Dear Mr. Dad: My wife found out she was pregnant late last year -- just a few months before the coronavirus turned our world (and everyone else's) upside down. Fortunately, her pregnancy has been problem-free and we've been able to do many of her prenatal visits with her OB by video conference (although she's had to do a few in-person visits as well). But as the due date approaches (the baby should be here in early August), we're concerned about some aspects of the birth. My wife's sister and mother are both trained, practicing nurse-midwives and were planning to be there along with me. Unfortunately, the hospital has told us that they're limiting the number of support people for moms-to-be to one. I don't want to miss the birth, but I want my wife to have the best possible care. One option we considered was to have the baby at home, but we ruled that out. Given that we're doing the birth at the hospital, who should be her support person? And what can we do to keep my wife healthy for the rest of the pregnancy?
A: Congratulations on the upcoming birth. It's too bad that COVID-19 is making an already-nerve-wracking time even more stressful, but the good news is that your wife's remaining prenatal care and the labor and delivery will most likely proceed pretty much as they would have in normal times. Yes, a lot more people will be wearing masks, but aside from that, there's no indication that giving birth today is any more dangerous than it was a year ago.
So try to relax. Hospitals and birthing centers already take extraordinary precautions to ensure moms' and babies' safety. These days they're taking even more precautions.
To answer your first question, though, you should be your wife's sole support person, for several reason. First of all, you and she have, hopefully, been sheltering in place together, so it's unlikely that you'll infect each other. Your in-laws, even if they've tested negative for the virus, are probably in contact with others (loved ones they live with and the other patients they might be seeing in their practice), each of whom is a potential source of coronavirus infection. I think your in-laws will understand and support your decision.
The second reason to be your wife's support person is that she's bringing your baby into the world. Yes, your wife has the far bigger physical burden to bear, which means her (and the baby's) safety and comfort should be primary. But becoming a dad is a huge event in a man's life and being there for the birth is a rare and wonderful experience.
As far as staying healthy for the rest of the pregnancy, continue to do all the things you've been doing for the past seven or eight weeks: wash your hands thoroughly and frequently with hand sanitizer or soap and warm water; try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth; limit exposure to other people by staying home as much as possible (especially your wife) and restricting guests. If you do have to go out, be sure to wear a mask and keep at least six feet between you and any other humans. Most importantly, stay away from sick people.
When you bring your baby home, all those social-distancing routines become extra important. Plus, you shouldn't allow visitors to your home or take the baby to others' homes either. Babies seem to be quite resistant to COVID, but why take any unnecessary risks?
(Read Armin Brott's blog at www.DadSoup.com, follow him on Twitter, @mrdad, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
(c)2020 Armin Brott
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