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‘I had my baby during COVID-19’

By The Health News Team | May 8, 2020
‘I had my baby during COVID-19’

First-time mom, Alexis Avina, PhD, holding her newborn son, Luca.

Alexis Avina, PhD, was nearing the end of her pregnancy with her first baby when the coronavirus pandemic began. Because of the rapidly changing situation, she didn’t know what to expect for her delivery.

With the help of her doctor, technology, family and friends, Alexis gave birth to a healthy baby boy — Luca Javier Avina — on April 1, 2020, at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns.

In her own words, Alexis shares her experience of what it was like to be pregnant and deliver her son during the pandemic.

Nine months ago, when I found out I was pregnant, I envisioned what the birth of my baby would look like. I imagined my best friend as my doula, my mom coaching my breathing during labor, my husband holding my hand, and a small army of family and friends in the waiting room. Fast-forward to March 2020, when I was 36 weeks pregnant and preparing to give birth during a pandemic.

I am a type A planner, and I found myself feeling very anxious and uncertain, like I had a lack of control. Luckily, my Sharp Rees-Stealy OBGYN did a great job managing my expectations, thoughtfully communicating with me, and promptly responding to all of my questions in person, online and through telehealth visits.

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, my husband could no longer come to my prenatal visits. This made sense logically; however, this was emotionally disappointing to both of us. Because this was our first baby, we wanted to be together for those visits. The silver lining was that I could FaceTime him from my phone so that he could participate in each of the visits. That was really wonderful because he was able to chime in with questions and see the ultrasounds.

As my delivery date neared, my stress level began to increase. I read about hospitals in other parts of the country that were no longer allowing anyone to accompany a pregnant woman to the hospital during labor and delivery. I was particularly concerned because I would be staying in the hospital for several days. I did not want to be without the support of my loved ones.

Sharp Mary Birch continues to allow one support person to be in the hospital, so, thankfully, my husband was able to accompany me. As we entered the hospital on the day of delivery, we were screened for symptoms of the virus, and I began to feel a mix of fear and excitement. Fear, because I was worried about COVID-19 risks to myself, my husband and son, and excited to welcome my first-born into the world.

I also felt somewhat nervous because the hospital lobby felt sparse, sort of like a ghost town. I’ve always remembered coming to the hospital for other loved ones’ deliveries, and the lobby was busy and filled with energy and people. This time, only my husband and I and one other pregnant couple were inside. It was just a reminder that COVID-19 was impacting me and the birth of my child in many ways.

I felt very thankful to have my husband with me to experience such a life-changing moment. Seeing our son Luca for the first time was magical. He was healthy and strong, and I was so relieved to have had such a great team around me.

During our hospital stay, I felt well-supported by the Sharp Mary Birch nurses and staff. I was able to talk to the on-call pediatrician and my OB about any COVID-19 fears. Additionally, if we needed anything or had questions, the nursing team was accessible by cellphone and responded to us immediately. One nurse in particular was phenomenal — she knew I was sad without my family and friends. She was extra thoughtful and helped me with breastfeeding. She was so supportive during Luca's first bath, my first shower and navigating the bathroom after my catheter was removed. Most of the staff I encountered wore masks and gloves, some even wore eye protection. They took extra precautions and everyone washed their hands thoroughly as they came to and from my room. I felt very safe and the hospital was very clean.

When I got home from the hospital, the support continued. A Sharp Mary Birch lactation specialist called to check in and provide support, which I really appreciated. Because of the pandemic, my postpartum OBGYN visits will primarily be by video to help reduce the risk of exposure for all.

While I was in the hospital, I was able to FaceTime my family and friends as much and as often as I wanted. Still, I feel really sad that I had to introduce them to Luca this way and not in person. I understand this is necessary for health risks, but it is sad nonetheless.

Although coronavirus meant there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the birth of my first baby, I feel lucky to have received compassionate care, and that my family is healthy. At the end of the day, I couldn’t ask for anything more as I begin my journey into motherhood.

Sharp HealthCare thanks Alexis Avina for sharing her story. Learn more about the importance and safety of COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant women, and how Sharp is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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