An Open Letter from a Mom Who Was Diagnosed with COVID-19 and Gave Birth During the Pandemic

Bringing life into the world is intimidating to begin with, but during a pandemic it can be downright frightening. In late March, Jeanne Marie, a mom of two from NYC, did exactly that. In partnership with Johnson’s Baby—who is committed to helping individuals and communities manage the impacts of  COVID-19—she shares her story and advice for pregnant women. Although she was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, the positive outcome of her son’s birth makes this an uplifting read for every expectant mother.

“Please come to the hospital,” my OB-GYN said that morning. It was late March, about two weeks before my due date. My contractions had started the night before, so by the time my husband dropped me off at the hospital entrance, I was already pretty far along. It was surreal to kiss him goodbye, to say “See you after I give birth to our baby.” But that’s what we did.

The security guard, clad in protective gear, scared me at first—but I quickly realized he was smiling through his mask, which was really sweet. He carried my suitcase and took me upstairs in the elevator. As I got out, he told me, “Hey, this is your second baby! You can do this!” And everyone in the hospital had that same sentiment. Because it’s more difficult to convey emotions through the masks, everyone was extra encouraging.

After I was taken to my labor and delivery room (which happened to be the same room in which I gave birth to my first child), I was given a COVID-19 test and was told the results would come back in eight hours. I passed the time by chatting with my labor and delivery nurse, a mom of four kids. We talked about her life and my son at home, which eased my stress. Then I got an epidural, which definitely helped.

I’m extremely lucky that my OB-GYN was working that day. In the midst of so many unknowns, I actually got to deliver my baby with the doctor I’ve known for so many years. In addition to her, there was another doctor from her office, my nurse, and a resident in the delivery room. One of them even helped me video chat my husband, who was reassuring me the entire time about how strong I was and that the baby was almost here.

My affirmations helped, too. I kept repeating mantras, telling myself: “My body knows what to do,” “I’ve done this before,” and “You are not alone.”

As my due date approached, I was especially nervous to be alone. My husband had been with me for the birth of our first son, and I was afraid to not have loved ones by my side. But a surprise from my friends and family helped. A friend organized video messages from loved ones near and far and sent it to me right as I arrived at the hospital. One message really comforted me when I felt particularly by myself. “Jeanne, I know you keep saying you’re alone, but you’re really not. You’re going to have a BABY. The baby is with you the whole time, and soon you’re going to meet him or her.”

My body knows what to do,” “I’ve done this before,” and “You are not alone.”

Our baby boy arrived healthy and beautiful. When our first child was born, the nurse had held him up so my husband could announce the sex. We tried to re-create the magic, positioning the baby just right in front of the computer screen for my husband to see. I already knew, of course, but the funny memory is one I’ll never forget.

For the next hour or so I felt completely euphoric. Anytime you deliver a baby, it’s amazing. But in this moment—in the middle of a global pandemic—I felt like I really did it. Then my OB-GYN came back in with her mask on, shield up, in full protective gear.

“Hi Jeanne. I need to let you know that your COVID-19 test came back positive.”

I honestly don’t remember the next few hours. I was in a complete state of shock. After she reassured me that regardless of the mother’s COVID-19 status, most babies are born negative, I called my husband. Then I called the school where I teach. My biggest fear was that I’d develop symptoms and not be able to care for my newborn.

I felt like the baby was making weird grunting noises, so we followed protocol and my son was taken to the NICU. I stayed put in my room, but things changed. Every nurse who came in was covered in PPE. I’d just had a baby and I couldn’t see him. It was the longest night.

After my baby tested negative and everything was fine, I was cleared to head home. I left the next day and continued to care for him as the doctor recommended. Because I wasn’t exhibiting symptoms (and thankfully never did), I could care for my son and myself by wearing a mask, washing my hands a million times a day, and taking my temperature twice a day. (That’s what the doctor recommended, but really, I took it about seven times a day.) My husband also wore a mask, and we treated him as if he had tested positive, too. At the time, it was impossible to get tested if you didn’t have symptoms. We stayed home for two full weeks, and my little boys didn’t meet until we knew it was safe.

Giving birth during this pandemic wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t what I had pictured nine months ago. I held my mantras close, and still do. Now, the phrase “It takes a village” has a whole new meaning for me. Although your “village” can’t be present, they’re still with you via text and video chat. People still really want to be there for you. You might feel alone, and at times I did, but find your people and the moms who are going through what you are going through. Talk about your fears and anxieties, because any emotions that you’re feeling during this crisis are real and legitimate.

And when you finally give birth to that precious baby, give yourself the credit you deserve. I gave birth during the novel coronavirus outbreak. Nothing’s impossible.

Johnson’s Baby wants to create a world where every baby thrives, and they believe in supporting healthy pregnancies for a healthy start to life. Visit them to find out how they are committed to providing support for new and expecting parents.