Pandemic, Baby.

My niece Kenadi was due with her first baby in March — so exciting for this beautiful woman who is amazing with kids. And so, when closures began and safety measures were put into place due to COVID-19, I naturally kept thinking — “What is this going to be like for Kenadi?”

Kenadi and her fiancé Brent now have a gorgeous little baby girl, Ryla. And everyone is healthy and happy. But, I wanted to check in with Kenadi to see what delivering during this global pandemic was like and what was her postpartum experience? As well, Kenadi is just starting back to work as a nurse and so I asked her what she thinks pregnancy and birth will look like for women going forward.

Can you tell us when Ryla was due and when Ryla was born? 

Ryla was due March 22 and came March 28th.

When did you first realize that things would be different for your upcoming delivery because of the pandemic? 

About two weeks before I had Ryla I knew things would be different. I work for the healthcare system that I delivered at so I had some insight as to what was going on. They sent out emails daily of what restrictions were for each unit of each hospital. The last day I worked we were allowed to have two people in the delivery room so I was okay with that. I knew I wanted my fiancé Brent and my sister Lakin there. Lakin skipped my baby shower so she could be with me during the birth. 

Were you worried?

When we first heard about COVID I wasn’t. I started to get worried when things were being shut down. 

What was different about the time leading up to your birth, such as doctor visits.

My last appointment was the only one different than the others. I walked in and started to go towards the elevator like always and someone basically jumped at me to stop me from pressing the button. She asked why I was there like she didn’t see me wobbling and my big belly. She then took my temperature and asked me all of these questions about possible symptoms or exposure to COVID. The office was only seeing pregnant about-to-pop mamas-to-be so I was the only one in the waiting room and what seemed like the whole office once I finally got up there. But the appointment was the same. My doctor still took her time to answer all of my questions and ensure I felt prepared, then told me she would see me tomorrow for my induction. 

When walking into the hospital to get induced we had to enter the emergency room around 9:30 at night. As soon as Brent and I walked in, both of us went through the process that I had gone through at the office — temperature checks and the questions. We were escorted to the birth center after that. 

Did you consider a home birth at any point leading up to your birth?

I never considered a home birth. I know the risks and I didn’t want anything to happen to me or Ryla. 

We live close to the hospital I delivered at but I didn’t want both of us to be put at risk in an ambulance where possible COVID contamination was if anything did happen. 

What was your birth like? Who was able to be with you? 

I was induced so it was very long. We got to the hospital at 9:30 p.m. on Friday. They started the induction around 11:00 p.m. I didn’t deliver until 9:03 p.m. the next day. Ryla was really stubborn and was forward facing so we had to do a lot of maneuvering to get her to flip around, which felt like it took hours. She finally moved to where she was supposed to be and made sure to get back at me. I pushed for a little over two hours and tore pretty bad and needed stitches. 

It was just me, Brent and all of my wonderful nurses and my amazing doctor. 

What were the rules following birth, for example with visitors?

Rules were just me and my supportive person which was Brent. It had to be the same person with me at all times. So, I couldn’t have him be with me through the birth and then have him sit in the car for an hour or so and have my mom come and be with Ryla and I after I delivered. The same one supportive person only. No visitors, nobody to show our beautiful baby off to in person. 

OK, so you get home — what was postpartum like for you? When did you finally get to see family? And, what do you think — did you enjoy just being cocooned with your baby or would you have preferred being able to have friends and family visit? Did you feel supported enough? 

Postpartum was a little rough. 

We were in the hospital for only 24 hours after Ryla was born then went home. I couldn’t take another second sitting in a hospital. 

As I walked to the front door there were balloons and a card from my dad and the sweetest note and I instantly started crying. “How is it fair that my dad isn’t able to enjoy my sweet little baby that was named after him?” is all I kept thinking. I cried for a good 20 minutes after that. 

Then it was just the three of us. Luckily Brent had paternity leave for two weeks so that helped me a lot too. 

We came home on a Sunday and Ryla’s first doctor’s appointment was on a Thursday. All three of us get into the office and immediately the receptionist tells me that it’s either me or Brent allowed in the building. So as a sore, brand new mom who isn’t sleeping well, I get to go through this first appointment all by myself. I could feel that lump in my throat like I was going to cry, but I didn’t. That really bothered me though. They had me get her undressed right in the waiting room to put her on the scale so I had to carry my undressed baby, diaper bag and car seat all by myself because they weren’t allowed to touch any of our stuff and it just made me so angry that he couldn’t be with me to help. 

We took so many car rides to our parents’ houses. We would all sit in the car and hardly even crack the window so that they could see her. Both of my parents were still working so we didn’t want to risk any of us getting the virus. 

