It has taken me over a year to write this, but I’m finally sharing Calder’s Pandemic Birth Story which includes the lead up to his birth with multiple missed doctor’s appointments, Covid testing, his C-section birth, my husband having to watch his son’s birth on an iPad, and the 911 call we had to make after we went home from the hospital.
Calder was born in April of 2020. He therefore is a pandemic baby and the pandemic is a part of his birth story, so if I’m telling his whole story, I have to start a few months before his actual birth.
Between the pregnancy insomnia and the nightly wakings with my twin 2-year-olds, I was often awake in the middle of the night and scrolling through social media and news articles. In December, I started seeing reports of a new virus emerging in China and I kept seeing brief mentions of it buried deep in the news in January and February. My husband got sick in December, and I got sick in January and again in early February, but we didn’t think anything of it.
I’m so lucky I had my baby sprinkle when I did and I was able to see my friends because, as it turned out, I wouldn’t see most of them again for over a year. Honestly, of my eight guests, I’ve only seen two of them since my baby sprinkle.
Then in March, we took the twins to the zoo. We got to feed the giraffes and the twins had a blast! Towards the end of the day, I was walking (lumbering?) slowly behind my husband who was pushing the twins in their double stroller and I watched as he pushed the stroller right through the cloud of a man’s uncovered sneeze. From where I was standing, the sun backlit his spittle perfectly. I couldn’t yell or catch up to them in time to warn him. It was so fucking gross. They walked right through it. My husband never even saw it.
Sure enough, Wren got sick a few days later. Then Hank. Then me. It felt like a bad cold with a really bad cough, but Covid tests didn’t exist yet. I either broke a rib from coughing or pulled a rib muscle while coughing. But, I couldn’t go in to see a doctor thanks to the cough.
However, one week after getting sick, I did have to take a trip to Labor & Delivery because of decreased fetal movement. I hated being there because I was still coughing. After monitoring Cal’s movement and taking a look at him via ultrasound, it was determined that he had simply moved into a breech position and I just wasn’t feeling his movement the same as I had been, but he was fine.
I then missed my next two OBGYN appointments thanks to the lingering cough. I was 35-38 weeks pregnant and I was not allowed to see my doctor. It wasn’t until five days before my scheduled C-section appointment that I was finally allowed inside the building to see my doctor in person.
My doctor and I went over my birth plan again, discussed my tubal ligation, and I asked her how many of her patients she actually got to deliver. She said it was probably less than five percent of her patients. And here we were only a few days away from her delivering one of my three babies AGAIN!
The week of Cal’s birth was busy, busy, busy. I had to plan grocery pickups, go in for blood work, drive to bigger hospital for a Covid test, take showers (to prep for surgery), give the twins’ baths so their grandparents didn’t have to do it while we were at the hospital, schedule my lactation consultant home visit after Cal’s birth, etc., etc., etc.
Two days before my scheduled C-section, I squeezed my huge belly into the car and drove over to the hospital to get a Covid test as required by the hospital prior to surgery. It was eerie being out since everyone was still on new lockdown. There was barely any traffic and the people who were out on the road drove like assholes. I pulled into the parking lot where they were doing the tests and parked in a Covid testing parking spot. A man in a hazmat suit came over and got my information then left to get everything needed for the test. He came back and swabbed my mouth and my nostrils and it made me choke/cough and I felt so bad. He laughed and said, “just don’t have that baby!”
The night before the C-section again felt like we were preparing to leave for a vacation. Packing bags, setting up the house, making sure the grandparents knew what to do with the twins, the cat, etc. I hate that day. So much anxiety about the surgery and the baby and so much prep and you always feel like you’re forgetting something.
I went to bed way too late as usual even though we had to get up at 4:30am to get to the hospital by 6am. We drove to the hospital and the Breakfast Club’s main song was on the radio. Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”. I think we discussed how they must have been influenced by Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” song because both songs have that part where they get kind of quiet and ask what the girl is going to do. Yes, these are the discussions we have before bringing another baby into the world!
We arrived at the hospital and Security said Ken couldn’t go up with me (more on this later), so we said goodbye, gave a kiss through our masks, I was temperature checked, and sent upstairs to Labor & Delivery.
