Coronavirus has forced many women to deliver their babies alone in hospitals. I was one of them.

By Ashley Lemieux
April 23, 2020
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I sobbed as they wheeled me away from my husband and into the hospital. “Please let him come with me, I can’t do this without him,” I begged. The doctor looked down at me, and through his mask said, “I’m so sorry. I wish it didn’t have to be this way.”

Earlier that night, at 16 weeks pregnant, I started experiencing excruciating stomach pain and cramping. Within a few hours, it became so crippling that I was unable to walk. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't have hesitated to go to the emergency room, but the new threat of COVID-19 made me question whether I should wait out the pain in the safety of my own home. Eventually, the pain won and an ambulance drove me to the hospital, while my husband Mike followed in his car.

We were still in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, so when we got to the hospital, we found out that only one patient would be allowed inside the hospital, outside of the emergency room. Mike was able to be with me as I waited for my tests and bloodwork to come back, but when the nurses told me it was time to get an ultrasound to check on my baby, they said I'd have to go alone. I was terrified—being forced to see whether my baby was alive or not, without my husband's hand to hold.

After the ultrasound, when I was back with my husband in the ER, the doctor told us the baby was fine, but then his face and tone got serious. He said I was very sick—I had sepsis from an unknown kidney infection that had spread to my blood. I would have to be admitted to the hospital immediately and stay for several days—and I'd have to do it all alone with no visitors, including my husband.

Three days into my hospital stay, I knew something was terribly wrong.

After days of tests, checkups on the baby, and so much pain, I took a turn for the worse. It was as though my entire body was shutting down—at one point, at least 10 doctors and nurses were surrounding me, giving me oxygen and checking my heart with an EKG test. Once I was stable, I begged them to check my baby. Eventually, they told me again that the baby was OK.

But the next day, my doctor and an obstetrician came into my room. "I am so sorry, but the baby no longer has a heartbeat. There is no more fluid around the baby," they told me. "After you get a little better, we can talk about our options, but we have time, and you just need to rest." My body—after withstanding a kidney infection and sepsis—wasn't able to sustain the pregnancy, and I had suffered a miscarriage.

Once they left the room, my nurse sat on my bed and grabbed my hand. Tears streamed down my face. My body went numb. My sepsis had almost taken my life, and it was too much for my pregnancy to withstand—my baby didn't make it because of how sick I was.

I looked at my nurse told her I needed my husband with me. "I need him right now, I cannot be in here alone," I said. "This is too much for a person to handle alone." 

She agreed and attempted to talk to someone in charge—anyone who would give me permission to have my husband with me. But when she came back to my room, she told me that the hospital would not allow him or anyone else to visit hospital patients, and that I'd have to remain alone.

Luckily, I still had access to my cell phone, and immediately told my mom and sister the news. Within the hour, they were in the hospital's parking lot, FaceTiming me. They wanted me to know that even though we were separated, I was not alone. They stayed parked out there for hours, crying with me.

The next morning, I began having contractions.

I delivered the baby I had just miscarried—my angel boy—alone in a small hospital observation room. He came fast, so I experienced everything completely by myself—it was the most horrific experience I have ever been through.

Once the obstetrician and labor and delivery (L&D) nurse got to me, they put a teddy bear under one arm so I wouldn’t have to have my arms empty, and took me to the L&D unit where my husband was finally able to be with me.

Seeing my Mike walk in felt like the warmest hug I’ve ever received. He was able to comfort me after the worst experience of my life, and, as my body healed, we were able to say goodbye to our son, Jayce, together.

But I realized something else during my hospital stay: While it would have been so comforting to have my husband with me during that awful experience, I needed to acknowledge the power and strength I found inside of myself. I showed up for me when nobody else could.

Of course, it wasn't a quick realization: At first, I felt overwhelmed by a body that I felt betrayed my baby and myself. When I finally got a glimpse of myself in the mirror after my hospital stay, I was disgusted by a stomach that I felt was in between being pregnant and not pregnant—wanting a full bump back or wanting no bump at all.

I had to quickly change my mindset: I had to see my stomach as a beautiful belly that housed a perfect boy; my hips as ones that grew to adjust to a pregnancy; my immune system that, though it'd been through hell, kept me standing.

For any of you who feel afraid right now—anyone who's about to deliver a baby or undergo treatments or are sick and alone—I want to say that there is a strength inside of you waiting to be called upon. I thought I needed my people in the most excruciating moment of my life, but what I learned was that I also really needed myself. 

My doctor—one of the ones who nursed my body back to health after septic shock—said it best: "Nobody else can do as good a job as you to get through what you need to get through. Keep being you and breathe."

Ashley Lemieux is the founder and CEO of The Shine Project, and author of Born to Shine. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, Mike. You can connect with her on Instagram @ashleyklemieux.

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