With COVID-19 dramatically altering the way we all live, there are some things that won’t change. The due dates of women across the country and in our area is one of them. In Stamford Hospital’s maternity ward, expectant moms are being met with new precautions meant to protect them and their newborns.
Fior Suarez gave birth to her son, Mason at Stamford Hospital on Saturday, April 11, just days after her husband tested positive for COVID-19.
“I came Friday to get the rapid test and was negative. But since my husband was positive I was still considered a suspected case,” she says.
As a result, Fior says she gave birth with just the doctors and nurses by her side. “It’s sad to not be able to have support with you while you are in such pain. No one to rub your back or hold your hand,” she says. “But, I believe mom and dad should both get rapid tested if they will be in delivery room. I was lucky my husband got tested a few days before. But others are not.”
Rachael Mahoney had her second son Rory at Stamford Hospital on Friday, April 3. She says that before entering the hospital for a c-section, she and her husband were given masks and had their temperatures taken and temperature checks continued throughout their stay. “Every 12 hours both my husband and I had to take our temperature to be sure we weren’t showing signs of the virus.”
We spoke to Kathy LiVolsi, DNP, RN-C, Director of Maternal-Child Health at Stamford Hospital about what parents can expect when going to Stamford Hospital to give birth. She says, “We are testing all our moms who come in to deliver at the hospital. We have protocols in place based on if mom is positive, if significant other is positive, etc.” She also says the hospital has experienced multiple scenarios. “We are following best practice guidelines established by the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics and other leaders in our service line,” she continues.
Rachael says that during her stay, baby Rory was required to stay in the room with them because she says the nursery was effectively closed. “For my first pregnancy, our son went down to the nursery for all necessary tests and vaccinations. This time most of the tests were done in our room. We also had the option of keeping the baby in the nursery for a few hours or even overnight so that I could get some rest, but – because of COVID-19 – this option was not available this time,” she explains.
Rachael’s husband was with her during delivery and for her hospital stay because both tested negative for COVID-19. “He was strongly encouraged not to leave and stayed in the room for the duration except for a trip out to the car for our bags,” she says.
Meanwhile after Fior’s son Mason was born, he was taken to the NICU because of his father’s COVID-19 diagnosis and because of his mother’s exposure. She says that’s where he remained for the majority of her hospital stay and she has worn a mask and washed her hands before having contact with him even though she did not test positive.
Kathy explains, “We discuss each scenario with the patient and care team as they arise. Best practice is for mom and baby to be separated when mom does test positive.”It’s built separate from the rest of the hospital, so we were farther removed from the ICU and other areas where they were treating COVID-19,” she explains.
When Lauren Wright went to Stamford Hospital to have her second son on Friday, March 13, COVID-19 was only beginning to cause real concern. “The threat of COVID-19 was there, but at that point they were still contact tracing and thought it wasn’t as much a threat to people my age and they certainly didn’t think it was a threat to kids,” she explains.
But, each day Lauren spent in the hospital things changed. “The day before my schedule c-section I called my doctor about visitors. They told me that I would still be allowed two visitors, so I thought my son would be able to come visit and that everything would mostly be normal. When I arrived that morning, they told me no visitors would be allowed,” she says.
While Lauren says she is thankful for her family’s health, the sudden change in circumstances during an already emotional time was difficult. “There wasn’t the happiness and excitement that I thought would be surrounding the birth of my second son. It’s not what I imagined when I became pregnant and during the last nine months. Dealing with that disappointment suddenly was hard,” she says.
When Desiree Montesano went to the hospital to give birth to her son Miles just over three weeks ago, she’d had a bit more time to come to terms with what things would be like. But she says anticipating the trip to the hospital was scary. “Every week you saw the numbers grow, businesses closing, guidelines change. Not knowing was more scary to me. Asking myself if I was putting my whole family at risk by even going to the hospital,” she explains.
So what helped to put these moms at ease? They all say, the staff at Stamford Hospital. “They made me feel at ease and not stress about what we couldn’t control in the outside world. What mattered most was the health and well being of my baby and myself,” explains Desiree.
“The nurses at Stamford Hospital are absolutely incredible and took such amazing care of all of us,” says Lauren. “Their care, devotion, and compassion will not be forgotten by my family,” she continues.
“I do feel my doctors at Coastal OBGYN and the nurses at Stamford Hospital helped to normalize my experience as if it were a “normal” birth. I couldn’t have asked for a better staff in the ER; they were the “dream team” as one of the nurses mentioned,” says Rachael.
Still, Rachael says she opted to leave the hospital two days after her c-section. She explains, “This is obviously a very personal choice, but I felt it was the right choice for me. I was constantly worrying about either my newborn or me getting COVID-19 but once I got home I was able to finally relax and just enjoy the time with my newborn.”
“I was surprised that I wasn’t allowed to know if there was a patient with COVID-19 on the same floor as me and whether or not we were sharing nurses (due to HIPAA laws and no fault of Stamford Hospital). This lack of transparency was one of the reasons I decided to leave early and preferred to be at home,” Rachael continues.
Desiree says she also chose to leave the hospital two days after her c-section. “I left after two days because I wanted to get home to introduce my son to his new big sister,” she explains.
But all four moms say going home meant more concern along with limited help and little normalcy. Fior says her husband remains self-quarantined with their 11 and 12 year old children. “It worries me how long do I wear this mask around him two weeks a month?!?! No one knows the answer,” explains Fior. “I’m home now with my baby and my anxiety is through the roof. I’m quarantined with the baby. I wash my hands non stop and basically live and sleep in my mask,” she says.
Kathy says that Stamford Hospital is working to have a safe discharge plan for each patient. “That includes ensuring social distancing if there are positive people in the home. We also have a follow-up pediatric clinic set up where those babies can receive safe and timely follow up care upon discharge,” she explains.
Lauren says that in addition to the new baby, she is also concerned about the changes her older son is experiencing. “His world was rocked in a matter of a week,” she says. “His preschool closed, he got a new baby brother, my mom (who watches him everyday while my husband and I work) couldn’t come see him, he can’t go to the playground or nature center, he can’t see his friends. It’s been a challenge to help him adjust to all these changes while also dealing with them myself,” she says.
But Desiree says she is also looking at the silver lining, “Being home has made us all closer than ever and learn more on how to be a bigger family.”
As for moms who are expecting to deliver in the near future, Lauren offers some advice, saying she is leaning on the amazing community of mom friends she’s built in Stamford. “They have been there for mental and emotional support. They have also dropped off groceries and activities for William to do.” She continues, “I feel for any new first time moms who don’t have the ability to attend these groups and I encourage them to try to connect with fellow new moms in any way they can!”
Desiree urges, “Don’t stress! I know it’s easier said than done, but all that matters is that sweet child that will be yours at the end of all this.”