With the COVID-19 pandemic putting a hold on many people’s lives, it couldn’t put a hold on mothers who were due to give birth during it.
Five area mothers discussed what it was like to deliver their children amid hospital visitor restrictions, social distancing guidelines, business and school closures, and job loss. The end of their pregnancies, the deliveries, and the time back home all were affected by the pandemic.
Taylor Middle School math teacher Lindsay Gibson planned to take a maternity leave after spring break at the end of March, as she was due to give birth to her second child at the beginning of April.
The birth of her first child, Harrison, was a c-section, and Gibson was hoping to deliver “naturally” this time around.
Nothing went according to plan.
As Gibson got closer to her due date – and hospitals began to worry about an influx of COVID-19 patients and the spread of the virus – her pregnancy wasn’t progressing. In order to get her in and out of the hospital quicker, her doctors, who were in Carmel, decided it would be best to do a repeat c-section.
“We ended up planning to do a repeat c-section instead because it was kind of the sooner we could get her out before things got even stricter and more hunkered down the better, so it actually affected how I gave birth and not just who all could be there,” Gibson said. “There was a chance of me having to have a c-section regardless of any of this anyway, but this kind of felt like it was more forced upon me than it maybe would have been without all of this.”
On April 8, Gibson, with only doctors, nurses, and her husband, Zach Gibson, by her side, she gave birth to her second child, Liliana. It was tough, Gibson said, as her nearly 2-year-old son couldn’t be there to meet his sister.
It was tougher in the hospital as well, as only one baby at a time was allowed in the nursery.
“Normally in the middle of the night if baby isn’t sleeping, they’ll let mom and dad catch up on a little sleep and take the baby to the nursery. Well, they couldn’t really do that,” she said. “So we didn’t get much sleep this time, which sleep with a newborn is impossible anyway.”
The first time Gibson had a c-section, she was in the hospital for 72 hours, and this time around, with Gibson and Liliana both doing well, they were cleared to leave the hospital nearly a day early.
Home life was different than expected, as well. Zach, an FCA employee, was off work due to the temporary shut down, and Taylor Middle School, like schools across the nation, didn’t return to in-person classes after spring break. Classes were moved online three days a week, and Gibson decided she wouldn’t take a maternity leave after all.
With her husband home to look after Liliana and a flexible work schedule herself, she returned to teaching, this time virtually, eight days after giving birth. While she was thankful the changes allowed her to continue working and getting the same paycheck, the situation hasn’t been without challenges.
“It’s difficult, especially trying to work around feeding her. She will take a bottle too, so my husband can help with that. So I’ve been working around feeding her and pumping while also trying to do virtual meets with my kids because, obviously, if I’m pumping or feeding, I can’t really have my camera on,” Gibson said. “It’s been difficult to juggle it. And then my son … in general has been wanting a little more attention because of the new baby, and then I have to go seclude myself to try to work too.”
The teacher called the situation “crazy,” and she said she looked forward to restrictions lifting. She received zoo and children’s museum memberships for Christmas, so she’s hoping to be able to take her children soon.
Ashleigh Chelf was nearly nine months pregnant by April, and visits to her doctor were changing. Her boyfriend, Levi Horner, no longer was allowed to accompany her, and Chelf was met at the door with screenings and staff in masks.
“It was a little freaky toward the end,” said Chelf, who also has a 2-year-old daughter, Rayleigh Horner.
Like Gibson, Chelf could only have one person in the delivery room with her, meaning her daughter had to stay home. The room was much quieter than her first time around, and doctors and nurses “were in full gear.” She said she and Levi were given masks, and they were told it was possible someone could make them put them on.
On April 3, Chelf gave birth to her son, Hudson, at Ascension St. Vincent Kokomo.
A month later, Chelf said she still hasn’t been able to fully process the situation. She hasn’t had any visitors at home, and Hudson has yet to meet anyone but immediate family. She was grateful everything went well, but she said her heart went out to first-time moms.
“It’s just kind of sad,” she said. “For me, it’s my second kid, so it wasn’t so monumental, I guess. But I feel bad for the people that are first-time moms, and their moms couldn’t be with them.”
For Madison Creasey, she was pregnant with her first child. Creasy was nearing her due date when the county implemented travel restrictions and business closures, and that’s when the gravity of the situation hit her.
“It really hit me when they started the restrictions, and I knew I couldn’t have family in the hospital,” Creasey said. “I was scared to death. I didn’t want to even go to the hospital because of it. I was going to consider a home birth or something.”
