When Valeri Hedges was delivering her daughter, Adrienne, she didn’t really notice the face mask she had to wear to protect herself and the medical staff from coronavirus.
She gave birth to the healthy, 6.5-pound, little girl on April 5 – a month earlier than expected.
Hedges drove herself to Northern Westchester Hospital in New York when she started going into labor and had her mask ready when she arrived. Her husband couldn’t be with her at first because he’d had a fever, fatigue and other Covid-19 symptoms.
He watched the birth over FaceTime and was allowed in the hospital later that day when his test came back negative, she said.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking to be in a hospital when that’s going on,” Hedges said. “You could just tell that there was kind of like a tenseness in the air at the hospital because of the circumstances, even though I did feel safe and protected in the labor and delivery and maternity wards.”
Health officials say facial coverings are one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of coronavirus, but only a few US states require people to wear them.
Despite the guidance, many people are refusing to wear masks in public, throwing tantrums that have circulated wildly on social media and, more frighteningly, attacking workers who’ve confronted them for not wearing a mask.
Hedges was in the hospital for almost a week while doctors made sure she and Adrienne were okay and wore a mask the entire time.
“When I was delivering my child, I didn’t even notice it because it didn’t even faze me whatsoever,” Hedges said. “It doesn’t affect your breathing and it’s something that’s so little to ask for when you can make such a difference in helping contain this pandemic.”
Kayla Velazquez gave birth to her third son on Mother’s Day and she had to wear a mask for this delivery.
She said that wasn’t the only difference – she had to call the hospital after her water broke to go through a Covid-19 screening. Her husband was allowed to be with her for the delivery, but he couldn’t leave the hospital once he came in.
Velazquez said they had multiple temperature checks and screenings while they were in the hospital.
She said all the doctors, nurses and staff also wore PPE and their room had an air filter in it.
Once Miles Alexander Michel arrived – all 7-pounds, 12.9-ounces, of him – they were given the option to be discharged after 24 hours, so they wouldn’t have to spend any more time than they had to in the hospital.
Velazquez says she’s had friends and co-workers who’ve gotten Covid-19. They’re okay now, but so she understands how important the masks are.
“I believe they [people who won’t wear masks] do not realize the severity of what’s going on. Or they don’t know of anyone who has truly been affected,” she said.
Jessica Johnson, an emergency room nurse in North Carolina, said it’s upsetting to hear people complain about wearing a mask when doing every day tasks.
“Wearing a mask is a simple expression of how you can love your neighbor,” she said.
Johnson had a baby girl in May and she and her husband were given masks as soon as they arrived at the hospital.
Her medical team wore full protective gear until her coronavirus test came back negative. They switched to a less restrictive mask once they got her results.
Johnson said she was used to being surrounded by people in masks, but thought it might be stressful to other moms-to-be, especially since she couldn’t see anyone’s facial expressions.
“That could have been scary, but I felt really at ease the whole time,” she said. “It’s like they knew that I couldn’t see them, and so they were extra careful to be very vocal about what they were doing, what they were thinking, what was going to happen next.”
All the heavy breathing and pushing would have spread a lot of droplets into the air without a mask, but Johnson said she never felt like she would have gotten in trouble or shamed if she had needed to pull hers down during the delivery.
The doctors and nurses were able to follow her birth plan and her 7-pound, 6-ounce girl was born without complications.
After the delivery, she and her husband were able to take off their masks and bond with their baby in their room and only needed to wear them when someone came it to check on them. She said she felt completely safe and never feared that they might be infected at the hospital.
Johnson said she was a little nervous that the mask might bother her asthma during labor, but she didn’t have any issues. She said everyone is just trying to protect each other, so she hoped the masks don’t add to other pregnant women’s anxiety.
“Don’t let a piece of fabric, or cloth, or a mask, keep you from enjoying, truly, one of life’s greatest moments,” she said. “And don’t let it take away how special it is to have that baby and hold that baby in your arms.”