A New Year’s Eve to Remember
A couple welcomes their first baby during a flu lockdown at UF Health North.
Many new moms are delivering babies during the COVID-19 pandemic with only one significant person at their side due to visitation restrictions. During difficult flu seasons, there have been similar visitation restrictions to protect moms and babies. In 2019, a high number of flu cases resulted in visitor limitations in the labor and delivery units at UF Health Jacksonville and UF Health North.
Amber Bird and Keegan Swieter looked forward to delivering their first child at UF Health North. Everything seemed routine with the pregnancy. Bird enjoyed the care she received at UF Health Women’s Specialists – North and was comfortable as she headed toward the birth. As her due date drew near, however, Bird started to experience complications.
On Dec. 29, 2019, Bird’s labor began by induction due to her high blood pressure. A very long and difficult labor ensued, as the baby became stuck in the birth canal. There were some concerns about the umbilical cord, but her providers worked to continue a vaginal delivery and avoid a cesarean section surgery.
Kate Washburn, a certified nurse midwife, was on the team monitoring Bird’s labor progress closely in case a C-section was necessary. Washburn has been delivering babies at UF Health North since it opened in 2017.
“I try to make sure patients are aware of the full clinical picture regarding their care,” Washburn said. “Our goal is vaginal delivery, but not at the cost of the baby or mother’s life.”
At the last possible moment, the baby fortunately moved through the birth canal without the need for surgery. Parker Swieter was born on Dec. 31, 2019, after 41 hours of labor – New Year’s Eve.
“We received constant guidance throughout the labor from the staff,” Bird said. “The reassurance and positive attitude helped to get us through.”
Now that baby Parker had arrived, Bird was anxious to share him with her family and friends. Unfortunately, no visitors were allowed due to the high numbers of patients with the flu in the hospital.
Washburn recalled how tough it was for moms-to-be giving birth during the flu lockdown without family and friends by their side.
“It’s hard to give birth in a situation where people can’t visit, and when you’re alone with your partner,” Washburn said. “In some ways, though, it adds to the bonding between parents and their newborn baby.”
Many of Bird and Swieter’s family members wanted to see the baby right away, so the time in recovery was also a waiting game. Bird tried not to be discouraged, but each day was more difficult.
The nurses, midwives and physicians who cared for mom, dad and baby Parker during this time became their surrogate family as they kept the parents’ spirits up through stories, pampering and even jokes to make them laugh.
Kacee Gouin, BSN, RNC-OB, was one of Bird’s nurses from beginning to end.
“Being with Amber and Keegan through delivery and postpartum was an incredible bonding experience. I was blessed to be their encouragement and coaching team while their families were unable to be in the room with them,” Gouin said.
Visitor restrictions were temporarily lifted and a few family members came to visit. The next day, however, one visitor tested positive for the flu. Bird and Parker were put in isolation in the labor and delivery suite to ensure they were not contagious as well.
“Being in a hospital is never an easy task, and with the flu lockdown in place, it made it a little more frustrating since I couldn’t leave the room and my family couldn’t be with me,” Bird said.
After spending seven days in the hospital, Bird and baby Parker were finally able to go home on Jan. 4. Bird is truly grateful to all the providers at UF Health North for making the best out of an unusual situation.
Parker is now a year old, oblivious to the flu lockdown in 2019 and the current COVID-19 pandemic. He is a healthy, talkative boy, who brings joy to his parents every day.