Working as a home heath aide, she also was concerned about contracting the virus herself and potentially passing it on to her baby. On March 17, Creasey asked her doctor if she felt it was safe for her to continue working, and her doctor advised her not to work if she didn’t have to.
Creasey decided it wasn’t worth the risk.
“I was really worried. I actually quit my job,” she said.
She also had to cancel her baby shower, as no gatherings of more than 10 were allowed, and she didn’t want to put anyone, including her baby, at risk.
Despite her fears and not being able to have her family with her during the birth of her first child, she decided to deliver in a hospital. She said the nurses were very accommodating, and she and her husband, David Creasey, were able to video call Creasey’s sisters and mother during her entire labor.
On April 23, Creasey gave birth to her son, Owen Creasey.
Looking back, the new mom said she was thankful to give birth to a healthy baby and that her family was able to be a part of her delivery virtually.
“I’ve done all right. Like I said, if it wasn’t for the video calling and all of that, I’d really have a hard time,” she said. “The only thing I would say is advice for anyone who is giving birth: it really could be worse, and video chat really does save lives and anxiety.”
Back home, the Creaseys have been taking extra precautions to stay safe. While David is off work due to a temporary closure at his job, he does the shopping. He wears a mask, and he changes his clothes as soon as he walks back in the door.
“I really felt horrible for my wife and her not being able to have the baby shower. With our baby boy being her first baby, I wanted everything to be perfect,” said David. “Unfortunately, things haven't been perfect, but I feel like it's been as close to perfect as it can get, granted these circumstances.”
The same day Creasey was giving birth to her first child, Jessica Hough was too.
Going into the pandemic in her third trimester, Hough was nervous. She was working at Solutions Day Spa, and that made her nervous due to the nature of the work and being up close and personal with every client. When the salon was forced to shut down due to the restrictions, Hough had mixed feelings. She was disappointed that she wouldn’t be able to see her clients for a while, but she was relieved that the decision of whether she would continue working was made for her.
For Hough, she was able to have her baby shower, as it was scheduled for March 15, one day before countywide restrictions were implemented.
Looking forward to her delivery, Hough also realized that her family would be unable to be by her side during the birth of her first child. It was overwhelming, she said.
“We originally wanted our friends and family to come up and be able to see the baby, but due to the restrictions, we couldn’t have anybody. It was just my husband and I, which ended up being fine, but we didn’t get that opportunity that a lot of other moms obviously get to on a normal timeframe,” Hough said.
Since giving birth to a girl, Sloan, Hough’s parents still haven't been able to meet their granddaughter. Hough’s mother has been in quarantine for more than month because she’s high-risk, and her father also has been self-quarantined too.
“We are basically doing window visits, so, my mom, we take the baby up to the door. She just sees the baby through the door for a couple of minutes, and that’s all it’s been. I mean, that has definitely been difficult,” she said.
Hough said she was looking forward to restrictions lifting and being able to introduce her daughter to her family and friends.
Despite the challenges, Hough said she was looking for the positives.
“It was definitely eye-opening. It made me very grateful because I’m getting to spend this extra time with my baby, and I don’t have to share her. However, it makes me very sad that she hasn’t met a lot of her family and friends. As a first-time mom, it made me realize how scary something like this could be, especially since I’ve never given birth before and gone through this.”
While Sarah Brown wasn’t delivering her first baby – she was delivering her sixth – she wasn’t immune to the difficulties the pandemic presented.
She and her husband, Connor Brown, both worked at FCA US’s Kokomo Transmission Plant, which was home to the first person in Howard County to test positive for COVID-19 on March 11. One week later, FCA temporarily closed, and Brown became even more cautious.
Her biggest concern, she said, was that either she or Connor would accidentally bring the virus home to their large family. Even before the stay-at-home order, she said she was doing everything she could to not get sick herself, as she already had a rough case of the flu over the winter, even with a flu shot.
“I made sure when I was out … to only touch what I needed, to disinfect the carts, washed my hands as soon as I got home and eventually started wearing a bandanna mask,” she said.
On March 27, Brown gave birth in a quiet delivery room to her daughter, Lillith Brown.
She was eager to get back home to introduce Lillith to her five siblings, who were being watched by their grandmother. To this day, more than a month later, no one else has been able to meet Lillith.
“We’ve been relying on FaceTime and Facebook to share pics and conversation with family. It’s rough. She’s very squishy and lovable and kissable, but only mommy and daddy now get to enjoy that,” she said.
As for how the situation has affected her overall, she said it has made her warier of strangers, and it has frustrated her kids as they’re unable to go to school. However, her husband has gotten to spend a lot more time with their baby than he would have if he would have been working.
“That’s a positive that I hadn’t expected,” Brown said.