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New parents and doctors unsure when it will be safe to introduce their babies to the world

One thing the coronavirus pandemic can't stop is women having babies. But it has changed how they deliver and what life looks like after baby comes home.

SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Newborns obviously don't notice that they were born into the time of a pandemic but for their parents, this is not something they are likely to forget. 

Alli Carlile gave birth to her second child, Heber Campbell, at Southern Maine Health Care (SMHC) in Biddeford at the end of March.  As has been the practice for several weeks, only Alli's husband, Thad, was allowed in the labor and delivery rooms, and no visitors were allowed to come to the hospital.  

Now that Alli is home in Kennebunkport with her newborn son and toddler Ruth, she'd love to see her parents and in-laws that live just a couple hours south in Massachusetts. 

"We haven’t allowed any visitors," Alli said. "It's been hard not to have people come up."

During a time typically spent celebrating a new baby with visitors who bring gifts and prepared meals, the Carlile's have been isolated. 

Heber is not only the second child for the Carlile's, but he is also the second grandchild for both extended families. When their first daughter was born, both grandparents lived far away so Alli was hoping they would get to see a lot of their new grandson. 

"He's born so close to where they are and everyone was so excited to see the new baby. Mostly I feel bad for them that they haven't been able to have what they thought they would have," Alli says of her parents and in-laws.

Alli admits it isn't all bad. The family has spent a lot of time bonding and being together and she is utilizing technology to introduce Heber to her friends and family through a screen. 

"They have in some ways seen a lot more of him than they would have had he been born 10 years ago," Alli said.

Technology is being used by doctors too like Dr. Barbara Slager of Coastal Women's Healthcare in Scarborough. While doctors there are still seeing patients who are more than 36-weeks-pregnant, many women are seen through telehealth video chats for checkups. 

"Women are taking their own blood pressure at home. We're asking about fetal activity," Dr. Slager explains. Some women have asked Dr. Slager if they should consider a home birth but she has assured them the safest place to have their baby is at the hospital. Dr. Slager says because traffic at hospitals is decreased and all staff is wearing personal protective gear, she believes it is the safest option for birth. 

"I still feel like the safest place for them is in the hospital having their baby," Dr. Slager said.

All women in labor or who arrive at Maine Medical Center in Portland for an induction of scheduled cesarean section are now being offered COVID-19 testing for themselves. Other changes during labor and delivery include only one support person present and if that person leaves the hospital they can not return, and nitrous or laughing gas is no longer being offered as an option for pain relief. 

"The actual labor and most of the things that women want to do in labor are very much the same," Dr. Slager said. She says the real concerns among her patients are arising when new moms and infants return home, especially those who already have young children and may still be trying to work from home. With guidelines that newborns should not see visitors, that means new parents have fewer hands to help them. 

Dr. Slager says her patients have "a lot of anxiety around" when will it be safe for family and friends to meet babies and how it work. 

Kaitlyn McDonough of Wells has shed many tears over the fact that her mother will not be allowed in the labor and delivery room with her and her husband to welcome the couple's first child.  

Kaitlyn spoke with 207 when she was 40 weeks pregnant.

"I don't have a choice," Kaitlyn said. "For my baby's sake, my sake, the sake of my family and friends this is just how it has to be."

Molly Nicole McDonough was born on April 25, 2020, at Maine Medical Center. 

"It's not going to be forever. I know that and I just remind myself that she's not going to remember not meeting everyone right away. I'm the only one who will know," says Kaitlyn. 

Despite the uncertainty about the impacts of coronavirus on infants and new moms and when it will be safe for little ones to be introduced to family and friends, Dr. Slager says there is a silver lining to this isolated, quiet time of life for families. 

"I do think that people have more time to be together as a family especially when they welcomed a second or third baby… they're taking more time to be together," Dr. Slager explained. 

Babies born right now will have a birth story to remember, but Dr. Slager and the new moms I spoke to are confident it will be a beautiful one. 

RELATED: Maine families find silver lining of extra time and family togetherness during coronavirus

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At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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