Lullaby Wishes :: Infertility and Pregnancy During a Pandemic

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I’m excited to share my unique pandemic pregnancy experience with you in this “story time” style recounting. Please remember as you read this post, that this is my own personal experience and not a commentary or opinion piece on the pandemic. I am very pleased with the high-quality care I received from UAB during my pandemic pregnancy. Birmingham is truly blessed with amazing physicians!

Infertility and Pregnancy During a Pandemic

I went through fertility treatment right before the pandemic started. When my husband and I decided we were ready for a second baby, we hit the ground running. Because I’m high risk, we wanted to waste no time, and my doctors agreed. So we immediately started working with a reproductive endocrinologist at UAB, Dr. William Hurd. We were so pleased with the care of Dr. Hurd and his staff! He really listens and values his patients’ desires and goals. It felt like he walked alongside me, instead of commanding the process. I find that so valuable in a physician, especially when it comes to something as sacred as growing your family.

It ended up being a much quicker process than anticipated. I’m so grateful for that now as I look back since fertility treatments were put on hold for most once the pandemic started. I went through a series of tests and procedures, and our next step was an IUI (intrauterine insemination). However, right before progressing to IUI prep, I found out I was pregnant after my HSG (hysterosalpingogram) procedure.

We had a couple of funny coincidences in this process: I got pregnant with my first child after an HSG procedure. Also, my HSG this second time around was cancelled and rescheduled multiple times, even the day of the procedure when pipes burst in the clinic building. But they ended up squeezing me in for it regardless at the very end of the day. It almost didn’t happen time and time again, and I firmly believe it was meant to happen when it did so I could get my baby boy.

It Worked!

Infertility and Pregnancy During a Pandemic

I found out I was pregnant on a Friday morning (March 6, 2020), and by the following Friday (March 13, 2020), the world was shutting down. On Monday, March 9, when I went to the hospital for my blood test, everything was pretty normal. They did ask me to put on hand sanitizer upon checking in. By Wednesday when I returned for my second blood draw at the 48-hour mark, they again asked me to put on hand sanitizer. But they also asked if I had recently traveled outside of the USA. By Friday, they required me to put on hand sanitizer at check in, asked if I had recently traveled outside of the USA, and all the staff was masked.

Nothing was ever “normal” from that point forward. It was definitely a weird week to find out I was pregnant at the very start of a pandemic.

I moved from one floor at UAB to another and was impressed by the continuity of care. Each section of UAB that I have experienced has been nothing but positive and professional, with the perfect balance of being personable.

Infertility and Pregnancy During a Pandemic

“Unprecedented Times”

As my pregnancy continued, so did the pandemic. Along with that came many changing policies and information.

On October 12, 2020, I went in for my regular OB appointment at 34 weeks. My hospital bags were packed as I had a slight scare two weeks earlier that motivated me to be ready “just in case.” As I reflect, it was actually pretty weird how prepared I was at that point in pregnancy. The house wasn’t ready, but our hospital bags, toiletries, outfits, and nurse gifts were. I didn’t plan to get them done that early, but I randomly had a strong urge to do it the week before this appointment. Looking back now, I am so grateful I followed my gut and prepared.

At this particular appointment, I had tests run to rule out preeclampsia since my blood pressure had been elevated the previous weeks. I had postpartum preeclampsia following my daughter’s birth in 2018. We truly didn’t think much of these tests. We scheduled our baby’s delivery date for about two and a half weeks from this appointment day (for exactly 37 weeks). I was having a scheduled caesarean (my choice entirely, but that’s a conversation for another day).

I left the appointment and stopped to get pumpkins on the way home–two large ones and a smaller one–a pumpkin for each family member. “These are perfect to carve this weekend,” I thought. I was so excited to have two more weeks to close the chapter on our family of three. I wanted to soak up every sweet moment with my two-year-old daughter before our world would be shaken up by a newborn.

But I didn’t get those two weeks.

I mean, I did. But not with my family.

Sudden Change of Plans

I got a call from my precious nurse practitioner, Anna, that my protein levels came back positive. I had preeclampsia and must be admitted that day for the remainder of my pregnancy. Because of COVID and pandemic visitation rules, I would not be able to see my daughter again until after returning home with baby brother.

