Birth Story: “Would the hospital be a safe place during a pandemic?”

Annie is a mom of three boys and married to Mark. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she gave birth to their first little girl. Below is their story. 

After having three boys, we were so excited (and shocked) to find out that we were pregnant with a little girl. Then two months away from my due date, the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic. Suddenly I realized: my baby is going to come in the middle of all this COVID-19 craziness. I started to get a little nervous.  

I knew I had to stay calm instead of going to full-on fear, but I still worried. I heard there was a chance that laboring moms might have to deliver without a support person. I was also nervous about being around other patients who would be infected with the virus. Would the hospital be a safe place during a pandemic?

I brought all of my concerns to my OB-GYN Dr. Aimee VanStraaten and she was really helpful. She walked me through how everything would go when we got to St. Luke’s. She told me about all the precautions that were in place, like having security check points and everyone wearing masks. She let me know that I would be able to have my husband with me during the delivery. Talking to her eased my worries and made me feel ready for what was ahead of us. Everything went as planned up until 35 weeks in.

An extra-early delivery
All of my kids had come a little bit early, so I was anticipating that again with my fourth. Around 34 weeks I was having some contractions here and there, but nothing consistent. Then a week later on April 3, my water broke. I was packing lunches, stood up to put things back in the fridge and suddenly it just happened. I was sure she’d be early, but I wasn’t expecting her to come that early. 

I called St. Luke’s Birthing Center to let them know, and they told us we should start making our way to the hospital. We scrambled to get things together. My mom was with us, so I knew she’d be able to stay with the boys. We said bye to everyone, got in the car and started the hour-long drive to Duluth. 

During the car ride I was excited, but also nervous. I was a little worried about how early everything was happening. I hoped she would be okay and prayed that there would be no complications for either of us. When we got to St. Luke’s around 3 pm, I remember thinking: Well, here we go!

Slow and steady to fast and furious
We walked in and stopped at the security check point, just like Dr. VanStraaten had said. Everything was really was quiet, peaceful and calm. The main difference was that everyone was wearing a mask, and I got used to that pretty quick. I could tell everyone was being extra cautious and careful, and it made us feel really safe.

Once we were in our room, I started walking around to help keep things going. At 8 pm I hadn’t progressed, so they started me on Pitocin. Then at 9:30 pm, my contractions started to get a little bit more intense. 

I had delivered all my boys with no pain medicine, and that was the plan for my fourth. I dealt with the contractions mostly through steady breathing – in through the nose, out through the mouth. I also really helped to sit on the birthing ball. We lowered the bed down enough for me to lean over it with my shoulders and chest. My belly hung between the bed and the ball, and when a contraction came I would squeeze the blanket and just breathe through it.

Everything was going pretty slow and steady…until it was fast and furious! Around 11:30 pm, the contractions were getting more intense and I started wanting to push. I told the nurses. They watched a couple contractions and they called the doctor to come check. In the meantime, I knew I needed to get on the bed! 

Welcome to the world, Maryn
new born babyI had another hard contraction where my body wanted to push at the end. I could feel what they call the ring of fire – a lot of pressure and stretching. I laid back on the bed and the resident doctor came to take a look at how far along I was. Once she did, I heard her say, “Oh! There’s the head!”
In about 7 minutes after that, Maryn came out on one last strong contraction. Once I saw her I was overwhelmed with emotions. She was just a tiny little peanut with

 lots of dark hair, only 5 pounds, 14.8 ounces! They brought her to my chest and I was able to snuggle her right away. Even though I had delivered three babies before her, this moment wasn’t any less amazing to me.

I was wondering if we’d be sad that we wouldn’t be able to have visitors, but we ended up kind of enjoying that. It was so peaceful and calm, and Mark and I just got to enjoy and adjust to her. Having three busy kids at home, that was really special and relaxing for us. 

Overall, the staff at St. Luke’s Birthing Center is just top notch. We especially appreciated the pediatric hospitalists, Dr. Jordan Blessing and Dr. Carley Udland. They talked us through how to protect Maryn during the pandemic and really helped us feel safe. The nurses were just great, too. I loved that they do what they’re supposed to do whether there’s a pandemic going or not. How we were cared for was really outstanding.  


To read more birth stories from moms like Annie, visit slhduluth.com/BirthStories.

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.

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