Supporting a Mother and Baby Through Uncharted Territory

A Mother’s Love

“She’s my miracle baby.” For six long weeks, COVID-19 kept Anny from her daughter Ava.

One of the many heartbreaking consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is the long separations that loved ones have endured. Former BIDMC patient Anny Caruso knows firsthand how difficult this is. For almost two months, while she tested positive for COVID-19, her only contact with her newborn daughter, Ava, was via FaceTime calls facilitated by members of her care team.

“You don't know your strength until you actually need to be that strong,” says Anny, remembering back when she was discharged from BIDMC after giving birth. “The hardest part was leaving the hospital without Ava and being so very afraid.”

In March 2020, Anny was 31 weeks pregnant with Ava when she was diagnosed with COVID-19. “I got really sick and was having trouble breathing. I was terrified,” says Anny, whose husband also contracted the virus. When she was admitted to BIDMC, her team of obstetricians faced their first case of COVID-19 in an expectant mother. They determined that for her and her baby’s safety, she should deliver right away. On March 22, Anny underwent an emergency C-section and baby Ava was quickly moved to BIDMC's Klarman Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) while Anny was sent home to recover.

You don't know your strength until you actually need to be that strong.
Anny Caruso

Although she was happy to be home with her husband and their young son, Anny was devastated to leave Ava. In order to safely visit her in the NICU, Anny needed two weeks’ worth of negative COVID-19 test results. But week after week, she received the heartbreaking news that she continued to test positive. “It's stressful and frightening for any parent of a premature infant to have to leave their baby in the hospital,” says NICU nurse Sonya Elenbaas, RN. “Our staff works hard to help parents bond with their preemies. But in Anny's case, she and Ava couldn't be together, so our team did everything we could to help her feel close to her baby girl.”

Like so many challenges brought about by the pandemic, this was uncharted territory for the professionals working in the NICU. But the team quickly made arrangements for regular FaceTime calls that would enable Anny and her husband to watch from home as Ava grew. This helped her to be part of Ava's many “firsts" over the course of their six weeks apart. “I was so depressed and disappointed not to be with her,” says Anny. “But NICU nurses Jaylee, Sara, and Sonya were my angels. They cared for Ava, and they were so sensitive to me, too.” Elenbaas wasn’t just doing her job—she connected with Anny on a deeper level, as a mother herself. “I remember when my children were babies, I wanted to be with them all the time,” says Elenbaas. “Watching Anny go through this was just unimaginable. She and her husband were so brave and strong.”

After six long weeks, Anny was finally COVID-free and able to visit Ava. One week later, the day before Mother's Day, Ava came home. “My husband and son and I were so happy, we just sat there gazing at her,” says Anny.

Today, Ava has already celebrated a major milestone: her first birthday. She continues to grow, her family remains healthy, and life finally feels back to normal for Anny. “Every day, I am reminded how blessed I am,” says Anny. “My family and I are forever grateful to everyone at BIDMC who took care of us during such a frightening time.”

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