It started with the baby shower.
Then Grandma and Grandpa’s visit from California.
And once Kelli Bello gave birth to her twins, more plans were scrapped.
Big sister Juniper wouldn’t be able to meet her new sisters at the hospital.
A newborn photo shoot was out of the question.
“There are so many things that come from your community when you bring new babies into the world, and we just slowly watched all those fall by the wayside as the virus progressed,” said Bello, who’s 35.
Women like Bello have had to upend some of their plans for delivery — and bringing baby home — as the threat of the novel coronavirus became more serious and as hospital protocol continued to evolve. Revised visitor policies and extra protective equipment are some of the bigger changes to local hospitals’ labor and delivery floors.
“People are still going to have babies in the middle of a pandemic,” said Dr. Tifany Somer-Shely, an OB-GYN with Methodist Physicians Clinic. “We’re one of the only parts of the hospital going ahead, business as usual, visitor policy aside.”
As Bello got closer to her due date, she let some of her birth plans slide. She was becoming more anxious as the virus progressed and as the state saw more cases of community spread.
She delivered twins, Joslyn and Marigold, on March 26 with husband Brian by her side.
The twins remain in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Nebraska Medical Center. Because Joslyn had gone home for a brief stint, she had to stay in an isolation unit when she returned to the hospital to eliminate any potential exposure risk.
When Bello visited her four-day-old daughter, she had to suit up in a mask, gown and gloves. Then she walked a careful path across the unit to visit her other daughter.
Bello goes back and forth to the hospital, which feels to her like the “front lines.” She puts a mask on and washes her hands at the hospital’s main entrance. Once she gets to the NICU, she has her temperature taken before she can head back. Meanwhile, her husband works from home and takes care of daughter Juniper.
Methodist Women’s Hospital has made similar adjustments in how it handles patients and visitors. People who enter the hospital are given a mask at the door and have their temperature taken. They also are screened for symptoms of the virus and asked about recent travel.
“If there’s one thing that’s consistent, it’s the inconsistency of the environment these days,” Somer-Shely said. “You have to remain flexible at all times.”
The precautions put in place for hospital visits and doctor’s appointments have made Davina Schrier feel safe.
Schrier, 39, is days away from giving birth to her first child at Methodist Women’s. When Schrier found out she was pregnant, delivering a baby during a pandemic was the furthest thing from her mind.
Schrier and husband Scott always knew they wanted a family, but they had struggles and disappointments along the way.
“It hasn’t gone exactly how we wanted it to go. That’s been part of us building a family,” Schrier said. “Now we’re just so happy and excited that we’re doing everything we can to not let this put a damper on that.”
The biggest disappointment, even bigger than a canceled baby shower, is not knowing when her son’s out-of-town grandparents will be able to visit.
“He’s only going to be a newborn once. Everyone has been so supportive and knows how long we’ve wanted this family,” Schrier said. “It’s going to be really hard for them to not celebrate with us and meet him right away.”
Schrier said she knows things could change by her due date, but she understands that the policies are in her best interest.
“Here I have been so proud of myself to be my age and having this wonderful, uncomplicated, perfect pregnancy. Then this thing comes out of nowhere that can change everything,” Schrier said. “The most helpful thing has been to stay positive and not let this ruin this time for us.”
If moms and babies have no complications, their hospital stays may be shortened. Women with low-risk pregnancies might have visits delayed so they’re not in the doctor’s office as often. When they do show up for a doctor’s appointment, they check in over the phone from their cars. When a room is ready, they are called into the office. Others aren’t allowed at the appointments unless there are special circumstances.
Staff scheduling changes mean women may not have their doctor there for the delivery. That can cause some stress, Somer-Shely said, but staff is trying to make it a smooth process.
The changes come with a silver lining, Somer-Shely said. Most women find that it’s a quieter, more peaceful time after delivery, which can mean better bonding with baby.
The Bellos have been celebrating little milestones, such as when Joslyn and Marigold were reunited and could share a room. The twins are working on what’s hoped to be their final milestone before heading home — getting through a full feeding without falling asleep.
“We’re still in it,” Bello said. “It’s still hard. Obviously, this is not how we saw this birth experience going. But I’m very grateful. I’ve gotten to know a lot of these doctors and nurses, and they go home to their own families and come back to work every day in this rather scary environment.”
The Schriers know they will have plenty of time at home to adjust to being a family of three. And as she processes what she has been through, Schrier said she’ll think about how to tell her son about this strange time into which he was born.
Family and friends have sent gifts to help prepare the Schriers for their new arrival. The Bellos also have felt support from loved ones: A friend set up an Easter egg hunt for their older daughter. Some people have called. Others have left food on the porch.
“This is just such a strange little slice of our lives,” Bello said, “and I hope we can look back and realize that we were surrounded by a lot of people who care for us, even if they were at a distance.”