Having a baby is a joyous event. For the Waddell family, giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic was also a bit of a rollercoaster ride.
At 4:07 a.m. on April 13, healthy Aurora Ann came bouncing into the world at Milbank Hospital Avera. Her parents, Levi and Tayla, had been in that exact delivery room 22 months before when their son Maddox was born. But, that was long before Coronavirus became a household name.
Tayla said during Aurora’s birth, many things seemed the same as when Maddox was born, and she felt she received the same caliber of care, but this time there were a lot less people. Dr. Nanci Van Peursem, two med students, and three or four nurses were in attendance for Maddox. At Aurora’s birth, it was Dr. Nanci and two nurses.” It was quieter at the hospital, too; the Waddells were the only family in the hospital having a baby. And Tayla said, “We couldn’t have any visitors at all. Not having any visitors was probably the change we noticed most.”
Levi agreed, “My favorite memory when Maddox was born was when I went out to where our parents were sitting by the piano, announced he was here, and brought them back to the room to meet him. He was just two or three hours old. This time, I had to call to tell them, and Aurora was two days old before anyone got to hold her and see her. They did see her through the window, though.”
Tayla said, “We knew beforehand we couldn’t have visitors and struggled a bit to decide how we could let people know she was here and meet her. I was scared if everybody came to the window, it would be more emotional and harder because they couldn’t come in. I wanted them to meet her face-to-face. But we thought about how our family would feel not seeing her at all until we went home. We figured our parents, Kailur and Maddox, were just as excited to see her as we were. So, we decided to have them see her right away at the window.”
The visitors arrived in five groups and represented four generations. Those huddled at the window hoping for a glimpse of the new bundle included: grandparents Lori and Tellus Waddell; grandparents Calvin and Jena Schulte and uncles Jackson and Evan; great-grandmas Barb Robinson and Peg Dohrer; grandma Ginny Tostenson, aunts Madi and Hallie, and brother Maddox; and Lori again with brother Kailur (8).
Tayla said, “It was hard seeing everyone just through the window, but it was the hardest for Maddox. He’s too young
to understand what was going on, and when he saw us, he kept saying, “Open, open.” He kissed the window on his own when he saw the baby. And it was really hard for us after he left… He was the one I worried about the most. She says, “We had no choice but to accept the situation and make the best of it, though.”
“We stayed at the hospital the day Aurora was born and were discharged the next day – less than 36 hours later, and faster than normal,” she stated. “With Maddox we were there an extra day.”
During their stay, Levi was required to wear a mask every time he left Tayla’s room, including his trips to the vending machine. They also ate a couple of meals from the hospital café and family members brought them food. Levi had to wear his mask, but he could go out to the car to pick up the meals. He could only go out to the car. “They didn’t want me going to the grocery store or anywhere else,” he said.
After they were discharged and took the baby home, Levi said, “We had a hard time finding diapers and wipes. When we did, they were much more expensive. I was an idiot and broke our thermometer in the middle of the night, and then we couldn’t find a thermometer to buy.”
Tayla said, “Now, for wellness checkups, only one parent can take the baby to the appointments.” She had become accustomed to going to appointments alone when the world around them changed during her last trimester. “For my doctor visits and weekly checks I had to go by myself. Before Maddox was born Levi could go with me.”
She shared, “Even now, just our families have met her. Our friends and our church family have not met her in person. So we are still dealing with this.”
“When Maddox was just three days old, we took him to church,” Levi remembers. “Now, we’re missing taking Aurora to church to show her off. There’s also no running into the grocery store and taking the kids with us. We have to try to find time where someone can watch the kids so we can do those things.”
Levi concluded, “It’s been good and bad. We want people to share our joy but FaceTime and photos just aren’t doing it justice. I think once she was here and was healthy, we saw how blessed we are and realized things are so much better.”