Labor and Delivery triage was so calm this time in comparison to the twins’ birth. There was only one nurse working with me and hardly anyone else was there in the department. She got started with questions, got the IV in, we went over my birth plan, the resident came by, my doctor came by, the anesthesiologist came by, etc. etc.
And then there was talk about pushing my 7:30am scheduled surgery because another mama’s delivery was not going as planned.
It was getting closer and closer to 7:30 and I had to ask two times if my husband was allowed to come up yet. Finally the nurse went to go ask the charge nurse and I overheard that entire conversation – basically, he was allowed inside THE ENTIRE TIME!
So annoying. I mean, I get it. It’s a pandemic. It was very early on in the pandemic and protocols were changing daily. But I was still annoyed. I called him and told him to come up and to bring all of our stuff because once he was in, he wasn’t allowed to leave.
And then my surgery was pushed. This is the part I hate. The anticipation of surgery. So thankfully Ken was able to sit there with me for the extra hour and a half. We looked up silly pun jokes and talked about silly stuff to keep my mind off it.
The charge nurse came by with his iPad so he could watch and talk to me during the delivery since he wasn’t allowed in the room due to the PPE shortage. Then it was time. Ken was escorted by my nurse to the recovery room where he could sit and watch on the iPad while I was left at the door holding my own IV bag and tubes … which are actually really, really heavy.
Then we walked to the OR. When we went into the same huge OR that I had delivered my twins in, my doctor was already in there, and I joked with her that she told me I would get the small OR this time around and not the large twin-sized OR. She laughed and apologized but I told her it was my lucky room and as long as there was not going to be twenty people in there for this birth then I was good to go.
I sat down on the table and the anesthesiologist started prepping me. I was jumpy. I really hate anyone touching my lower back. It’s like my blind spot. She was nervous about me being so jumpy whenever my lower back is touched and when it came time to actually insert the needle, she told me I had to be extra, extra still and asked if I was ready. I said No! I felt like I wasn’t holding onto anything and I asked the poor nurse if I could hold her hand. I probably broke her fingers.
Luckily, I did not jump and my anesthesiologist got everything in. I felt a bit of weird pain in my leg, but it went away. They got me laying down on the table and my legs started to go numb. It is such an odd feeling.
When my anesthesiologist had stopped by earlier, we had discussed some side effects and things that came up during the twins’ birth including how much my face itched. Unfortunately, this time the face itching side effect from the morphine started much, much sooner. It sucks. It’s hard not to scratch your face and rub your nose … and then I’m wearing a mask and you’re really not supposed to touch your face during a fucking pandemic! But whatever. At some point, my anesthesiologist took my mask off and put an oxygen mask on.
My iPad screen which was set up on a tripod and connected to my husband was brought in … but the sound was ridiculously low. Like, I could barely even hear him low. They kept messing with it, but it was never resolved, so Ken would write things in his notebook and hold them up to the screen for me to read. He was sending silly sayings and punny jokes. And then Calder was born.
And my husband kept trying to talk to me, but I couldn’t hear him, so he held up a question: “It’s just one, right?”
I remember Cal didn’t sound right. He sounded like a mewling kitten, but raspy and fluid-y. I kept asking if he was okay. Looking back at photos my anesthesiologist was taking, they had to clear his airway with the bulb syringe a few times. Watching the video that my husband was taking of me on the iPad, you can see me looking around and my eyebrows are clearly stressed.
They got him cleaned up, cut his cord (and my anesthesiologist filmed it for us on my phone), and bundled him up and then handed him to me to hold for the rest of the surgery. It was one of my main requests on my birth plan – to give him to me after birth to hold during the surgery. Somehow, it still took 15-20 minutes before he was handed to me.
It was then time for my tubal ligation and my doctor asked for confirmation and I told her to “tie those tubes tight!”
And my anesthesiologist kept taking photos of the three of us. Me, holding Cal, with Ken on the iPad screen.
My anesthesiologist was awesome. Not only was she in charge of keeping me alive, but she was also playing IT with the iPad and she was taking photos with my phone, AND because my doctor and her resident are two different heights, she was also the person in charge of moving the operating table up and down so the resident could do some of the surgery.
