The doctor warned Gerald Fadayomi not to come to the hospital.
Fadayomi was awaiting test results for the novel coronavirus and had been quarantined in his guest bedroom for two days. His wife, Kiley, was nearly eight months pregnant with twins and at the hospital for a coronavirus test herself. Both had mild fevers and body aches.
During the exam, doctors found his wife was 4 centimeters dilated, and the babies were coming.
Fadayomi, a 30-year-old pastor in Atlanta, didn’t care what the doctor said.
No one is going to keep me from being there, he thought.
For new parents, giving birth during a pandemic brings unplanned confusion and waiting. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology now recommend separating newborn babies from mothers who test positive for the virus or who were exposed to it.
Some might have to wait 14 days before meeting their children. Two major hospital systems in New York adopted strict policies banning any visitors — even partners — then the state health department Friday updated its guidelines to allow one support partner. Neonatal intensive care units must limit visitors and sometimes close as parents come in contact with the virus, endangering newborns, nurses and doctors.
So, parents wait to see their babies for the first time, to hold their partners’ hands, to watch their babies grow before they can come home. They watch from video chat, they lean on each other, and they pray.
* * *
On March 18, Fadayomi jumped in his red Hyundai Elantra and raced 30 minutes to Northside Hospital Atlanta. As soon as he pulled into the lot, he said, an infectious disease nurse called him. She began asking questions about his symptoms.
“I don’t want to be the person to tell you this,” the nurse said, “but you can’t come into the hospital until you receive your test results.”
Fadayomi, sitting in his car in the hospital parking lot, immediately started to cry.
For years, he had vowed to be there for his children from the very beginning — the way his father, who left his life when he was in third grade, never was. How could he not be there for the babies’ very first look at this world, a world currently filled with so much anxiety and fear and confusion?
“I’m so sorry,” the nurse said. She started to cry, too.
Fadayomi thought of his wife, alone. He thought of his children, whom he’d been waiting to meet for months. He thought of all the other patients, doctors, nurses and family members whom he could harm if he did have the virus.
You get your whole life with these children, he thought. You need to do what’s healthy and safe.
He pulled himself together, thanked the nurse and went into logistics mode. He called his mom and his wife’s mom. Someone needed to be there.
* * *
Now, in the hospital, Kiley Fadayomi burst into tears. She was 34 and in labor for the first time. She couldn’t imagine doing it without her husband beside her.
He’s the rational one, she thought. He’s supposed to be here.
Gerald Fadayomi’s mom arrived at the hospital first, hoping that she could be in the delivery room with her daughter-in-law. Nurses prepared Kiley Fadayomi for a Cesarean section. Then doctors decided to put her completely to sleep to finish surgery. That meant no one else could be in the room, so no one could even FaceTime her husband.
Gerald Fadayomi drove home in silence and began pacing in his yard. One hour later, he got the call from his mom.
“Your girls are here.”
Two days later, doctors came into Kiley Fadayomi’s room, where she and her husband had been awaiting coronavirus test results. For the first time, they weren’t wearing hazmat suits.
“Notice anything different about us?” one of them said. “You guys are clear. You can go meet those babies.”
Meeting his daughters, Wesley Grace and Zoey Faith, was a joy Gerald Fadayomi said he couldn’t put into words.
“It was like everything was right with the world for just a moment,” he said.
Just four days later, however, a new complication arose.
Along with stricter hospital visitation policies, the NICU was forced to close to visitors. The policy would be re-evaluated over time, as the decision was not an easy one, a hospital spokesperson said. Still, it could be weeks before the Fadayomis could touch their babies again.
But that doesn’t mean the couple hasn’t seen their daughters. The nurses FaceTime them everyday.
“It seems like the nurses love them just as much as we do,” Kiley Fadayomi said.
The girls were born at 3 pounds, 9 ounces, and 4 pounds, 7 ounces. If they gain weight and continue to do well, the couple will be able to bring them home. But bringing them home causes another set of anxieties, Kiley Fadayomi said. What if the virus comes with them from the hospital? What would they be letting into their home?
The couple knows that many other people are suffering far worse. Other NICU parents can’t see their babies. Other babies are more critical than theirs. Health care professionals risk their lives every day at work. Some are quarantining themselves away from their own families. People are dying, and their family members can’t say goodbye.
Now’s the time to lean on each other, Kiley Fadayomi said. It’s time to share stories, volunteer, stay home, pray.
With support from other people, they know they’ll get through it, Gerald Fadayomi said. They’ll get to hold Wesley and Zoey again.
“It’s only a matter of days.”