Interview: A Conversation With Tasmyn & Craig Little On Birthing With COVID-19
Hapū māmā Tasmyn Little tested positive for COVID-19. The next day, she went into labour. Tasmyn and husband Craig Little share their story of life, birth and isolation, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Tāmaki Makaurau.
Kia ora Tasmyn and Craig, thank you for taking the time to kōrero with us! Can you both introduce yourselves? Tell us about who’s in your whānau and where you live?
Tas: I’m Tasmyn, Craig is my husband, we have been married for just over a year now and on the 4th of March we welcomed our beautiful daughter August to the world. I worked in the hospitality industry for several years and have only recently sold a café that I owned and managed in Glendowie. We live in Pakuranga and Craig works nearby in the supply chain and logistics industry.
What impact did COVID restrictions have on your pregnancy in terms of visits and maternity care? How was your emotional wellbeing as a result?
Tas: COVID restrictions unfortunately meant that Craig was unable to come to any of our ultrasound appointments or midwife appointments.
Luckily, I’m quite an independent person so my emotional well-being wasn’t affected, but I did feel for Craig as he wasn’t able to experience moments in my pregnancy that would have been special for us to share together.
What preferences, if any, did you have for birth? When the Omicron outbreak began, did you form a plan with your LMC for what would happen if you and/or Craig tested positive?
Tas: I didn’t have a set birth plan as I’m more of a go with the flow kind of person however the one thing that I knew I wanted to do was to go into the Botany Birthing Unit after August was born.
Unfortunately, it was hard to come up with a set plan once the Omicron outbreak began as rules were changing frequently and once I tested positive for COVID it became clear that we would have to birth at the hospital rather than the Botany Birthing Unit.
You both tested positive for COVID-19 prior to August’s birth. What was the timing in relation to the birth and what rules or guidelines were in place at the time for how that might affect your plans?
Craig: We suspect that I had picked it up on the Sunday before August was born and passed it on to Tas. Tas tested positive the day before she went into labour and was freaked out about what this would mean for the birth.
No one knew what it would mean at the hospital at that stage, but we just knew that we wouldn’t be allowed to go to Botany Birthing Unit afterwards and that we would be on our own to figure everything out. We were feeling pretty worried about it all.
How did you feel when you were unwell?
Tas: I didn’t feel too bad just a sore throat and runny nose. Only lasted for a couple days I was vaccinated & boosted.
Craig: I had very mild symptoms, just a sore throat and a light fatigue feeling. I wouldn’t have thought much of it two years ago. I had had both vaccinations and my booster by this point so this may have helped keep the symptoms mild.
Can you give as an overview of your birth story? What impact did being positive for COVID have on your experience on the day?
Tas: I ended up giving birth at Middlemore Hospital. I went in due to bleeding and they had booked me in to be induced because of this but my labour started spontaneously prior to that happening.
With having COVID and being in the COVID area of the hospital the staff were under the pump and it took a long time to be seen when I would press the call button. Craig and my midwife weren’t allowed to come into the hospital until I was in active labour and then once they were in, they weren’t allowed to leave our room.
Once I was in active labour and when it came time to give birth, COVID wasn’t even on my mind so was nice in the sense that it didn’t affect my birth in that way.
It more affected afterwards as we were no longer allowed into the Botany Birthing Unit, and we weren’t allowed family/friends over at home to help us out until we had done our 7-day isolation period.
Craig, how did the COVID restrictions affect your experience of Tas’ pregnancy and labour as her husband and key support person?
Craig: Throughout the pregnancy I wasn’t really able to go along to any of the scans or midwife visits because of COVID restrictions, this was a bit annoying as I felt like I was missing out on the experience, and I felt bad that I couldn’t be there to support Tas.
Then, when Tas tested positive for COVID the day before she went into labour we were unsure what it would mean for the birth process.
When we had to go to the hospital we were told to wait in our car. A nurse came out to collect Tas and take her inside. I wasn’t allowed to come in until active labour had started so I waited in the car in the hospital car park for about an hour unsure of what was happening and waiting for news.
Eventually Tas told me that they were running tests and I likely wouldn’t be able to come in today, so I went home. A few hours later contractions started but I still wasn’t allowed in. However, Tas was getting quite distressed and eventually the nurses said that I could come in to try and help calm her down.
It was about lunchtime by that point. I came in to find Tas quite upset and in pain in a room by herself, the hospital staff were pretty stretched, and it seemed like a bit of a hassle for them to enter a COVID room so they weren’t around much. But once the midwife and I got there we were able to help her get more comfortable, and she relaxed a lot.
Once I was in, I couldn’t leave, so we were in the birthing room together waiting for our baby to arrive.
Our baby girl showed up happy and healthy 11 hours after I arrived.
How do you feel about the birth upon reflection?
Craig: At the time I was really concerned about not being there and being unable to help. But upon reflection I can see that I wouldn’t have been able to do much anyway. Everything worked out well and we couldn’t be happier with our little girl.
Tas: I feel the birth itself wasn’t affected by COVID it was just the lead up and afterwards. I am glad that the whole experience wasn’t tainted by COVID, however I would have preferred if it hadn’t affected my pregnancy and our first week with a new-born.
We were also lucky in the sense that we didn’t get too sick as that would have made for a different experience!
To protect yourself and your pēpi from COVID-19, you should get vaccinated as soon as you can. The Ministry of Health and the New Zealand College of Midwives recommend that pregnant people receive both doses of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine, as well as a booster. It is safe to get the primary vaccination course and booster at any stage of your pregnancy.