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Friday, March 26, 2021

COVID Positive - Whitney Pt. III

It was Sunday the 21, exactly one week before my due date. Adam had worked a 14-hour shift the day before and after a restless night of sleep, he woke up with a headache, common after a long day of physical work in the cold. After a slow morning, we cleaned up and headed out the door for a trip to Norwalk, a last socially distanced visit with his family and friends before the baby showed up. Because we were a week from his due date and just to be safe, we packed our overnight bags and car seat into the car along with the dogs and headed to Norwalk. We stopped at a favorite park in the city so the dogs could run around and stretch their legs after the ride. It was a sunny winter day and we walked hand in hand, hoping Baby Grossmann would show up already while simultaneously enjoying what could be our last weekend as a family of 2. We met Adams' sister, brother-in-law, nephews, and mother outside at the ice cream shop before heading back to Old Saybrook (all wearing masks and distancing).

During the car ride home, Adam started to feel sick and it all seemed to happen fast. His throat was burning and he felt overall fatigued and just generally unwell. We started to panic, knowing our son was due any day and seriously concerned that Adam’s health was not taking a turn for the worst. Of course, we were worried about covet but also concerned about strep and the flu. I immediately got on my phone to see if I could find a testing center open to see if this onset of symptoms was in fact COVID-19. Because it was already 6pm on a Sunday night, our only option was to wait for a test the next day. I was so aggravated that an actual year into this virus, we couldn't get to a testing center the second we noticed symptoms. Adam called the emergency line for his doctor and I called the emergency line for my OB, letting them know the situation we were in. At this point, we started to quarantine away from each other, sleeping in separate bedrooms and using separate bathrooms. We knew the damage was likely already done as we had spent the day together, 2 hours in the car even but still knew distancing was the only responsible thing to do.

Adam's doctor scheduled a PCR test for him the next morning and we booked a rapid test at the CVS in Guilford for 6pm later that same day. The PCR test had a turnaround time of 1-3 days while the rapid test has results within the hour. We anxiously awaited for that 6pm test and Adam started to feel worst and worst. He was locked in our guest room where I would leave food and water outside his door. I spent most of the evening and that Sunday night breaking down into panicked hard to breathe sobbing sessions. I was terrified of what a positive COVID-19 diagnosis would mean. It would mean that my biggest fear and the one thing I was worried most about during this entire pandemic over the last year had come true - birth by myself.

My doctors confirmed that if Adam tested positive, he would need 10 days of quarantine and 72 hours without symptoms before being allowed to come to the hospital. I was due in 7. At this point, I was almost manic, distraught over the fact that I would potentially have to go to the hospital and have our child by myself. Every vision I had of him by my side, helping me through the pain, of seeing our son for the first time with me was evaporating. He had missed the entire pregnancy, not allowed to attend a single appointment or ultrasound and being able to attend the birth was the only thing that was keeping us sane through this pandemic pregnancy.

Monday morning came and Adam went to his morning test and then finally, his rapid test. The phone call that happened next is one I don’t think I will ever shake from my memory. The test was at 530 and by 6 o clock, I couldn't take the wait. I called Adam and heard him sobbing at the other end of the line as he said “I'm Positive”. He sobbed and I sobbed and he whispered over and over into the phone “I'm so sorry, I’m so sorry”. I tried my best to assure him we would be okay and getting him home safe was our only goal at the moment.

Once home, there was definitely a somber mood around the house, we went to bed in different rooms, heartbroken about the test results, nervous about my results as I was getting tested the following day, and hoping for the first time that the baby would come after his due date.

Sometime in the middle of the night, I noticed I was leaking some sort of fluid, too noticeable and a large enough amount that I knew it wasn’t vaginal discharge, and the way I could feel it, I was quite confident it wasn’t urine. I called the doctors the next day and told them about the fluid. Normally, you would just go to the office of your OBGYN where they would swab you to see if the fluid was amniotic or discharge/urine. Because I was living with someone who had tested positive, this was not an option and instead, I was told to head to Yale-New Haven Hospital where they would perform the swab in the covid unit of the hospital. I asked if I could drive myself as I knew I could potentially be COVID+ as well and Adam and I were still quarantining meaning he was out of the picture too. I could tell a lot of people did not feel comfortable being around someone COVID positive but thankfully, two friends offered to drive me. Mary Ellen, a friend from the equestrian angle of my life had one vaccine and without a moment's hesitation agreed to drive me to Yale. I grabbed my overnight bag out of her car, leaving the other bags behind (pillows, blankets, his bag, nurse thank you gifts, Adam’s bag).

