Author’s note: This is not MY personal story, per se, (despite the “my pandemic pregnancy” headline), but a story told by our readers, week by week. Today’s is shared by Patricia Alvarez.
You might have heard that being pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or delivering right about now is strange, in this age of coronavirus. But how? In what ways? We’re going to tell you. To contribute your own experience, scroll all the way down to the bottom of this article and tap the link.
When she was six months along in her pregnancy, Patricia Alvarez tested positive for coronavirus.
Physically, she felt awful. Her husband got really sick, too.
“It was kind of like the cold and the flu together,” Alvarez said. “My husband got sick first, and he was SICK -- laying in bed, not moving at one point. I’d come in and give him food, and then days later, I got sick.”
The 30-year-old said she experienced body aches, chills, headaches and “unbelievable coughing.”
“I felt like I was always coughing,” Alvarez said. " … Having it in April, people looked at you like you were the walking dead.”
How exactly the couple stumbled into their coronavirus diagnosis was a bit of a mess, as well. They were first told they had acute bronchitis. But they continued to feel sick, so a nurse from a nearby ER came to the house for COVID testing.
That’s when Alvarez learned she was positive, and started to fret. Being so far along in her pregnancy, would the baby be OK? She felt like she couldn’t catch a break. There was mucus, it was all pretty flu-like, and then she lost her senses of smell and taste.
“When that happened, it scared me,” Alvarez said. “You couldn’t smell anything at all. And at six months pregnant, for about three weeks, I only ate a few slices of bread a day.”
She lost a lot of weight.
But her doctor wasn’t overly concerned, advising protein shakes and telling her that every pregnancy is different.
“I said, ‘Yeah, this is definitely different,’” Alvarez recalled.
Once she felt up to it, she got online, researching and trying to look up information about COVID-positive pregnancies, but she wasn’t able to find much.
Alvarez asked her doctor what it all meant for the baby, but not a lot is known in the grand scheme of things, even still. She was given some reassurance, but the situation felt unsettling, Alvarez said.
What was even more unsettling was, Alvarez wasn’t permitted to go to her doctor’s office until she had recovered from COVID-19.
Instead, she attended appointments over the phone.
At every appointment, Alvarez said, she asked about whether more research had been conducted and what her doctor could pass along. It was hard to get answers, because they’re just not out there yet.
Overall, it was a challenging time.
Alvarez and her husband have three other children, ages 1, 7 and 10. They live in Baytown, right outside Houston, Texas, and share a home with Alvarez’s mother, brother and sister-in-law.
Not all the adults in the home got tested for coronavirus, but most of them seemed sick in the same way, at some point. Some of the children became ill as well, but the doctor said to give them cold medicine or treat their ailments like any other cold.
“But for me and my husband, it took us about a month to get over it,” Alvarez said.
Luckily, Alvarez’s mother was asymptomatic, so she was able to help care for the children.
“But my 1-year-old is clingy to me,” Alvarez said. “Our community really helped us out because we’re teachers.”
Her husband is a high school football coach, as well. The whole household quarantined for two weeks. Staff members, parents, and even people from the nearby hospital all brought dinners and a lot of support.
And for that, the family was immensely grateful.
Alvarez’s newest baby, Sebastian Alonso, was born Aug. 6. He’s a happy and healthy little boy.
Considering this is Alvarez’s fourth child, her doctor warned her: He could come quickly once labor started.
And he sure did. There was a bit of a close call, actually.
To rewind a bit, doctors had scheduled Alvarez for induction Aug. 10, but then she experienced some leakage on Aug. 6. She drove herself to the hospital, where medical workers confirmed: Yes, that was her water that had broken.
Alvarez needed to test negative for COVID-19 before her husband was allowed inside as a visitor. She’d taken the test that morning, but the results hadn’t come in yet.
It was about 4 p.m. Aug. 6 when Alvarez arrived at labor and delivery to have her son.
Alvarez’s husband had intended to meet her there; in fact, when he got the news that the baby was likely coming soon, he had rushed home, grabbed the hospital bags, went back to try to be by his wife’s side, and that’s when he learned he wasn’t allowed inside.
“The hospital wouldn’t let him in,” Alvarez said. “They wouldn’t let him into the hospital (at all). I don’t just mean my room. I mean the building.”
Workers said they were still waiting on her COVID-19 results, and their hands were tied.
Alvarez was busy getting checked in, working with one nurse only, who was dressed in what appeared to be a full Hazmat-type suit. She said she’d be the only one allowed to see Alvarez until doctors could confirm she was COVID-negative.
Alvarez asked about how long that would take.
She was told four to eight hours.
“I was like, ‘This is baby number four. I could have this baby!’” Alvarez said.
The nurse promised she’d try to get the results expedited.
Meanwhile, her husband was upset by what had transpired. Alvarez’s phone was on 1% battery and she said she was frantically texting him, saying things like, “My phone is about to die. I don’t know how I’m going to talk to you!"
Without many other options, Alvarez told him to go home.
About two hours later, she said, the nurse came in and said test results were good -- no coronavirus, and her husband was welcome at the hospital. He drove right over.
Everything had gone a lot faster than Alvarez expected. She had arrived at the hospital at 4 p.m., and Sebastian was born at 8 p.m. So if the test had really taken four to eight hours from that first timing estimate the nurse provided, Alvarez’s husband really might have missed the birth.
It was a scare, especially considering this will be their final child, Alvarez said.
Alvarez missed having her mom at the hospital, as well. It was nice that her mother could help with childcare for the older kids, but the two spoke over FaceTime and you could tell she was emotional to miss the big moment, Alvarez said.
She took the other children clothes shopping instead, to keep her mind off not being able to attend the birth.
The positive news is, this family has been through some of the worst of it: COVID-19, Alvarez’s husband being denied at the hospital with two hours until the birth of his child -- phew, it feels good to get those moments in the rear-view mirror.
These days, the family is slowly but surely settling into a routine.
Alvarez admitted life is “pretty hectic,” as teachers with four kids, but she and her husband are grateful they’ve made it this far. Alvarez still looks back at Sebastian’s birthday and shudders at what could have been.
If she had tested positive again, she would have been without a single visitor -- and the doctors would have taken the baby out of the room after he was born. Alvarez did have to deliver in a face mask, but said all things considered, it wasn’t the worst; just a little uncomfortable. She opted to have an epidural, which helped.
And now, because Alvarez is breastfeeding Sebastian, the doctors have told her they’re in a strong position: He’s getting antibodies from her.
She’s trying to stay upbeat and calm, despite the pandemic still going on all around us. Stress, after all, hurts milk production, she said. And no one wants that.
Alvarez is currently on maternity leave, but her husband has returned to his teaching and coaching job.
They both have extended contracts, meaning they work more than most teachers. During a lot of her summer break, Alvarez was continuing to work and trying to prepare for her leave.
After one week of virtual teaching, she’ll return to face-to-face instruction, which will happen later this month.
“I know the circumstances are not ideal, but I have to try to keep faith that everything will be OK,” Alvarez said.
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