Welcoming A Baby During The Covid-19 Pandemic
Rachael Potter shares her story of having a baby during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On February 26th, 2020, my husband and I went to dinner at Zapata’s with several friends after an Ash Wednesday service. One of those friends, who works in the medical industry, told me to stock up on food and diapers because the country was headed towards a shutdown from the new COVID-19 virus we kept hearing about on the news. I thought, “No way! There’s no chance the United States will shut down over a virus!” I had even completed pandemic training for the last several years as the Marketing Director at Farmers Bank & Trust, never thinking our “pretend scenarios” could become real life.
Fast forward a few weeks, because I was 23 weeks pregnant, they sent me home from work as a “high-risk” employee on Monday, March 16. I moved my two computer screens to my breakfast table and continued to work from home until our precious daughter, Alice Winford Potter, was born on July 8. When I moved my office home, I thought it would only be for a short time. As weeks turned into months, I realized how fortunate I am to work for such a supportive and adaptable company during times like these.
My husband, Josh, and I have a passion for travel that we can’t wait to share with our children. While growing in my tummy, Alice already visited Las Vegas, New Orleans, Cabo San Lucas, Fayetteville, Hot Springs, and accompanied me on work-related trips to Dallas and Little Rock. In early January, I spent over an hour on the phone with American Airlines working out the details of taking her with us to Italy for Josh’s brother’s September wedding. Little did I know, I should have kept that hour to myself. They canceled the wedding in Italy when the country became a COVID-19 hot spot.
When Josh and I found out we were expecting, we hired people to help us put together and paint the baby nursery since we have never really taken on any home renovation projects before. After realizing we were entering the quarantine life, Josh shocked me when he decided to paint the nursery himself! I quickly Googled “most popular grey” and rushed to Sherwin-Williams to have them deliver paint straight to the trunk of my car. I ordered everything else we needed for the nursery online. A special shout out of appreciation is due to the UPS and FedEx delivery people who were the real decorators of our nursery.
Quarantine pregnancy life also meant baby showers would have to change drastically. We were initially planning for several large gatherings that we would soon learn violated The Centers for Disease Control and state guidelines. Our solution to maintain social distancing was to have two beautiful, small, outdoor showers with each of our families and a small gathering with our friends from work. While we are thankful for several sweet, front porch visits with our friends, plus thoughtful gifts and delicious food, we are looking forward to a future “sip and see” to finally celebrate our Alice!
Being a regular viewer of “The Today Show”, I saw Carson Daly drop his wife off at the hospital to deliver their baby alone. As a first-time mom, this was a terrifying possibility to me! Thankfully, I learned, this was not the case in Texarkana. I could bring one support person to all doctor appointments at Collom & Carney Clinic, and I was allowed one support person for delivery at CHRISTUS St. Michael Hospital. Josh and I became accustomed to wearing a mask and to the temperature checks as soon as we hit the clinic’s door. My OB/GYN, Dr. David Greathouse, was a calming source of peace for both of us on our journey of having a COVID-19 baby. He reiterated that we could combat the virus by staying home, washing our hands, and wearing masks. So he encouraged us to keep doing what we were doing. Our baby would be okay.
As first-time parents, I had planned to take birthing classes. Of course, they were all canceled and never rescheduled. So instead, I read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and hoped for the best! As much as I wanted to control the situation, things did not happen as planned. We scheduled an induction for the baby’s arrival three days before her due date. Josh and I stopped at Newk’s Eatery before checking in to the hospital, and I will always remember that we sat at one of the only two tables in use in the whole restaurant. I had heard that some hospitals required a COVID-19 test before giving birth, but they only asked me to submit blood for the antibody test, which came back negative. After a short and scary failed induction and a 3 AM call to my mom, I had a C-section and our perfectly healthy baby girl arrived early the following morning!
When my sister gave birth to my nephew four years ago, no less than 30 of our family members and friends came to the hospital to meet the new baby. When one of our family members tried to visit us at the hospital this July, he wasn’t allowed past the front desk. While we would have preferred to share Alice with family members on the day she was born, I have special memories of those two-and-a-half days we spent alone at the hospital with our new baby. The hospital room, where we were not required to wear masks, became our little bubble, and I felt a sense of comfort knowing we were in a safe space, with the nurturing doctors, nurses, and staff of the hospital. One of the best baby gifts I received was an extra-long phone charging cord that made it possible to keep our family and friends updated, through text and FaceTime, on our new life with baby Alice.
When we came home from the hospital, my grandparents and mother were waiting for us in the driveway. They met Alice for the first time with masks on. As we are now four weeks into our quarantined baby life, visitors wear masks in our home, and we keep hand sanitizer displayed around our house like decorations. I enjoy going to doctor appointments because they are among the few reasons I ever leave the house. Target and Walmart pickups are the only way we stay stocked up on household items, and podcast hosts feel like my friends, as I listen to them on walks through my neighborhood. While we knew starting a family would be a memorable time in our lives, we didn’t realize just how significant and historic this time would be. Things haven’t turned out as I thought they would, but Josh, Alice, and I have been blessed with this unique time together and by the support of our amazing (yet properly socially distanced) loved ones.