Because the table kept getting moved up and down, I remember holding onto Cal so tightly. I was so afraid I would drop him, but also I really wanted to hold him right away, so I just gripped him and made sure my anesthesiologist was nearby just in case.
Here’s all the weird things I remember:
- I kept asking my husband through the iPad if he could see Cal. I think I kept asking because I couldn’t hear his response thanks to the sound failure but also I was pretty sure he couldn’t see him based on the position of the iPad and how I was holding Cal and I just really wanted him to be able to see his baby.
- I also asked my husband if Cal looked like a “Cal” knowing full well that he probably couldn’t even see him. We were between two names and said we would decide based on who he looked like … even though in my head I had been referring to him as Cal for months and it was pretty much going to be his name. Wow, I can’t even remember what the other name was now.
- While writing Cal’s birth story, I saw in the photos that my husband was taking photos with his phone through the iPad, so it’s now a year later and I JUST asked to see his photos. He has SO many photos and videos. I didn’t know that the first time he saw Cal was actually a photo of Cal on my phone that my anesthesiologist held up to the iPad screen for him to see.
- I remember my doctor and the resident talking about what I think was my doctor’s husband’s new business – a sports gym and coffee shop? Or juice shop? I’ll have to ask her the next time I see her (which will NOT be for another pregnancy). I just remember listening to their small talk conversation and thinking that they’re just chatting away while at work while I’m laying here having a baby.
- And I remember thinking that this birth was SO much easier than the twins’ birth. It was so much calmer. I don’t know if it was the pandemic, the fact that there was only one baby, or the fact that this was not my first time at the C-section rodeo, but everything was so much calmer and quieter. It was probably a combination of all three. We weren’t allowed any guests, so my mom and my in-laws weren’t there. My husband wasn’t even allowed in the operating room. I think they were a bit short-staffed with nursing thanks to the pandemic, so it was a bare bones team in the room. Oh! Also, my anesthesiologist was just amazing. I think she was calmer than the one I had for my twins’ birth. In fact, I think I had all women in the room this time except for Cal.
- I remember thinking it was weird how I was in all of the same beds/spots that I was in for the twins’ birth. The same labor & delivery triage bay, the same OR room, the same recovery bay.
- We had masks, but could take them off in our room. But with so many people in and out of the room, it was hard to keep putting them back on and it would get lost in my hospital gown, sheets, etc.
- We only stayed in the hospital for one night. For a C-section, it seemed really fast, but my nurse got my catheter out and got me up and walking as soon as possible. I wouldn’t say they kicked us out, but they were highly encouraging us to leave thanks to the pandemic. I was warned ahead of the surgery that this was likely going to happen and that barring any complications, they would give me the okay to go after one night.
- Cal did have a weird episode in the hospital where he seemed to be throwing up in the middle of the night. At the time, I thought it was spit-up breast milk, but looking back, I didn’t have that much milk yet and he wasn’t drinking that much breast milk.
- Two nights later at home, after I nursed Cal around 11pm at night, he started spiting up and gagging. I had noticed some off behavior from him and was telling my husband about it and then while Ken was holding him, he started arching his back and couldn’t breathe. Ken had me call 911 while he turned Cal over and started doing back blows. While I was speaking with the 911 operator, Ken got Cal to start crying so that was a good sign, but we still had the paramedics come check him out.
- The police arrived first and asked how old he was. I told them that he was 2 days old and they repeated “two months?” I said, no, two DAYS. You could see in their eyes they were a little panicked. It felt weird being in the beginning stages of a pandemic with multiple police officers, paramedics, and firefighters in our house. Ken wasn’t wearing a mask and I remember him apologizing for it.
- While we’ve never gotten any confirmation, we think that Cal didn’t expel all of the amniotic fluid from his lungs during his birth (and why he sounded so weird when crying) and that he had coughed it up and was asphyxiating on that. There was absolutely nothing solid that he could have been choking on and nothing came up while Ken was giving him back blows, so we think the fluid came up and then he swallowed it.
We’re so grateful to have our healthy little miracle baby! We truly didn’t think we could have more kids so when this one came along, he completed our family! We love you, Calder!
Interested in more of my pregnancy and baby stories? I have more right here: