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Having Your First Baby During COVID-19

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Laura Zabriskie

May 8, 2020
What does it feel like to learn that your first child will be born during a pandemic? Tara Brown and Ari Mittleman know better than most. After five years and eight in vitro fertilization (IVF) attempts, they finally got pregnant – only to learn that their child would be born during the height of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Knowing that family and friends couldn’t be present for the birth was a difficult pill to swallow. “We had been so looking forward to having a big celebration,” said Tara. “So many people were rooting for this baby and now none of them would get to meet her.”

Despite their plans having to change, Tara and Ari maintained a remarkably positive attitude. They were worried, of course, but they felt that their only choice was to make the best of the situation. Tara attributes much of her calmness to the relationship she had with her OB-GYN, Dr. Laura Erdman. During the last month of the pregnancy, Ari wasn’t allowed to come to her appointments, so Tara had to lean on Dr. Erdman for support. “She reassured me that everything was going to be okay,” Tara explained. “I knew I wasn’t alone, and I trusted her so much that I wasn’t as panicked as you would expect.”

Their primary concern became preparing to have a child when all of their plans were falling apart. Breastfeeding classes had to be cancelled and the Newborn Care Specialist who was supposed to come down from New York no longer could. Tara and Ari had decided not to find out the gender of their child, so they were also concerned that they may have to hold a bris without guests if the baby was a boy. A bris is a Jewish tradition that happens eight days after a boy is born and it’s not something that can be postponed. “We were worried that no one could come,” said Ari.

When it came time to go to the hospital, they were surprised by how safe they felt. “The screenings at the front door showed us that GBMC really cared about our safety,” Ari explained. Every person interacting with them was in full personal protective equipment (PPE) and Ari washed his hands hourly in the bathroom of their private room. The extra precautions felt odd, but they put the couple at ease. “I didn’t even recognize Dr. Erdman when she walked in the room,” Tara remembered, “we could basically only see people’s noses.” Still, they could feel the warmth and compassion of those caring for them. “We bonded with these people from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. – we felt like we knew them even though we never saw their faces.”

The nursing staff was able to push all of the negatives aside and let Tara and Ari focus on the birth of the child they had worked so hard to conceive. Even when shifts changed during Tara’s labor, they felt so much support from their nurses. One actually made the incoming nurse promise to text her and let her know the gender of the baby.

On the evening of April 19, 2020, Eliora Galit Mittleman was born. Her name translates to “wave of divine light” in Hebrew, and it couldn’t be more accurate. Both mother and daughter made it through without any complications and they were finally able to take their miracle baby home.
Becoming new parents during a pandemic isn’t exactly easy, but Tara and Ari are doing the best they can. They’re sad that Eliora’s grandparents haven’t been able to hold her and it’s difficult not having help with caring for the baby in their home. That being said, it isn’t all bad. “It’s been kind of a blessing because the three of us are getting to know each other in a much more intimate way. We don’t have a choice but to take care of her and grow together,” said Tara.

Their lives don’t look anything like they thought they would, but they’re so happy that they get to raise their beautiful child. The family is looking forward to throwing a huge party to celebrate Eliora’s first birthday. Tara and Ari expressed gratitude for the care they received at GBMC. “They made us feel at home. We could feel their smiles under their masks and that meant everything to us.”
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