Charlotte Diane Miller was due to arrive this Mother’s Day at Swedish Edmonds Family Birth Center. That didn’t happen. Her parents were blessed with their firstborn a month early. And their daughter was born not in Edmonds, but at the Providence Pavilion for Women and Children in Everett.
“It’s definitely different,” said Kristen Miller, who with husband Josh Miller is adjusting to new parenthood in the midst of a pandemic. “The hardest thing, we can’t introduce her to the world,” the 33-year-old Lynnwood mom said Wednesday.
Because of an anticipated surge in COVID-19 patients, the Swedish Edmonds Family Birth Center was temporarily closed March 26. It reopened Wednesday, Swedish spokesperson Tiffany Moss said.
During the Swedish closure, the maternity center at Providence saw a springtime baby boom. Obstetrics patients who would normally have delivered in Edmonds were told in a March letter from Swedish that they’d be redirected to Providence in Everett. The letter assured patients that “you will receive the same high-quality care during your birth.”
Babies keep coming, virus outbreak or not.
“Last year, in April 2019, we had 352 babies born,” said Shanna Van Horn, assistant nurse manager for the Family Maternity Center at Providence. “This April, it was over 100 more — 457 babies.”
Providence had the capacity for those added births. In summer, which Van Horn called “our high-census season,” up to 500 babies per month are born at the Everett maternity center.
This column is more than the Millers’ story, one of gratitude for the safe arrival of Charlotte, who was delivered by C-section April 11 and weighed just 5 pounds 6 ounces at birth.
COVID-19 and recovery
Van Horn also has something to celebrate and be grateful for this Mother’s Day, along with being the mom of an 8-year-old son, Titan, and daughter Kelina, 10.
She is a survivor of COVID-19.
On March 25, two days after Gov. Jay Inslee announced the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, Van Horn tested positive for the coronavirus. She’s not sure how she contracted it, but said “the only person I knew of who had COVID-19 was somebody who worked at Prov.”
Her first indication of the illness was waking up with a raspy voice. Her skin was oddly sensitive. She discovered she had a low-grade fever, 100.8 degrees.
Van Horn, 38, spent about three weeks in quarantine, shut away from her family in the master bedroom of their home. She was cared for by her hero of a husband, Sterling Van Horn. With his wife in bed, he brought all her meals, and kept their children from coming too close.
A Coast Guard veteran, he retired from the military in October and is “a hands-on dad” and “really supportive,” she said. Complicating the past few weeks was her family’s move from Marysville to a new home on 5 acres in the Stanwood area. Van Horn said her husband “packed up the whole house by himself.”
Body aches, severe for about 10 days, were the worst of her illness, she said. Van Horn also suffered from nausea and extreme fatigue, and for a week had no taste or ability to smell. But she never developed the respiratory issues that have been deadly for so many with the virus.
“I was really, really concerned I might get pneumonia. I was doing deep breathing and sleeping with a diffuser, using eucalyptus oil,” said Van Horn, who was able to return to work about a month ago.
Birth in a trying time
For the Millers, precautions related to the coronavirus affected more than the location of Charlotte’s birth.
At the hospital, Kristen Miller was able to have a doula, a woman providing childbirth support, along with her husband. No other visitors could come see their baby. “Josh could come and go,” she said, adding “they took his temperature every time he left and came back.”
It was just a week ago that Kristen’s parents, Diane and Peter Almgren of Mukilteo, were able to hold their new granddaughter for the first time.
“Her first picture with her grandma and grandpa, they have masks on,” Miller said. With her parents in their 70s, keeping them safe from the virus is as critical as protecting baby Charlotte. “It’s hard, it’s really hard,” she said.
Other family plans are up in the air.
“My husband’s family lives in California. We’re supposed to go at the end of June for a baptism,” Kristen Miller said. She isn’t certain they’ll make that trip — and if they do, whether they’ll fly or drive. “And what does that visit look like?” she wondered. “Do they hold the baby?”
Just as Van Horn’s profession centers around new moms and infants at Providence, Miller’s work is aimed at supporting healthy pregnancies and advocating for babies. Miller is a development manager for the March of Dimes.
Now, she’s had personal experience that aligns with her work.
“I’ve been through it all — labor, delivery and an early baby,” she said. Charlotte was delivered a month before the due date because Miller was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure.
Through her work, Miller was to have taken part in March for Babies fundraising events, starting April 25 in Everett and leading up to this weekend. Those events were canceled due to the coronavirus. An online March for Babies StepUp challenge is now raising money for the organization’s efforts, which include educational help for mothers-to-be and families.
During her maternity leave, with her husband doing his work for BECU from home, Miller said “it’s the best-case scenario, being quarantined.”
At Providence, Van Horn sees her workplace becoming “a little calmer” now that the Swedish Edmonds Family Birth Center is open again. Credentials were hastened so Swedish doctors could deliver babies at Providence, she said, and nurses from Swedish helped in Everett during the closure.
“We had those Swedish providers, and about three extra deliveries per day,” she said.
Precautions continue. If not back to normal, “it’s the new normal,” Van Horn said. “Everyone who comes in is masked, and they all go through a clearing process.”
Community support for hospital workers has included restaurants bringing pizza and Starbucks providing coffee.
“We have signs that say, ‘Heroes Work Here,’” she said.
As new parents take their babies home, Van Horn sees some good even while many people are suffering through illness and loss.
“It’s a unique time for the bonding of the family unit,” she said.
Van Horn said she’ll spend Mother’s Day relaxing with her family. While she was sick, she couldn’t hug or be close to her children.
“It’s so hard not to hold or hug your kids,” she said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
March for Babies
The 2020 March for Babies events are canceled due to the coronavirus, but the March of Dimes fundraiser is happening online through a March for Babies StepUp challenge. Learn how to join in the Greater Puget Sound StepUP at: marchforbabies.org/EventInfo?EventID=21075