What it's LIke To Give Birth During a Pandemic

Posted on 5/14/20

They say the Universe, or whatever you perceive God to be, would never give you something you can’t handle. I’m not entirely sure if that’s true, but I do know that I’ve been tested more times than I can count, and I’m still here to talk about it!

When I found out we were pregnant, I knew I didn’t want to give birth at a hospital. I was drawn to the practice of natural birth in an intimate and familiar environment, with little to no intervention. After some research, we settled on a group midwifery practice in Long Beach, CA. This meant OB visits in a relaxed home office, a circle of female support, and laboring in a comfortable bedroom set up, with no anesthesia and an option for a water birth. But at 35 weeks, something just didn’t feel right. I wasn’t entirely happy with the level of service or care we were receiving and because it was group practice, I didn’t feel like I had connected with anyone midwife in particular. With my due date quickly approaching I felt a strong urge to change my birth plan even though the timeline was short and it seemed a little risky. After some more research and two weeks of interviews, we decided on a home birth with a private practice midwife. When COVID-19 became a very real threat and shelter-in-place was enforced, it felt like I had been divinely called to make the right, albeit last-minute, decision for me and my baby. The universe had my back!

Unfortunately, absolutely nothing went as planned. After laboring at home for 24 hours, the baby couldn’t get into the right position and my cervix would not properly dilate. I would get to the pushing stage and then my cervix would close back up and have to go back to riding contractions. Imagine you’re climbing Mount Everest and just a few meters before the peak, someone tells you that you must go all the way back down the mountain and climb up again from the other side. It’s emotionally and physically exhausting. I suffered a few other complications and we collectively decided that it was necessary to go to the hospital. But because of COVID, my midwife and doula had to stay behind. Thankfully my husband was allowed to accompany me. The plan was to have an epidural so I could rest and then try again. But the same issue persisted at the hospital. Things spiraled out of control from there.

I had an emergency c-section, Nova’s cord was wrapped around her neck, she had meconium in her lungs that needed to be pumped out and I had meconium in my uterus and abdominal cavity that needed to be vacuumed out. She was born with a small lump on her back and 48 hours after delivery it was decided that she be transferred to Children’s Hospital NICU for observation and tests. Somehow a positive toxicology report showed up on my file, and because it read that I was on barbiturates and tricyclics, I was not allowed to breastfeed my baby and the hospital sent child protective services to my house. Because of COVID, only one parent is allowed in the NICU at a time. So while my husband was visiting with baby Nova, I had to sit in a crowded, dirty cafeteria and wait. This went on for days and I truly felt like I might just fall through the floor.

Somehow the tides turn for us in a rapid succession of events. Additional testing proves that the tox report is a mix-up, CPS calls off their investigation, we get special permission to visit our baby together, Nova’s lump is benign and she is discharged to go home. I’m happy to say we are all

happily at home, healthy and safe. There were more than a few points where it didn’t seem like we could possibly make it.

Giving birth is such a delicate, chaotic, tender, and challenging experience. To be thrust into the throws of bringing new life into the world in the midst of a pandemic makes for a truly harrowing experience. While planning and preparing for something as life-changing as having a baby is absolutely vital, the truth is, nothing is entirely within our control. We make plans, and god laughs right? As an entrepreneur and business owner, I face this every day. I’ve learned that the pivots, setbacks, and failures are what make you stronger. And when you’re clear on your vision, even when everything goes wrong, you at least have a compass to guide you to make the next best choice. I am devastated I didn’t get the birth experience I was hoping for and will have to go through a process of mourning that loss. But really when it comes down to it, the most important thing was that I brought home a healthy baby. I never lost sight of that no matter how crazy or challenging the circumstances became. When navigating through so much uncertainty, the best thing you can do is keep your wits about you, stay focused on the desired outcome, because the journey there may not be at all what you expected. Stay flexible and keep your eyes open to new opportunities and solutions, and above all else, do not ever lose hope.

○ Shay Kostabi is an international Boutique Fitness Consultant, Program Developer, Peer Mentor, and Master Trainer. Her company Fitness Career Mastery, founded with her husband, Barry Ennis, hosts a weekly podcast and is a consulting agency and educational platform for fitness entrepreneurs, geared toward elevating the client experience through immersive, high-quality fitness programs and services. ○

www.fitnesscareermastery.com ○ www.instagram.com/fitnesscareermastery www.instagram.com/shaykostabi