You may know her as Chloe Mitchell from the long-running TV show, The Young and The Restless, but we know her as one of the many strong women giving birth during this very uncertain time with COVID-19.
Elizabeth Hendrickson was 39 weeks pregnant when her doula first informed her that only her husband, Rob, was allowed to be in the delivery room with her. Like so many of you expecting mamas, Elizabeth’s birth plan was immediately altered. Due with her first born, Elizabeth decided to take matters into her own hands as much as possible and to induce her labor before the regulations in the hospital changed again.
We first spoke with Elizabeth as she was in her hospital bed, waiting for her delivery to begin, about what her birth story was like in the midst of COVID-19.
The Journey Begins:
What was your birth plan before COVID-19?
Before COVID-19, my birth plan was to go with the flow. I heard many times “the best plan is no plan” because you never know what can happen during birth. By no means could I have ever imagined or had been prepared for this, suddenly the “no plan” became “it is what it is” and i had no choice but to accept it and deal with it the best way possible.
Since this is your first child, what were you doing to prepare yourself mentally for becoming a mother just in general, and has this changed at all in light of COVID-19?
I’ve been preparing to be a mother for some time now, by observing my friends from the sidelines. I’ve watched so many of my girlfriends raise their children, and I knew it was finally my time when I met my husband.
The one thing I felt most confident about was having an incredible tribe of women to support me postpartum. Friends were so generous from the very start, from hand-me-downs to guidance and words of mama wisdom. Aside from hoping to use a doula for postpartum a few days a week, friends were also offering to help at home. They were going to make us meals, tidy up the house or just wanted to keep me company so i didn’t feel isolated at home. The list went on, and it was all so generous. I have the most incredible circle of friends.
Losing this support network was by far the hardest pill I had to swallow when COVID-19 measures were announced for births. That it was best for just us to be at the house. I had a decent meltdown when I realized it would just be us with no postpartum help. I suddenly felt alone, scared, and not well equipped.
The one thing that helped me push through that much needed breakdown were my husband’s words of reassurance. He said “with struggle comes magic.” He reminded me that we were about to embark on the most magical experience, no matter how it unfolds. It was the most beautiful, most perfect thing anyone had said to me. It’s become my mantra.
What have been your go-to resources in the past few weeks to stay up to date?
Honestly, staying away from too much news and chatter has been the best thing, as it was giving me anxiety. Unfortunately there hasn’t been much information as far as pregnancy or newborns and COVID-19. I found myself to be more frustrated with the lack of data. You just feel like there is no one to turn to. I think the unknown has been the hardest and scariest part of it all. Hopefully as the next few weeks unfold, there will be more answers for families who are expecting or have newborns.
If you had a pregnant friend also about to give birth soon, what would you tell her to expect or to prepare for?
Everything seems to be changing by the day or even by the hour, but what is in your control is to make sure that you and your OB/Midwife are on the same page and you feel as supported as possible. I switched care providers at 36 weeks to the midwives at UCLA Santa Monica (3 weeks pre COVID-19) because I felt I wasn’t being delivered by the right person for me. It’s very important to trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right speak up. Yes, it was risky that late in the game, but I am so glad I made that decision. I can’t imagine how I would be feeling if I had been dealing with this and not feeling confident with my OB.
The other thing that I’d recommend is to let yourself have your moments (good or bad)! I needed to have some good cries and let my feelings be heard. I didn’t want to hear another person tell me it was all going to be ok, even though I knew it would most likely be. This was my first time experiencing having a baby though, so I was so scared. Crying and just opening up helped me to release the fear. Then after my good ol’ meltdown, I centered myself, focused on what was most important, and reminded myself how strong I was and to just take it “one day at a time.” You can’t worry about what will happen 2 days or even 2 weeks from now. Just deal with the here and now. Breathe. Take a walk or a bath. Quiet your mind. Don’t be afraid to give yourself the freedom to have a moment if you need it, and then move on.
What were the changes in your birth protocol because of COVID-19?
We decided to be induced (I was 40 weeks and 4 days ) due to the changes that were implemented in New York. We were nervous that if we waited any longer we would be faced with what so many families are dealing with right now – not being able to have their partner in the delivery room. I had a week to accept the fact that my best friend, doula, mother and other family members would not be at the hospital with me.
After my midwife examined me, she gently informed us that 20 minutes prior, she was notified by the hospital that my husband wasn’t able to stay after birth and was only allowed in the room during delivery. Only I was allowed with the baby postpartum.
They gave us as much time in the delivery room as possible, but we had only 2 hours together as a family before my husband was forced to leave. To say I was crushed is an understatement. Navigating my way through this process was very challenging because it’s so out of your control. I just tried to remind myself to be thankful that I at least had my husband in the room for the delivery itself. My heart truly goes out to all of the mamas and dads out there who are facing this as well. I’m giving you all an enormous virtual hug. Stay strong, stay healthy and please know that you are not alone.
What kind of COVID-19 precautions did the hospital and healthcare workers take?
Arriving at the maternity ward and before entering, we were asked a series of questions over the intercom. Standard questions like, “Have you been exposed to COVID-19 in the last 14 days?” or “Do you have any symptoms?”. My midwife wore a mask when she was in the room. Gloves were worn during examinations along with all normal hospital measures to be expected like hand washing and sanitizing.
The Sweetest Ending:
What was your post-birth experience like?
I was alone all night. It was pretty scary. They didn’t check in on me as much as I had hoped.
The bonding time with my baby was very special, but I wished she could have had that time with her dad too that night.
The next morning was very difficult. I was beyond exhausted. I think I had slept 2 hours since I had given birth. I was on 6 hours of sleep in 48 hours, and I was alone in a small room with this tiny human that was hours old.
I woke up to paperwork to fill out, instructions for home care, sending the baby off for all of her mandatory testing, a pediatrician visit and then I had to pack up the whole room. This all happened in just a few hours. All while I was in my very own adult diapers. My husband wasn’t allowed to come in and get me. Instead, I had to be wheeled out to the valet by their transportation service.
When I saw my husband waiting for us my eyes filled with tears. It had felt like days since we had been together. He kissed us and said “Ok my girls, it’s time to go home together.”
We drove off listening to spa music. 15 miles per hour. Together again. The rest is history.