Giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic was an experience unlike any Nahaja Black had experienced with the birth of her other children. Her husband Marquin was present for each birth, while family and friends eagerly awaited their first glimpse of the newest Black family member. But being surrounded by family and friends to celebrate the birth was not to be their experience with their new baby.
“It definitely was a more lonely experience than I’ve ever experienced before,” said Black from her home on Thursday, one day after she left the hospital with Malik Xavier, who was born via cesarean section on Monday. “There was no family around that you would normally have to celebrate this time with, so it’s definitely lonely in that regard.”
Black’s husband was present in the delivery room, and was able to hold his son, but he was not allowed to visit the hospital over the ensuing days, until it was time to take them home on Wednesday. And she was not allowed visitation of any kind while in hospital, which meant family and friends weren’t able to share in the excitement of the new baby, due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
With no family or friends to help with little things she needed done while in hospital, she constantly called on the nurses to help with things family would normally have assisted with.
“Even my mother (Anita McKenzie) still hasn’t held him yet. She’s seen him, virtually via video and WhatsApp, but she’s not held him; she hasn’t been in proximity.”
At age 74, Black’s mother is considered high risk and among the group of people who have been ordered to stay in their homes by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, as The Bahamas has 24 confirmed coronavirus cases and one death as of Thursday.
The country is also under a 24-hour curfew.
“I don’t want her out and about, and I can’t go to her, so it’s weird…it’s very weird… My father (Roger Knowles) hasn’t seen him. Nobody has seen him yet; this is so unnatural for us. We’re a pretty close family, so this is so weird.”
Black realizes it could be months before her parents, family and friends are able to see him in person and even hold him.
Daisy Strapp, Black’s mother-in-law, is the one family member to have been able to share in the experience of the newborn, as the Blacks moved her into their house a week-and-a-half prior to Black’s due date to assist the family.
“We were saying just get one grandmother in the house before this thing gets crazy, and we were lucky to do it. And it was perfect timing, because that was before the curfew, just preparing for what we saw coming.”
Black is documenting her son’s daily changes through pictures and videos and sending them out to family and friends, allowing them to virtually share in his life.
Although Black admitted the difference in giving birth in the era of COVID-19, the one thing she said hasn’t been compromised is the safety and health of hospital staff and of the mother and baby.
“The hospital was constantly cleaning, which is good, so you felt like the place was clean and safe. Good quality of care. You never felt as if you were being neglected. If you need something, you just press the button and they were there, so that was the same; but the overall experience was very different.”
Due to heightened precautions, Black said she couldn’t recognize any of her nurses, as they were always covered in protective gear from head to toe.
“The assumption is that everyone has COVID-19, which is wise on their behalf.”
She also had a room to herself.
While her husband was not able to visit them, Black was grateful he was able to be there for Malik Xavier’s delivery, considering what’s happening in New York, with some hospitals barring partners from being present during childbirth in an abundance of caution during the coronavirus pandemic.
Worldwide, there are 932,605 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 46,809 deaths.
Malik Xavier is now home and has been introduced to his siblings – Azaria, eight; and Zaniah, six. In bringing him home, she said their protocol is the same as that of all parents of newborns – cleanliness. She said they’re hopeful that none of them have coronavirus.
“Everybody has to be clean. No coughing, no sneezing. You got a runny nose – stay over there. The husband has always been the designated shopper, so he has to take extra precaution when he comes back home just to make sure. When he comes home – shoes off, wash your hands, change clothes, etc.”
The new mom said that describing giving birth during the age of COVID-19 as “interesting” would be an understatement.
“It’s concerning. It’s different. And with it being a C-section, you feel your vulnerability more – you’re not as mobile, you’re painful and within this time of COVID, I have to be extra concerned.”