A Happy Birth, Despite COVID-19

Posted: September 23, 2020

Early Arrival, Dual Surprise

First-time parents Emily Donovan and fiance Brennan Neal of Vacaville were looking forward to their baby’s due date of Aug. 5, but little Daisy decided to surprise them by arriving on July 14.

Daisy’s early arrival wasn’t the only surprise the couple faced, however. Both parents were stunned to learn they tested positive for COVID-19, despite being very diligent about following precautions and not having any symptoms, Emily said.

“My water broke on the 14th and my nurse — Carol Kimura — told me that I was going to be admitted and so I needed to be tested,” Emily recalled. “Carol was in the room with me when she got the call. She picked up the phone and said, ‘Oh, you’re kidding,’ and I knew in that moment the test was positive. I immediately started crying, hyperventilating and panicking. I didn’t know what was going to happen. She calmed me down and told me everything was going to be all right.”

Where could they have contracted the virus? “We have no idea,” Emily said. “I had no symptoms, except for a bit of congestion — a general stuffiness — a couple of days before my water broke. Brennan had no symptoms at all. And we had been so careful, not hanging out with anyone, staying home, wearing masks consistently. Brennan did all the grocery shopping. It was so weird.”

Emily and Brennan’s experience is not the first time a Mom or Dad have been surprised with a positive test result after arriving at NorthBay to deliver their baby, according to Katie Lydon, director of Women and Children’s Services. “It has happened about a dozen times, but all have had good outcomes.”  

The news can be a dream-shattering moment for many, she conceded.

“It’s not the vision they had in their head of what the birthing experience would be,” Katie said. “We’ve heard parents express guilt about what they may have inadvertently done to possibly harm their baby, and shame. It seems like it’s something they feel they need to hide.”

“They are immediately afraid we’re going to take their baby away,” added Amy Ciraulo, clinical nurse leader.

Emily says that very thought crossed her mind in the moments after learning she was COVID-positive, but didn’t express it out loud.

Staff were immediately supportive, Emily said. “The nurses did help reassure us, were as positive as could be, kept saying how crazy it all is but that it wouldn’t be the end of the world.”

Emily was only in labor for about eight hours and Brennan was with her throughout it all.

“If the baby is healthy, the baby will stay with the parent after delivery,” said Amy, who was Emily’s labor nurse. “Everything we are learning about COVID suggests that it is not transmitted in utero. We do test the baby at 24 hours of life, however, and so far they’ve all come back negative.”

Since the pandemic began in March, NorthBay’s Women and Children’s Services has gone to great lengths to establish special precautions for the labor and delivery process and the team works in tandem with the patient’s OB/GYN physician to create a post-partum care plan, Amy added.

During the laboring process, the team — suited up in full PPE — attends to the patient over the course of many hours, especially while the patient is pushing. The laboring mom wears a mask at all times, “because the process of pushing is considered an aerosolizing procedure,” Amy explained.

“We are not able to open any drawers or closets for supplies in the labor room,” she added, “so we have a runner available outside to bring us supplies using a pass bucket.”

Right before the patient delivers, a member of the NICU staff comes into the room to support the baby’s transition to life outside the womb, Amy said.

A specially prepared OR on the floor has been stripped to very minimal supplies and equipment to care for those who may need a C-section. “We also use a runner during the surgery, and it’s a true team effort,” Amy added.

After the baby is born, Mother/Baby staff educate parents about all the precautions they should take to keep their baby safe: Hannah Miner, clinical nurse supervisor in the Obstetrics unit, suited up in full PPE to perform a newborn outpatient check on Daisy the weekend the infant was discharged to home.washing their hands, wearing a mask, keeping a safe distance, and isolating at home, Amy said.

Daisy was discharged on a Friday, after spending two days in the NICU as a precauation. This meant staff needed to do an outpatient recheck of weight and feeding on the weekend. “This was a bit challenging as we don’t typically have COVID outpatients in the hospital,” Amy said, “so Hannah Miner, clinical nurse supervisor, met Emily and Brennan outside at the back door for this outpatient check.”

The 14-day isolation was a difficult adjustment for Emily, Brennan and their parents, at a time when everyone was eager to meet the newest family member. They improvised, though.

“We held Daisy up in the window so they could see her. Once the quarantine was over, my Mom got a COVID test, which turned out negative, and then she was able to help me out.”

Overall, learning she was COVID positive at the last moment provided an unusual and memorable twist to the birth experience, Emily said.

“It wasn’t anything like I expected. I had to wear a mask while delivering her. But, on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it an 8 or 9. I got excellent care from my nurses. When Daisy was in the NICU, Amy called me for updates, and showed me how to use an app so I could see the baby on my phone.”

It will be a story to share with Daisy when she gets older, Emily agreed, but for now “everything is just fine. Daisy is doing great and gaining weight.”

Recent News

Find the best doctor for you.

View our providers in Fairfield and Vacaville.

Find a Specialist