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‘COVID has definitely made things a lot harder:’ Pregnancy and postpartum during a pandemic

FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) – This week, News 8 will be featuring the “INside Story” on postpartum in a pandemic. In a five-part series, our team is looking into the impact COVID-19 has had on pregnant women, new moms and their babies, even as the world begins to reopen.

Photo of the Johnsons’ babies. (Provided Photo/Justin Johnson)

The first story is a look back on what it was like giving birth when the pandemic started and an introduction to a Fishers family who can help people understand the struggles and triumphs new parents faced in 2020.

As Hannah Johnson wakes up her one and half-year-old son, Duke, not a moment goes by that she and her husband, Justin aren’t simply thankful he’s here.

“He’s honestly a miracle,” said Hannah.

Back in January of 2020, Duke and his twin brother, Atlas, were born at only 26 weeks old.

“Our little guy was 13 ounces and our big guy was 1 lb. 3 ounces. So, we knew that our NICU stay was going to be a while,” said Hannah.

After two months in the NICU, Atlas got a severe infection.

“Atlas passed on Friday, March 13th and the COVID restrictions at the hospital started on Monday, March 16th,” said Hannah.

In the midst of grief, came sudden changes. Both fear of a pandemic and new hospital restrictions.

“Once COVID hit, nobody was allowed to come into the hospital that wasn’t a mom. At one point, dads weren’t allowed to come in at all,” said Hannah.

Instantly, everything shifted to a virtual world. The Johnson’s 6-year-old’s school shut down, there was no more in-person therapy or support, and Hannah, while carrying the weight of the world, was often alone.

Hannah Johnson with her baby. (Provided Photo/Justin Johnson)

“COVID has definitely made things a lot harder. It’s isolated us even more in a situation that you already feel like nobody else understands,” said Hannah.

While it is hard for other people to understand what new parents are facing during this pandemic, Hannah credits the doctors and nurses for getting moms and new babies through these very tough circumstances.

“Our pregnant patients are more likely to end up with severe disease, respiratory illness from COVID. More likely to end up in the hospital. More likely to need respiratory support. We have seen a link between preterm birth and women who have contracted covid during their pregnancies,” said Doctor Kelley Robrock, MD 

Dr. Robrock with Axia Women’s Health OB/GYN of Indiana is helping women navigate pregnancy in a health crisis.

“I think a lot of fear and lots of question marks,” said Dr. Robrock.

The anxiety from the unknown was hard on pregnant and postpartum women.

The Johnson family. (Provided Photo/Justin Johnson)

“It has definitely been another layer for them to navigate,” said Dr. Robrock. “And then who do I want as my core support group postpartum? To help combat some of the isolation that comes with a pandemic.”

Now as the world is starting to reopen, the emotional wounds and physical risks are still there for these families of pandemic babies.

“It’s extremely scary, to send a baby during all of this to school and praying that other people are trying to be as responsible as you are,” said Hannah. 

As the Johnsons navigate saying goodbye to one child and celebrating the life of another son, Hannah said having hope is key.

“We can see that future. We can see it. We are being patient but it is coming, we know it is coming,” said Hannah. 

This is the first in a series by Hanna Mordoh we are calling “INside Story.” See more of her stories all this week on News 8’s Daybreak.