Parnit Faber knew what was about to happen, as she labored with her third child, breathing heavily through a face mask.
But knowing didn't make the experience any easier.
After Faber gave birth to a boy, a nurse held up the infant for Faber to see, announced his weight -- and then carried him out of the room.
Her son Lucas was healthy. But Faber, of Darien, had tested positive for COVID-19 while giving birth at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, so the baby was taken to neonatal intensive care as a precaution.
Faber didn't get to touch her child. It would be 12 days before she could hold him.
Faber was devastated, but she understood.
"It was just disheartening because what could I do?" said Faber, 39. "All I kept thinking was, I just want to make sure he's OK. I wanted him to be safe."
Chicago-area hospitals, and others across the country, are recommending that mothers with COVID-19 be separated from their newborns right after birth, in line with guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics. They are often apart in the hospital for at least 24 hours, until the baby can go home with the parents -- including the mom, who's advised to keep her distance -- or other family members.
If it's not possible to put the baby in a separate room after birth or a mom wants to keep the baby in her room, the academy suggests making sure the newborn stays at least 6 feet from the mother. Many hospitals are recommending that women with COVID-19 pump breast milk to be fed to their babies by a healthy caregiver; according to the academy, no studies have detected the virus in breast milk.
"It's hard because in all these circumstances, we don't know what the right thing is, but right now, while there's so much uncertainty, we're being very conservative," said Dr. Emily Miller, a maternal fetal medicine physician at Northwestern Medicine Prentice Women's Hospital, where babies born to mothers with COVID-19 are being sent to specially designated nursery rooms.