About two weeks or so after she was home with just the three of us is when COVID really started to get bad and I broke down. I wanted my mom and my sister so badly to be with us. I left her in her swing with Brent in the room and just cried in her nursery for a little bit. Then eventually I made it out to the living room and just fell apart in his arms saying how scared I was because I want them here but I didn’t want her to get sick but that I needed my family. We have always been so close so it was really difficult to not have any of my family there but especially my sister and mom. 

So we made the decision to let my sister, niece and nephew come to stay with us for a little bit. They just moved to Tennessee and were basically quarantined from the time they moved there in February until they came. We kept it really quiet because we didn’t want to be judged but I knew that I needed support from them rather than risking my sanity and to help stay away from postpartum depression. It helped so much. My sister stayed with us and my mom would come all day from about 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. at night. They made us dinner, helped clean the house and gave me a break from having my baby all day. It was so nice to play with my niece and nephew and to have things somewhat back to normal. It was just us for a few days then we slowly brought my dad and then brothers into the mix. And finally when she was about three-ish weeks old I got comfortable and took her over to my parents’ house. I was still really cautious with things though. 

I loved the time with Ryla, but I wish my family could have been there with us from the beginning. However, as much as I love our friends I don’t think I would have wanted them in the hospital or in our home right away especially with being a first time mom. 

We didn’t let our friends come see her until she was well over a month old. I wish they could have seen her earlier than that. 

I felt very supported. Brent always said it was what I wanted to do with whatever was going on. And then my mom, who luckily is a Labor and Delivery Nurse was always there. And my sister too. We all have a group message and during my nightly feedings I would be texting them about questions or concerns that I had and they would always respond even in the middle of the night. I knew I always had someone whether it was Brent, my mom or my sister. Support was not an issue at all, and still isn’t. 

What was challenging — like finding things you needed for your recovery and for your new baby during a time when it wasn’t so easy to just pop out to the grocery store? 

I stocked up on a lot ahead of time because I figured I would be so exhausted that I didn’t want to go to the store so luckily food and other grocery items weren’t hard. We did run out of toilet paper at one point and we were lucky enough to find some. 😂 The only hard thing was that we found out Ryla has really sensitive skin so it was really hard to find diapering products and laundry detergents for us that were right for her skin. Everything that did work for her was always hard to find because of there being limited stock. 

You are a nurse — what does the next year or two look like for women who are pregnant or who will get pregnant and have a baby in that time span? Will things be kind of normal or will there still be quite a few precautions and restrictions in place? 

The next few years will be different. Travel restrictions that are even more strict for pregnant women, masks during every visit, all appointments alone including the ultrasound ones. 

As much as I hope things die down and first-time parents get to enjoy some appointments together I personally don’t think things will ever be normal again. Every office visit that you go to you are required to wear a mask and are only allowed one person. Precautions will always be taken now in care facilities and all public places. 

We may or may not have another wave of outbreaks in the foreseeable future — what is your advice or any words to share with other moms who will be delivering during the pandemic? 

It’s scary, different and not at all what anyone pictures their pregnancy and birth to be like. But it is still an amazing moment that will be remembered for forever. You get more time with yourself and your new baby and figuring out a routine that works best before anyone even gets to see the new baby. 

Just remember that you can do it and you will get through it. Get your supportive person and rock it out. Don’t be afraid to be afraid and worried. Trust yourself and your own judgement when it comes to boundaries with people seeing your baby. Do what’s best for YOU and your baby. Keep yourself as sane as possible. Make sure you know your resources. 

When do you return to work? How old will Ryla be? What will that be like? 

I go back to work tomorrow. 😥 Ryla is 11 weeks. Work will be completely different than when I left. COVID was just reaching Ohio when I went on maternity leave and now it’s in full force. 

We have less patients now because people are afraid to get treatment in a hospital because they don’t want to get COVID on top of their diagnosis. So with all of that going on, our staff members haven’t been getting their hours. I will most likely not get any hours either which is a good and bad thing — good that I get to spend time with Ryla, bad that I’m missing out even longer on a paycheck. 

Work in general has more strict guidelines. We have to wear a mask from the second we get out of our cars in the parking lot to until we enter back into them at the end of our shift. We are not allowed to leave the building at all during our shift. We have our temperatures being checked before we even enter the building and if we have a fever we have to go back home and use our PTO hours if we want to be paid and call off or be sent home again at the next shift if we still have one. And of course, we have to social distance which is impossible as a nurse. 

Any last thoughts you want to add here that I haven’t covered? 

It was hard but it truly made me stronger and I think a better mother. I have always wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. Everyone would call me “Mama Ken” when I was younger because I would always look out for others and I always had that motherly instinct. I knew I wanted my family to come and meet my baby as soon as she was born and I didn’t get to experience that. 

I never expected to have a baby during a pandemic but motherhood sure does throw you some curveballs and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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