A lullaby tune plays over the public address system at NorthBay Medical Center every time a baby is born, and these days the tune is playing day and night.
Although an anticipated COVID-19-induced national “baby boom” did not materialize around the United States, NorthBay Healthcare is bucking the trend. NorthBay’s Labor & Delivery and Mother/Baby departments have been humming throughout the crisis, according to Heather Troutt, clinical manager of Women & Children’s Services.
“Births at NorthBay are up overall compared to early last year,” she noted, and those numbers will probably go up even more as NorthBay began working with Sutter Health, La Clinica de la Raza and Partnership Healthplan California to offer maternal care options to Sutter’s patients after it closed its Labor and Delivery unit in Vallejo, according to Steve Davis, assistant vice president, Managed Care.
Why is NorthBay the place of choice for so many new moms to deliver? In addition to being a certified “Baby Friendly” hospital, “we have always stressed having a safe delivery for moms and babies at NorthBay, even before and then during the pandemic,” noted Stella Huang, D.O., OB/GYN. “Parents-to-be, physicians, nursing staff — we all work well together to assure that common goal. In the early days of COVID, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) protocols were constantly changing, but we navigated it. It was difficult at first, with the masks and PPE, but we still worked to keep that personal touch.”
That made a difference to some local mothers who had their babies at NorthBay during the height of the pandemic, and shared their birthing experience on social media.
Jenny Roark of Vacaville learned she was pregnant with her first child on March 17, 2020, the very day the state went on lockdown due to COVID-19. “Knowing we were expanding our family was great news, and at first I was sure that by the time I had my baby in November, it would be all over. But no,” she laughed. “We wondered, would we be able to see anyone, or have family be part of the moment? We just weren’t sure.”
“It was ever-changing in the early days, as we began to wear PPE to care for COVID-19-positive moms,” Christena Wetzel, R.N said. “As nurses we’re used to the healing touch, so it was hard to be somewhat at a distance. We’ve also been caring for sicker moms, who may not have had regular pre-natal care as they avoided going to the doctor or hospital. But, we’re finding that these babies are healthy and overall they’re doing really well.”
Jenny’s pregnancy was going well but she switched health care providers to NorthBay after her 20th week, and began seeing Shanna Snow, D.O., OB/GYN.
“Right away I noticed a difference and am so thankful I did,” she said. During her early OB/GYN visits, Jenny came alone and wore a mask. Although not able to have extended family members with her for ultrasounds, she appreciated Dr. Snow videotaping them so she could share with her husband, Michael, and others. She also appreciated that Dr. Snow called Michael to see if he had any questions or concerns.
Jenny and Michael, a Security officer at NorthBay, welcomed son Carson on Nov. 13, and strict visitor policies at the time meant only Michael could be present at the birth.
“My mom couldn’t be there, but Kerri Blair, R.N., was caring like a mom would be. I was having a hard time, very nervous, and she was so calm she made me feel comfortable.”
“We are first time parents and I had the best experience! From the nurses to the doctors to the security guards everyone was so kind, caring and supportive!”
— Jenny Roark, Facebook post
Kristina Goodrich and husband, Adam, knew they wanted to complete their family despite the pandemic, and Kristina also knew she wanted to deliver at NorthBay for several reasons. They had just moved to Vacaville from Napa and wanted something close to home.
“I have three other children, and all births were complicated,” she explained. All required C-sections and one resulted in an extended Neonatal Intensive Care Unit stay.
For her fourth baby, Kristina did not want to risk being far from a hospital with a NICU.
“That was NorthBay,” she explained.
“I had the best birthing experience at NorthBay,” she added. “I’ve had my babies at two other hospitals and this was so different. The whole team was so caring. The nurses were checking on me and my husband; they even brought him snacks. My CNA, Melanie Callahan, did the nicest thing — she washed my back with a warm cloth, and I’ve never had that before. It was just so caring.”
“I always want to treat people like I’d want to be treated,” Melanie said. “I love being a part of people’s special moments, and since they were not able to have a lot of family around, we did what we could to fill in. I love to be around happy babies, too, and these days there are so many of them!”
While the pandemic tightened visitor policies and changed the post-birthing experience, both new moms said that proved to offer an unexpected bonus.
“To be honest, it’s nice to have family support, but it gave us some time to bond,” Kristina said.
“Everyone looks forward to meeting the new baby, but it was nice for our little family of three to have some uninterrupted time for a few days,” Jenny said. “That was a silver lining, I guess.”
And as for these pandemic babies, “they are going to be strong little kiddos,” Christena said. “They — and their parents — have already been through so much.”