What is it like to welcome a baby into the world during a pandemic? SDPB's Lura Roti visits with newborn Charlie Bies's parents, grandparents and doctor to find out.
Four-days old in this recording, Charlie Bies won’t understand until he’s much older, but he was born during an unprecedented time. And unlike the experience his big sister, Adelaide had when she was born nearly two years ago, many of those who love him, have not been able to cuddle him yet.
“This was just so different for us. The other times we got to go right up there and hold them right away and see them right away. I didn’t get to hold him until a week later,” says Mary Hochstein.
That’s one of Charlie’s grandmas, Mary Hochstein. She and her husband, Jeff consider themselves fortunate because all three of their children and all six of their grandchildren live nearby. But, unlike her other five grandchildren, she was not able to visit Charlie in the hospital the day he was born. Instead, she had to stay put in their Yankton home. This is due to a no-visitor’s allowed hospital policy designed to protect patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Keeping everyone out of the hospital and taking extra precautions, we have to be smart about this,” says Mary Hochstein.
Keeping patients safe is the number one focus, explains Dr. Michael McNamara, Maternal Fetal Medicine Physician with Sanford Health.
“It’s certainly difficult for the extended families but we’re trying to certainly protect our staff, but we also protect the families too. Because you know, if we have a lot of families that come up here, they’re going to be exposed to other families,” says McNamara. “You know it’s a difficult thing. And at the end of the day, we hope that it’s not a bad experience. And mom and dad can go home with the baby, and then the family can meet them at that time.”
Screeners at the hospital entrance. No visitors. Limited human interaction. And wearing a mask throughout their entire hospital stay, including labor and delivery, are the main differences between Charlie’s birth and Adelaide’s. Other than that, having a baby during the COVID pandemic is much the same as before, explains parents Sara and Brad Bies.
“It was a normal hospital routine without visitors around,” Brad says. “I wasn’t happy we couldn’t share him with people, but it was almost a relief there wouldn’t be anyone stopping by to visit at an awkward moment or inopportune time or if we were tired because there weren’t any visitors.”
The couple says they were very grateful Brad was able to join and support Sara throughout the process. Not having him by her side during labor and delivery was their biggest concern. She was 30 weeks along when the pandemic began.
“When it all first started, when we first started staying home, it was the time I was most nervous because we had no idea what to expect,” Sara says.
Although he was able to be by her side to welcome Charlie into the world, Brad was not able to attend the last few prenatal visits.
“If there’s been a hard part of the process, it has been when Sara went to OB appointments, I couldn’t join her, so we used Facetime or speaker phone,” Brad says.
They rely on this same technology to keep Charlie and Adelaide connected to their grandparents. A screen connection just isn’t the same explains Grandma Mary and Grandpa Jeff.
“It is tough because we haven’t really seen our other four grandkids for probably two months,” says Mary Hochstein. “We just stop over and wave to them. We Facetime, but it is just not the same. They want to show you their room, they want to show you what they’ve drawn. They want to show you their stuff. And Yeah.”
“I’m sorry, Mary is getting a little emotional,” says Jeff Hochstein. “It is hard being a grandparent in this day. We went over to see our grandsons and we were not able to hug them. We stood in the yard and talked to them in the yard. The youngest one would run up. He knew he couldn’t hug us. He would stand right there and wanted a hug.”
Now safe at home, big sister Adelaide and the rest of Charlie’s family is enjoying getting to know him.
“We are excited to add to the family and continue this adventure that is now four of us,” Brad says.
To view photos and video of the Bies family, visit www.sdpb.org.