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 Delicia Garza.
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 Delicia Garza’s newborn daughter underwent surgery, an operation that required an overnight hospital stay, the San Antonio woman said it felt like the walls were closing in on her.
The 18-year-old had recently been diagnosed with postpartum depression. Her boyfriend, who is the father of her baby, wasn’t permitted at the hospital, due to COVID-19-related restrictions. And Garza was still recovering from her own surgery, a C-section on April 29.
She felt overwhelmed and a little anxious to be by herself during such a stressful and emotionally heavy time.
That night, after the surgery was complete, Garza breathed a sigh of relief learning that everything went well. Her daughter, Kehlani, who is now about 4 months at this writing, is healthy and thriving. But Garza remembers feeling on edge at the hospital.
“(Kehlani) still had an IV hooked up, and I was scared to change her diaper or hold her,” Garza said. “I’m only 18 — and yes, I just had a baby, but I don’t know everything. She was so little. I was still learning about her. It was so hard being in the hospital alone.”
The night sounded frustrating for Garza’s boyfriend, as well.
Imagine: Your girlfriend and 1 ½-month-old baby are at the hospital, but you can’t attend your infant daughter’s surgery.
“We FaceTimed with him from the hospital, but he was constantly calling and texting me,” Garza said. “It was really hard for him.”
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A kidney fix
To rewind a bit, the fact that Kehlani had to undergo surgery didn’t come as a total surprise for the couple.
In utero, doctors saw Kehlani had a dilated kidney. They sent Garza to a specialist so that medical professionals could learn more.
It appeared that urine was backing up into Kehlani’s kidney. The problem really didn’t worsen or improve throughout the pregnancy, Garza said. And then after Garza delivered Kehlani, doctors performed an ultrasound and confirmed the newborn would need surgery. As mentioned, Kehlani’s first procedure happened earlier this year. She’ll have to undergo another operation when she’s 1 ½ or 2 years old. Doctors couldn’t fix everything at once, based on how little she is, Garza said.
Kehlani now sees a urologist, but she’s otherwise a healthy baby.
A rocky recovery for mom
As for Garza’s surgery, referring again to the C-section, she didn’t mince words. It was rough. She’d never experienced surgery in her life, and then had to undergo a Caesarean.
Garza gave birth at 12:05 a.m. April 29.
She was filled with relief; all went well, her little girl was finally here, but she admitted, “It was really hard not having my mom there. I’m really, really close with my mom.”
When Garza was 8 years old, her father left. She hasn’t spoken with him in several years. But the tumultuous time bonded Garza that much closer to her mom.
And when the coronavirus pandemic first started, Garza was told she could have two people with her at the hospital for labor and delivery. Her boyfriend would count as her overnight guest and she’d get one visitor, which would be her mom, of course.
But then two weeks before Kehlani was born, the hospital changed its rule: There could only be one support person in addition to the laboring mother. Garza felt so sad. The couple FaceTimed with Garza’s mom from the hospital, but it wasn’t the same.
Garza could have used her mother’s help, staying calm through delivery.
When it was time for the C-section, Garza said she started throwing up from all the nerves. And she had gone the whole day without eating, so it was really just ice chips in her system. She was throwing up water. Her boyfriend was equally freaked out.
Even once the baby arrived and the couple got settled into a room, the new parents felt lost. There was so much to take in.
“We’re 18 years old, and not having anyone there (was a challenge),” Garza said. “We had to jump in. We were like, ‘Is this OK? Is this OK?’ and constantly calling in the nurses.”
Recovery felt physically tough. Garza had to receive a lot of fluids and antibiotics after her C-section.
Beyond that, she couldn’t just blow off her other responsibilities.
“I was in the hospital doing my homework,” Garza said. “So was my boyfriend. The baby would be asleep … and we’d be doing homework on the iPad.”
Imagine: 18 years old, in the hospital for several days, no idea what to expect or what comes next, with a new baby already struggling with kidney problems, in the midst of a global pandemic. Garza and her boyfriend had to be strong for each other.
She never imagined feeling so out of it. Her own body felt foreign, on top of everything else.
“When I came home, I couldn’t walk,” Garza said. “I couldn’t sit for too long. I would swell up really bad. I couldn’t sit up much for the first day.”
Growing up fast
There were challenging parts to all of this, as there would be for any couple adjusting to new parenthood, really.
In some ways, Garza at least had time on her side — a little bit.
Seeing as the couple learned about the pregnancy in October 2019, they were able to enjoy some of the pre-COVID benefits together: for example, Garza’s boyfriend could attend most doctors appointments with her before visitor policies tightened. Toward the end of the pregnancy, in April, he had to stop accompanying her, and he wasn’t able to see the kidney specialist.
It wasn’t ideal, but the couple took things as they came. What other options did they have?
In some ways, Garza had to grow up quickly, given the circumstances: learning how to parent and having to weather some of the tough parts on her own.
As for support, she and her boyfriend live with her mom, but as Garza pointed out, “I grew up an only child,” so sometimes, her mom will remind her that it’s been 18 years since she’s had a baby. She doesn’t remember everything.
The mother of Garza’s boyfriend, on the other hand, had a baby about three years ago. She has been an invaluable resource.
“I talk to his family and they understand kids really well,” Garza said. “When I have a question, I call them.”
Garza said she’s been grateful for both families, who are really supportive.
It’s been a whirlwind year for the couple, considering how much the world around them has changed. It’s not just coronavirus. They’re in an entirely different place than they were a year ago.
But Garza said she’s been enjoying motherhood.
“It’s hard, but it’s worth it.”