In a non-pandemic world, I would have had multiple visitors throughout my stay. It would have made the time pass quicker and made the admittance more bearable. However, in a pandemic world, I could have only one visitor. And it had to be the same person the whole stay. While it was totally understandable to minimize risk for all involved, it was still devastating to know I wasn’t going to see my child for weeks. It was definitely a unique situation, and I didn’t know how I could do it at the time.

This sounds so dramatic, but this is truly how I felt at the time: I was crushed. It was a heartbreaking shock, and it happened so suddenly. I knew baby boy and I were in the BEST hands at UAB and that we were in the safest place possible to ride out the last few weeks with the preeclampsia diagnosis. However, knowing that didn’t make it easier to leave my daughter for an extended period of time. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so my daughter and I were always together. I knew this would shake both of us up.

Infertility and Pregnancy During a Pandemic

Finding Joy

Admittance was very emotional, and I just needed some comfort. As soon as I arrived for the next part of my journey, I was met with warm smiles, fun personalities, compassion, and loving-kindness. My nurses were mamas themselves. They empathized with how I was feeling and took great care of me.

I’m convinced the UAB staff who took care of me during my admitted stay are angels on earth. They wanted to know all about my baby boy on the way and my daughter at home. The staff made a shocking and emotional situation feel a lot easier to navigate. They took care of baby Simon and me medically, of course, but they also supported me emotionally and mentally. That meant the world to me and my family.

From reproductive endocrinology through maternal fetal medicine, to high risk obstetrics and everywhere in between, UAB provided me with the highest level of care, even in the midst of a global pandemic. They cared about my baby and me even before my baby was conceived. It truly is a special place, and I will be forever thankful for their intentionality and service to my family.

UAB carried me through my (second) fertility journey, pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum. They continue to be there for me if and when I need them. You can see the passion for what they do everyday within each person, and it’s so special. While I’m certainly glad to be home with my family (of four now!), I miss the sweet people who took such great care of us.

Birmingham is blessed with the best.

Infertility and Pregnancy During a Pandemic

We are thankful to work with UAB Medicine on our Lullaby Wishes series. Their position as a major center for research leads them to constantly investigate new advances in fertility treatment, but their team’s heart for the men and women affected by infertility is what truly sets them apart.
Read more from some of the team here:
Lullaby Wishes :: UAB Medicine’s Heart Behind the Care
An Expert Talks Infertility :: Dr. Sukhkamal Campbell of UAB Medicine
Our Lullaby Wishes series is in partnership with UAB Women & Infants Services. This is sponsored content.
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Audra Smith did not spend her childhood in Alabama, but got down here as fast as she could! Originally from Ohio, Audra met and married her husband (of nearly 6 years now), Brian, while in college, and they decided to move to Alabama on a whim a year after graduation, resulting in the best decision ever made. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Family Studies/Child Development. Audra spent the first few years after the move working for The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa within Early Childhood Education. After years of working in close proximity to Big Al, it’s safe to say now that she is a faithful Tide fan. Audra is an Army National Guard wife due to Brian’s military service and dedication to the great state of Alabama and our country. After enduring years of infertility, Audra and Brian were miraculously blessed with their daughter Nora Jo, who was born in March 2018 in the heart of Birmingham. Audra now resides in the Chelsea area (Sterrett) with her husband Brian, daughter Nora Jo, and living security system (lab/hound mix) Hamilton. When she’s not wrangling and chasing after a spunky toddler, Audra enjoys a good book, just about a million cups of coffee a day, embracing/celebrating the wild ride of postpartum, any DIY crafty project, and being on the water. She initially went to college for Vocal Music, and still enjoys music and singing very much as an outlet (even if she’s mostly singing “Baby Shark” these days.) Audra is passionate about raising awareness for Type 1 Diabetes, as she lives with this disease every day. Audra is currently a stay at home mom who makes it a priority to cultivate side projects related to her passions. She enjoys connecting with other mamas, women, and anyone who needs someone to talk to. Instagram has become a virtual tribe for her, and if you’d like to participate, head on over to @audrashoupesmith whenever you need a dose of “real life.”