Everyday Christian: A birth story from a pandemic world

In January 2020, I fell pregnant with my second child. The world was just starting to learn about COVID-19 as it spread across the globe. I made a series of video diaries for Eternity back then, documenting what it was like to be pregnant during a lockdown.

But what was it like to give birth during the pandemic?

The day started early. It was 5am when the doorbell rang, but I had been awake for about an hour. I quietly welcomed my mother-in-law who had promptly arrived to collect my daughter. The sky was black, and the air was still. I had chosen not to divulge the full details to my almost two-year-old that when mummy goes to hospital to have a baby, we will not be able to see each other for four days. We had never spent even one night apart. I was heartbroken.

I kept the lights off inside the house as I hugged my daughter goodbye, hoping the dark shadows would mask the tears streaming down my face. I tried my best to avoid making a big deal out of our departure. Then my husband and I hurried to the hospital where I was scheduled to be the first C-section of the day .

COVID-19 restrictions meant I could choose only one support person to be with me in hospital. I was not allowed any visitors, including my daughter.

A shocking discovery

Upon arrival at the hospital, I was escorted to a shared room in the maternity ward that I was told would be the place I would stay after giving birth. The space allocated for me was small, dim and cramped. I was disappointed, if not shocked, that this little ‘shoebox’ would be the place where I would have to recover from surgery and care for a newborn. It was clear my husband would not be allowed to stay overnight either.

My pregnancy had been deemed “high-risk” due to a heart condition I’ve had my whole life. This defect, coupled with some other issues from my medical history, meant I received extra good care from a specialised midwife throughout both of my pregnancies. As a result, I got used to a certain level of privilege within our public health system. So I thought there would be no problem getting a transfer to a private room. However, the hospital had closed an entire wing of the maternity ward to reserve for COVID-19 patients. No Medicare-using mother would be given their own room, no matter how high risk their case was.

After a couple of minutes, I could no longer feel cold steel pressed against my skin and the procedure had begun.

The time came to give birth. My husband looked more flustered than me as we entered the operating theatre, after he ran six blocks from the carpark to make it in the knick of time. The mood was sombre. With the anticipation of my spinal epidural, fear was winning a raging battle of emotions within me. When a nurse asked if I was excited about having a baby, I replied “I don’t know.”  The anxiety about undergoing major abdominal surgery, mixed with the miracle of having a precious child, was just too much for me to process.

There is a moment, after birth, where the world rushes out and realisation and wonder rushes in that your baby is finally here.

After a couple of minutes, I could no longer feel cold steel pressed against my skin and the procedure had begun. The surgeon, anaesthetist, nurses, paediatrician, midwife and my husband were all doing an excellent job and before I knew it, a healthy baby boy was placed on my chest. A wonderful blessing from the Lord.

There is a moment, after birth, where the world rushes out and realisation and wonder rushes in that your baby is finally here. The bonding process begins within the surreal reality that a new human, a human you made, now exists in the world. Breastfeeding started immediately, and I recall feeling extremely cold as I embraced my beautiful boy, his tiny body keeping me warm as we had our first skin to skin contact.

These first hours with my baby rendered everything else in the room momentarily obsolete. I wasn’t concerned about the 2 x 3 metre cubicle I laid in as my body gave way to exhaustion for a couple of hours.

Newborn babies, however, are not known for allowing their fatigued parents much shut eye. Between my own baby’s cries that night – and the cries of the other baby next to us – I don’t know if I slept at all.

I don’t want to complain but …

When my husband arrived the following morning, I was a little cranky from sleep deprivation and my senses and awareness of the space had returned. I could wriggle my legs but was otherwise unable to move. I had been laying in the same small space, in the same hospital bed for almost 30 hours. Thankfully he brought coffee, and then squeezed a chair between my bed and the wall. My portion of the room was filled predominantly by my bed and the remaining space could fit a bassinet, one chair and my luggage on the floor. “Good thing I’m not allowed visitors”, I thought.

The grey curtains remained securely closed at all times and the room temperature and hospital lights were a constant. With no windows for natural light available, it was impossible to observe the passing of time or any glimpse of life outside of my baby bubble.

I’d spent the day grumbling about my discomfort, instead of giving it up to God.

I understand this set-up is common in public hospitals for all kinds of operations but since I was physically bound to the bed in such tight quarters, claustrophobia came quickly. The room appeared like a dungeon. I was desperate to go for a walk, to witness life buzzing beyond those walls, to breathe fresh air, but I couldn’t. My mental health was starting to deteriorate.

A short while later I heard a firm and confident voice through the curtain. The family I was sharing a room with had begun to pray. The father thanked God for his baby and prayed earnestly over his family life. My husband and I looked at each other convicted.

I’d spent the day grumbling about my discomfort, instead of giving it up to God.

We too began to thank God for our family’s newest member and asked if he could move me to a more comfortable place. Less than one minute after we finished praying, a nurse suddenly came into my room and relocated me to a space that was at least double the size and had a lounge and window. Hallelujah!

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7 (NIV).

Changing my life forever

I think we all know God can do amazing things if we just remember to ask. But here’s the thing, I thought I was going to get special treatment when I entered the hospital that day. I assumed my high-risk pregnancy and specialised midwife would fix everything and when they couldn’t, I allowed myself to become consumed by my circumstances.

Of course, I had prayed for the safe arrival of my son – but had been too entitled to think of praying about my room.

Relying on what the world provides, instead of God as my provider, was a foolish move.

Having a baby is a remarkable and life-altering experience. I hope the lesson I learned after giving birth during the pandemic – about dependence on God and to never cease praying about ALL things – will also change my life forever.