We took the necessary precautions, me in the backseat with the window cracked to create some distance and add in airflow. We both wore double masks and I put on gloves before getting in the car. 30 minutes later, we were pulling into the hospital where I had to wait for someone in full PPE (double mask, goggles, face shield, hair cover, scrubs, gown cover). As I waited in the car, I saw a happy couple walk out of the doors with their brand new baby in his car seat, loading up this precious cargo and heading home. This image nearly broke me as I erupted back into sobs, knowing that this happy image I had envisioned for so long wasn’t going to be in the cards for me. COVID took a lot away from me this year, it forced me to replan my wedding, scrap a honeymoon, quit my job and spend a lot of time home alone. It also meant that Adam was unable to come to a single appointment. He wasn’t there at 8 weeks when we confirmed the pregnancy. He wasn’t there at 20 weeks when we did the full anatomy scan and saw our little boy kicking and punching on the monitor for the first time. This left me in tears at various points over the 9 months but the saving grace was knowing that the hospital was allowing a support person and while Adam missed the pregnancy as far as appointments go, he would be there for the birth. It was the one thing that kept me sane through the most insane year - that Adam would be there to hold my hand through the contractions and I would see the tears in his eyes as the doctors handed over our son to meet his father for the very first time.

I held onto some scrap of hope as I sat in the car waiting for the nurse. I hoped I would be there for a quick swab, a conclusion that it was just urine or discharge and I would be back home by dinner. I held so dearly onto the notion that the first babies are usually late and that there was still a chance he would arrive after my due date and after the 10-day quarantine which would allow Adam to be with me.

Once at the hospital, Mary Ellen wanted to wait but I insisted she head home and I would let her know when I needed a ride back home. Little did I know, this was going to be the last time I saw the outside world until Friday evening. My fully geared nurse arrived and I followed her, hauling my overnight bag "just in case" where she eventually led me to a large room in the new to 2020 COVID labor and delivery area of the hospital. 

The room was impressively large with a hospital bed next to the computer machines, a rocking chair, an incubator/crib area, a cot, and a large air filter system. Every time I looked over at the cot I burst into tears all over again, knowing that's where Adam would sleep, and that he should be here, in disbelief he was likely going to be missing the birth of our son. Once in the room, I changed into a gown and hopped on the bed, waiting for someone to perform the swab to see if my water had in fact broken. I met a few nurses and doctors, all donned in extensive PPE which made the process all even more dehumanizing and so hard to tell anyone apart.  Dr. Baumbusch (one of the OBs I really liked and the one I had spoken to on the phone the night before) was on staff that day at the hospital but was having a busy day in the OR. 

Eventually, a resident came and performed the swab and just a few minutes before the microscope confirmed it was amniotic fluid, I felt the GUSH of water while alone in the hospital bed and knew that there was no mistaking this. I paged the nurses and at the moment, I realized we were NOT making it to the 10-day mark of Adam’s quarantine. I could unpack my bag because I was not leaving this hospital without a baby

The next important step was to swab me for COVID which was much more uncomfortable than I imagined as it felt like she was tickling my brain (each nostril was swabbed). The results were sent off to the in-house lab and she told me the results were very accurate and we should know in about 2 hours. The nurses and doctors kept asking me if I had a backup plan because Adam couldn’t be there as a COVID+ support person. Several nurses asked if there was anyone else I would like to be there. If you need to know one thing about me, it’s that I am not a super touchy feeling kind of person. Hugging makes me uncomfortable and I continually turn down the free massage as your nails dry at the salon because I hate the idea of some stranger touching me. My initial instinct was to have my sister be there with me but she had been going through some severe COVID paranoia and with underlying kidney disease, it didn't seem fair to ask. Two of my good girlfriends (both moms) also offered to be there and did not want me going through it alone. 

I told the doctors and my friends that once we received my COVID test results I would make a decision. As I sat there in this negative pressure room watching everything dressed like we were in an anthrax exposure zone, it just didn't seem fair to make a decision without the results. The doctor agreed but to do her due diligence, reminded me that a negative result could be false, meaning that my exposure may have been too recent to be picked up by a test. It was at this point that I realized I was going to do this alone, that it wasn’t fair to expose my friends with babies of their own to a virus they had evaded until now. I sat there in my tears processing how the rest of my stay was going to unfold when I finally got the results of my test back. I was 39 weeks pregnant in labor at Yale-New Haven Hospital and I had contracted COVID-19.  I was going to go through labor, delivery, and recovery with my newborn son alone. 

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