Life in the Time of Coronavirus

The New Mother Who Gave Birth Without Knowing If She Was Exposed

The latest in our series about how this pandemic affects our lives, our loved ones, our work, and our way of life

Tara Haelle
GEN
Published in
11 min readMar 26, 2020

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Photo illustration. Images: Catherine Delahaye/Getty Images, 4x-image/Getty Images

Life in the Time of Coronavirus is a new GEN series where we are interviewing people across the country who have had their lives upended or are experiencing the stress of the unknown.

When Sarah, who is using a pseudonym, became pregnant late last summer, she had a reasonable idea of what to expect. This would be her second time giving birth, and as a lawyer and former legislative aide, she’s used to high-stress scenarios. But she lives in Northern California, and as the coronavirus pandemic drew closer to her doorstep, it was hard not to feel anxious in the midst of all the uncertainty.

Sarah felt confident her doctor and the hospital were doing their best to adjust protocols in response to the pandemic as they received information, but the situation and guidance in the county and state were changing rapidly. Then, just two days before her scheduled induction, and despite having taken precautions, she learned she might have been exposed to Covid-19.

OOur family had been isolating ourselves for a week before a planned family dinner one Sunday. I had pulled my son from school before it closed, and my husband had been working from home. I suggested that perhaps we should cancel the dinner to celebrate my parents’ anniversary, but all of us had been isolated for at least a week, so we went ahead with it. It was just my parents, my husband and children, and my sister and her long-time partner.

Two days later, on Tuesday, my sister’s partner developed a fever and sore throat. He received an email notifying him that nine days earlier, on his last day in the office before beginning to work from home, he had been exposed to a co-worker who had a family member that tested positive for Covid-19.

But I had received a different message — accidental miscommunication often becomes amplified during a pandemic. The message communicated to me was that a co-worker had tested positive, one who had been in the office at the same time as my…

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Tara Haelle
GEN
Writer for

Tara Haelle is a science journalist, public speaker, and author of Vaccination Investigation and The Informed Parent. Follow her at @tarahaelle.