SOUTH JORDAN — Her baby isn’t kicking. At least not as much as it has been. So on Saturday, March 28, Emiko Parkinson visits University of Utah Hospital. Doctors recommend inducing labor immediately. “Looks like we’re having a baby tonight,” she texts her husband, stunned.
She doesn’t know what to expect. Back in August, she and Brian had a plan, a clear path for her pregnancy and the early days and weeks of their second child’s life, relying on help from both their mothers. Now, after this sudden left turn, she just hopes giving birth during a global pandemic is something like normal, even as the world is in flux.
For the next few hours, she calls family and friends to share the news. The baby wasn’t due for another week and a half. Shock dominates. Beneath it, COVID-19 clouds one of life’s brightest moments.
Doctors tell her she’s only allowed one visitor. “But we’re not sure,” they explain, how long that’ll last. They could end up locking everyone out before she gives birth.
By 8 p.m., they begin to induce labor with her husband, Brian, beside her. He wears a wristband, the sort you might find at a waterpark, singling him out as the only nonmedical professional allowed.
Brian was the only person with her 21⁄2 years ago, as well, when she had their first child — although others were allowed. This time, Emiko imagined she might have friends and family visit in the hospital. Her mother and mother-in-law would come stay with them, to help them care for both a newborn and a toddler. But as her due date approached, it became clear they’d be on their own.
Now, sitting in a windowless hospital room, waiting, she thinks about her baby, coming into a world where, at least for now, grandmas and grandpas can’t come visit, can’t spoil their grandchildren. They’ll miss that brief newborn stage when the baby will fall asleep in your arms without so much as a gentle rock. “That will only be ours,” Emiko realizes, “to remember and cherish.”
Friends won’t see the baby. Strangers won’t admire her on walks. It’s just going to be the four of them.
At 3 p.m. Sunday, after 18 hours, the waiting and wondering end. Doctors administer synthetic oxytocin to jumpstart Emiko’s contractions, sending her into eight hours of pain that only labor can cause. Brian is with her, but she does the work. Around 11 p.m., their baby arrives. They name her Gwen.
New moms and babies typically spend 48 hours in the hospital. But because of the virus, doctors urge them to get out as quickly as possible. Emiko wants to get home anyway, back to her 2-year-old, Willa. So Gwen, less than a day old, is wheeled in her mother’s arms through a “secret exit,” avoiding the risk of exposure to whomever might be coming in through the main doors.
Brian waits outside, along with Willa, who seems unfazed by the sight of her baby sister. “Your tummy looks smaller,” she tells Emiko. They drive away, headed to their home in South Jordan to raise Gwen by themselves, wondering if she’ll ever see a normal world.