An Open Letter to Expectant Parents During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Adrienne M. Buckley, R.N.
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Good Housekeeping

Dear Mothers and Fathers of Babies on the Way,

What a great challenge lies uniquely before you in these trying times.

I write this letter to lend you support, if I can, in the untenable circumstances where you now find yourselves.

The COVID-19 virus, a mere strand of RNA far tinier than your baby was at conception, has threatened all that we hold dear in our society — not only our freedom to move about, but also our sense of safety and our ability to protect the individuals we cherish. Concerns about travel restrictions, and even the possibility of state border closures, pale in comparison to the manner in which your lives were upended this past week, with hospitals enacting measures to prevent viral spread which denied some women a birthing partner during labor. A NYS Executive Order has now guaranteed every woman in New York the right to choose someone to accompany her during labor and the postpartum period. For some this offers great relief, and yet this turn of events has shed light on an even bigger question that remains.

Pregnant women now face the infinitely complex decision of whether to risk exposing a beloved spouse — perhaps the only other guardian for older children — or another loved one, simply by asking them to leave the relative safety of home and enter the hospital environment. The equally challenging alternative is to manage the unparalleled physiological and emotional changes of the labor process on her own. For a woman who is suspected or even positive for the coronavirus, the stakes of this decision are raised exponentially, while she simultaneously confronts her fear for the well-being of her unborn child and herself.

Mothers of the yet-to-be-born, I ask you, is there anything you would not do to protect your dear child? Many of you have already forsworn, what seemed at the time, to be the unfathomable. For some it has been nicotine, for some coffee and/or alcoholic beverages to an extent. Some of you are on bedrest, unable to continue your employment as you had expected, or to care for older children in the way you feel is right or best. And now more is being asked of you by this invisible enemy that we collectively face: by hospital administrators, by your physicians, by the government, and by yourselves... I ask you, would you have considered canceling travel to the tropics had you been pregnant during the Zika virus scare — a recent yet now distant memory? Might you have done that, of your own volition, to protect your dear child?

Husbands, wives, and partners of women set to deliver, I pose to you: Have any of you experienced cold or flu symptoms in the past two months? Has this experience affected you any differently than it might have as recently as this past Thanksgiving? We do not yet know the impact of the novel coronavirus on an unborn child. Pair this unknown with reports of asymptomatic cases, and I imagine now to be a very scary time for you all. And so I ask, if you were to feel signs coming on — indications which could easily be explained by a simple common cold — is there anything that you would not do in the current climate to protect your precious baby?

As a nurse and mother of three, you and your families have my greatest empathy. Please know that you are not alone. You are — as has recently been coined — Alone Together. In having to make this difficult choice, you are Alone Together with expectant couples around the world today. Some of you, whether due to illness or another factor, will indeed labor physically separated from your partners — but Alone Together. And all of you will labor with the most powerful force you can imagine, Alone Together with women throughout history who have experienced this very plight. Women in wartime whose husbands would never meet their babies. Women in refugee camps whose futures were wholly uncertain. Grandmothers and great-grandmothers who labored without sedation or anesthesia, some of them, yes, Alone, but Together in their womanhood. Together in their strength.

I hope, as you navigate these waters, those of you who read this will experience another emotion, that of resolve — the resolve to center yourself, each and every one of you, and draw upon your inner strength. You possess the strength to protect your baby no matter the circumstances, no matter the fear or discomfort you face as a mother. You are your child's greatest protector, and you will prevail as you make this tenuous decision. Your darling baby is counting on you Alone to meet every need. Alone, you can do it, and if need be, you will.

When you reach the wall that is this virus, know that you can choose resolve. Resolve to turn toward the fighting strength and survivor instinct inside of you. Leave the panic, fear, anger, and frustration in the dust. You can do this.

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