When Malicia Basdeo-Hernandez dreamed of bringing her first baby into this world, she could have never imagined it would be this world— this current COVID-19 reality. Having to get her temperature taken before entering her OBGYN’s office, worries about exposure, mask-covered faces, and fears of a first-time mom amplified in unprecedented ways— all of it, such a defining set of circumstances for what is already such a life-changing moment in time. “It was surreal,” Malicia says. “Such a weird experience because you’re super vulnerable, and yet you can’t even see anyone’s face. It’s a little cold, but not on purpose.”
featured image via Lizzie Burger Photo
Let’s rewind a bit. The first-time Maywood mom, now 37, says while her pregnancy was overall smooth, she was under the care of a maternal-fetal medicine specialist from the start, which means additional appointments and precautions.”I was automatically considered advanced maternal age, and doctors are super precautious with that. My first and second trimesters were great, but in my third trimester, it was getting stressful seeing the doctor week after week. And then all of this started,” she says.
Malicia’s due date was March 28th and she initially planned to continue commuting as normal into the city for work until just before then. But the first week of March when COVID-19 cases were starting to spread, her plans changed. “I normally take the ferry, but that week I drove to work instead. And then the following week, I decided to work from home. It just felt safer.” That same week, her doctors’ visits began to take on a whole new tone and feel.
“Two women were sitting out in front of the office, asking questions about travel and any symptoms to even get into the office. First, it was a piece of paper to fill out, then the next week it was just verbal. Everyone began wearing masks and gloves,” she explains. “I felt like they were scared I was bringing the virus into the office and I, in turn, became scared I was going to catch it from them.”
While Malicia’s appointments continued inching so close to her due date, she knew the office was altering many other expectant moms’ typical appointment schedules.”I began hearing them tell other women they didn’t have to come in, or they were moving their appointments around. I was there when COVID-19 was starting to peak,” she says. With cases climbing and restrictions becoming tighter, Malicia decided to be induced on her due date.
“I went in right on the 28th to start the induction. We heard what was going on in New York where they weren’t allowing partners into the hospital for the birth (it wasn’t the case yet in NJ), and we wanted to have my husband there. So, we just decided to get things started as soon as we could,” she says. When the couple arrived at the hospital, they immediately had their temperatures taken and were asked a series of questions before being allowed inside to the front desk. Another change— Malicia’s husband wasn’t allowed to leave at all once they were admitted.
“My induction started Friday night., and by Saturday, I started on Pitocin,” she says. “My doctor’s practice is a part of three other practices in three locations, and because of the virus, the hospital was rotating ALL the doctors in the practice to limit exposure. So, I was seeing doctors I had never seen and didn’t know. They were great, but I just wanted to see a familiar face. But there were no familiar faces, everyone was wearing masks.”
Malicia says through Saturday and into the evening, she wasn’t dilating as quickly as doctors hoped. “Because I didn’t know any of the doctors, it was a bit of a push and pull with my birth plan. They were telling me it was looking like a possible c-section. They were taking precautions for what they thought was safest. Everything is normally on alert for delivery but with COVID it was just extra on alert.”
By Saturday night, Malicia’s OB came to the hospital. “At that point, they just kind of let me be to labor through the night. Sunday morning around 5 AM I was ready to push. Our baby girl, Rhône, arrived at 6:21,” Malicia says.
After Rhône was born, they moved to the mother-baby unit and Malicia says things were pretty status quo. With mom and baby healthy and recovering well, the new family of three left the hospital as soon as they could, given the situation. “We left Monday morning. Maybe they would have had us stay longer if everything wasn’t going on, but we were happy to leave and come home,” Malicia says.
As for the postpartum, early newborn days at home, things have also been different due to the quarantine. Fortunately, Malicia’s mom came to stay with her earlier in March, so she was quarantined with them at the house. “She was able to stay with us for a month. But my husband’s parents still haven’t met her and probably won’t for a while. They’ve both had colds. There hasn’t been anyone at the house other than my mom. My sister was supposed to drive up from North Carolina but that’s not happening,” Malicia says.
While they’ve left the house a few times for doctors’ visits and walks, that’s essentially it. While it’s hard to have family wait to meet her, Malicia says safety is more important. “We’re being cautious and waiting. One short moment of hugs and kisses isn’t worth potentially weeks of suffering. Hopefully, they all get to see her soon,” she says.
As for baby Rhône, mom says she’s doing great. Malicia is on maternity leave, so she would be staying home anyway right now. “We’re all good. Everyone’s happy, we’re making the most of it, and staying put,” she adds. And whether you’re a new mom like Malicia or a veteran, that’s certainly been a common theme of motherhood as we all get through this quarantine period together.