,” Blevins said.
She, on the other hand, was not so great post-delivery.
Physically, Blevins was healing just fine. But because of the magnesium in her system, she had to wait 26 hours after Rowan’s birth to see him.
“I was not even allowed in a wheelchair,” she said.
Her husband was permitted in the NICU, so he FaceTimed her, showing off their little boy.
“And I don’t think I even slept,” Blevins recalled. “I just remember staring at the clock, frustrated, knowing I couldn’t see him -- knowing where he is, but not able to visit.”
She did have one saving grace: The nurse who braided her hair. She helped take photos after the birth, she stayed with Blevins in the operating room, gave her reassurance about the surgery, and remained by her side while she was in recovery.
“She said she liked hanging out,” Blevins said. “It helped take that fear away.”
It was a stressful time, in moments, but the couple was happy to go home with their healthy baby boy.
Fast-forward almost a year
Although a COVID vaccine is now out and readily available for most, the world hasn’t returned to normal just yet.
Blevins is trying to take notes as much as possible. In fact, she knows four or five friends who had children right around the same time as she delivered Rowan.
When it’s 2033, she joked, “We’ll have a ‘quaran-teens’ birthday party, and we’ll tell them all the stories of the crazy things that happened around the time they were born.”
At the time of our phone interview, Blevins and her husband were planning Rowan’s first birthday party. She said there was a lot to consider.
They’re hoping attendees will be vaccinated, the party can be fully outdoors and with only a certain number of people.
“We’ve never had to do anything like this before,” she said. “Most people have still never even met him.”
As for Rowan, of course, he doesn’t know what he’s missing. He’s only ever known a world with COVID ever-present.
“My son only thinks there are 10 people in the whole world,” Blevins said. “It’s like, the hospital and Greenfield Village. Those are the places he’s gone. My brother hasn’t even met him yet. … (Rowan is) so little, he doesn’t know any different. He’s not even weirded out by masks, probably because he’s so used to seeing them.”
Blevins, for her part, said she and her husband are open to the idea of having more children.
Blevins was 42 when Rowan was born, and she’s now 43.
“You wait that long -- it was not exactly what I expected to have happen,” Blevins said. “(But we’re open to more). If it’s something that happens, we’re leaving it out there. It won’t ever replace what was lost with this experience, but it’ll be different.
“I do mourn (some of it), but I feel guilty feeling that way, because Rowan is the perfect little guy. He doesn’t cry unless there’s a reason he’s trying to explain. He giggles constantly. He wants to hug his toys constantly, so it’s hard to say anything, because he’s so amazing. But I missed a lot.”
She said they remain incredibly grateful for Rowan.
“It’s the details that got a little weird. But Rowan is beautiful and perfect.”
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