Raising a Newborn When Your Office Is an ER

Dr. Rajiv Bahl and his wife, Lauren Bahl, work in healthcare. They welcomed their son, Sanjay, in April. Image via Rajiv Bahl

When my wife, Lauren, and I found out that she was pregnant with our first child in August 2019, we didn’t think we’d be fighting a pandemic when he was born.

Lauren and I met in Michigan just before I started my emergency medicine residency and her master’s degree in physician assistant studies. In 2018, we married and started our careers in Florida, with her in the intensive care unit (ICU) and me in the emergency room (ER).

We always wanted a family early in our married life, and in August 2019 we found out we were expecting our first child.

Like so many parents-to-be, we were elated and ready to experience 2020 to its fullest.

And then COVID-19 hit.

Early days of the outbreak

In January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source announced its first travel-related case of COVID-19.

Florida wasn’t as hard-hit in the early stages of the virus, so Lauren was still working in the ICU, and I was taking care of patients in the emergency department.

As the virus spread, we realized that this pregnancy wouldn’t be like others, especially as immediate frontline workers.

We wore the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and took all the necessary precautions, but as cases started to rise in Florida, we started to become wary of a COVID-19 surge we knew would come.

In March, we decided Lauren should take her maternity leave early.

But even after she started to stay home, we lived with the looming anxiety of this virus hanging over us.

We grappled with a host of questions related to the outbreak.

What would happen if I were to get an infection and not know it? What was to come if Lauren were to get an infection from me?

How does one cope with that kind of guilt?

Experts without answers

Even as people working in the healthcare field, there were no easy answers.

We did our own research, read all the available studies, and spoke with Lauren’s obstetrician, but there just wasn’t enough data yet. This virus was just too new at that time.

All we could do was take extra precautions to ensure our own safety from this virus as the pregnancy progressed and as we prepared for the birth.

And getting ready to give birth in the middle of a pandemic is a pretty surreal experience.

When we arrived at the hospital for delivery, the initial questionnaire asked if we had ever been in contact with someone with COVID-19.

That answer was a resounding yes.

This wasn’t the most comforting answer for our physicians and nurses, but it’s the nature of our working lives.

Fortunately, we were treated the same as the others: with extreme caution. No visitors were allowed, health checks at entryways, and our interactions with healthcare providers were limited and distant in nature.

We did this together. And while we had envisioned it with more friends and family to celebrate, we became stronger and wiser for it.

With all the precautionary measures, on April 26 our son, Sanjay, was born happy and healthy.