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Birthing new life in a pandemic

Being a new parent means anticipating and preparing for the unexpected, but for young, expecting first-time moms, a global health crisis wasn’t a part of Lamaze class.

Zoe Hutchens, of Farmville, and her partner, Frank Haynes, found out they were pregnant last September. Hutchens, a Longwood University student and employee at the Andy Taylor Center for Early Childhood Development, was seven-and-a-half months along when the COVID-19 pandemic began heavily affecting the area.

Growing pandemic regulations meant Haynes was not able to attend the majority of Hutchens’ appointments. He never got to hear a heartbeat or look at a sonogram, and was only able to be present the day they learned the gender of their baby.

By month eight, Hutchens, who was having blood pressure issues during her pregnancy, was instructed by her doctor to take a leave from work. Although the couple was able to have a baby shower before the pandemic hit, both Hutchens’ and Haynes’ families live hours away. By the time Hutchens’ due date neared, the two were self-quarantining alone in Farmville. A lot of the help expecting parents typically get from family and friends was stripped away due to isolation required from others.

Things did not ease up when the time came. Hutchens was induced at Centra Southside Community Hospital in Farmville Tuesday, May 5, but spent three days in labor before having an emergency C-section and giving birth to an 8-pound 2.2-ounce baby boy May 8.

Complications with the birth caused Hutchens breathing difficulties that led to her sedation and Haynes’ removal from the hospital room. He wasn’t able to cut the cord or see the birth of his son.

After Hutchens stabilized, she and Haynes were finally able to meet and hold their son, Ayden, two to three hours after his birth.

“You know, for a minute I forgot there was a pandemic,” she recalled. “I forgot I was in pain … For a split second you just forget there was anything bad in the world. You just have all this goodness in your hands.”

Bringing the baby home had its own stressors for Hutchens and Haynes. Family and friends were eager to meet Ayden, and it was difficult to ask for space, especially when people can have the virus for weeks and not know it. In fact, most of Hutchens’ family didn’t meet the newest member until last week.

Now, nearly three months later, Ayden is doing great, hitting milestones and growing quickly.

For Hutchens and Haynes, the difficulties of having a new baby are amplified by the concerns surrounding a pandemic. Hutchens is preparing to enter her senior year at Longwood in the fall, studying social work, and working to arrange mostly online classes for the time being.

Her advice to other new moms preparing to welcome a bundle of joy into a pandemic-stricken world? She recommends listening to your own gut and taking things one day at a time.

Madison White’s due date is just two weeks away, and for her, the baby’s nearing arrival is producing a mixture of excitement and anxiousness.

White graduated from Cumberland High School and now lives in Crewe with her fiancé, Austin Higgins. The couple is currently pregnant with their first baby, a boy they plan on naming Lucas Orion.

White and Higgins discovered they were expecting in December, when White was about four weeks along. They were naturally both excited and nervous, but had no idea what was waiting for them in the months to come.

As the pandemic began to spread, the couple was frightened, not knowing how the coronavirus could affect pregnant women and their babies.

Like Haynes, Higgins was not allowed in doctor appointments with White. He was also unable to be present at the ultrasound where they discovered their baby’s gender.

As the health crisis worsened, White and Higgins heard stories about mothers who weren’t allowed to have anyone, including the father, in the delivery room, which caused them immense anxiety.

“Thankfully things have changed,” White said.

Higgins, the couple have learned, will be able to join White as she gives birth. However, Richmond’s Johnston-Willis hospital, where they plan to have the baby, will not be allowing visitors. White said this might not be all bad, as it will give her and Higgins some time alone with their son.

“Planning for a newborn in the middle of this pandemic has been stressful,” she said. “We don’t know what to expect with numbers rising again. With having reduced how many people I have been around, it was fairly lonely in the beginning. Most women are able to surround themselves with friends and family before the baby arrives, and it has been difficult to do that.”

To prepare for birth, White is quarantining herself for two weeks before her due date of Aug. 21. The couple hope for a natural delivery, however, because Lucas is a breech baby, White may be induced earlier on Aug. 17. She’s also been wearing a mask in public and practicing social distancing in the meantime.

The couple, White said, will only be allowing immediate family around their son for the first couple of weeks after his birth.

Despite the fears and complications associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, White and Higgins are anxious for Lucas’ arrival. It’s a date that can’t come soon enough for these COVID-era parents.