Kelly is a mom and an RN at St. Luke’s Birthing Center. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she gave birth to her second child. Below is her story.
After delivering my son at St. Luke’s Birthing Center, I knew I wanted to work there. I was just graduating from nursing school at the time. I applied and was hired three months after his birth. Then, I found out I was pregnant again three years later in September of 2019. I was so excited.
With my first, everything was brand new. I didn’t know what I was doing. So, it was really neat to go into a second pregnancy with so much experience. However, that also meant that I was going into it more aware of all the things that could go wrong, even if the chances were small. My OB-GYN Dr. Mallof was such a calming voice. I am very grateful for how she talked me through my anxieties.
In January of 2020, we started to hear more about the COVID-19 pandemic. There was an uptick of cases in New York, but we didn’t think much about it. Then in March, Governor Walz shut down all the schools. That was the first time I thought: Whoa, this is getting serious.
Preparing to deliver in a pandemic
I started looking into how the virus was affecting pregnancies. Pregnant women were put in a high-risk category, and I was grateful for that. It helped me keep myself in check. I started to be really aware of where I was going and what I was touching. I sanitized everything, made sure I was washing my hands really well and didn’t touch my face.
In the midst of everything, the overall attitude of the Birthing Center staff stayed really upbeat. Everyone was so supportive of each other. We took the precautions really seriously. I felt really safe working there.
A new recommendation came out that if a mom tested positive for COVID-19 or was symptomatic, she should separate from her baby. I did not want to be in that position, so I decided I was going to quarantine myself before my delivery date. I requested an early maternity leave and left work when I was 37 weeks pregnant.
Therapeutic sleep, a magical bathtub and nitrous oxide
When I got to 40 weeks, I went into see Dr. Mallof to have my membrane swept. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks, and I had started to dilate. The day after that appointment, my contractions got a little more intense. By 9:30 pm, I knew it was time for us to go to the hospital.
When my husband and I got to St. Luke’s I was only 2 centimeters (cm) dilated, which is pretty early. They recommended therapeutic sleep, so I’d nap, wake up with a contraction and then fall back asleep. At about 3:30 am, my contractions were getting more intense and I wasn’t able to sleep in between them anymore. I got into the bathtub. The bathtub was magical. An hour and a half later, I had dilated to 7 cm.
I don’t like to think of labor in terms of pain, just intensity, and at this point things had gotten pretty intense. I could barely talk. I wasn’t against getting an epidural, but my nurse knew I would prefer not to have one, so she suggested I try nitrous (nitrous oxide).
After that, I got into a good rhythm. I’d feel a contraction ramp up, find something on the wall to focus on, put the nitrous up to my mouth and breathe deeply. It makes you feel a little bubbly headed and tingly, but it goes away once you stop breathing it in. It doesn’t take away the pain, but it does take away the anxiety of the pain. I kept on with this until I was dilated to 9.5 cm. Then Dr. Mallof broke my water to help things along. Right after that, I dilated to 10 cm and it was time to start pushing.
Welcome to the world, Iris
With my son, pushing was sweet relief. It was a huge change in how my body felt. This time, pushing was actually really hard for me. In the last 10 minutes before she was born, I actually started to feel hopeless. I was thinking: I cannot do this. This is too much. I don’t have the ability to do this.
But everyone was cheering me on. They all kept telling me that I could do it, that we were almost there. That’s what got me through until I finally heard Iris for the first time.
She came out screaming. We like babies that come out screaming because it helps clear their lungs. They put her on my skin right away. It was amazing to finally hear and see her. You go through all this work, and finally the little human you’ve been dreaming about for the last nine months is there. My care team waited for the cord to stop pulsing, and then they clamped and cut it. I held and nursed her. It was hands down one of the best experiences of my life.
Overall, I feel like I got the same treatment from my coworkers that any mom would at St. Luke’s Birthing Center. Even with the pandemic going on, I felt safe and cared for. I think it’s important for moms to know that they’re going to be treated like family at St. Luke’s, and that they can really trust their care team.
Read more birth stories from moms like Kelly.
St. Luke’s Birthing Center is located in Duluth, MN, with St. Luke’s clinics in the surrounding region, including Superior, WI. To schedule a tour of St. Luke’s Birthing Center, call 218.249.5605.