The pandemic has affected the birth experience even for healthy patients.

COVID visitor restrictions at most hospitals allowed only one support person with the expectant mother at delivery. That meant grandparents and siblings had to wait days or weeks to meet the baby.

Paola Keesy gave birth to her daughter, Nika, in April, just as the coronavirus cases were rising in the Baltimore area.

Babies Nika, Joyce and Jonah

Nika, UM St. Joseph; Joyce, UM Charles Regional and Jonah, UM St. Joseph

Like all first-time parents, Keesy and her husband, Dustin, signed up for the childbirth education courses, looking for guidance about the childbirth experience and breastfeeding, only to see the courses cancelled because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

UM St. Joseph certified childbirth educator Marian Malinski, RN, CPCE, had no trouble adapting to coach parents through technology.

“Marian walked me through the online class and instructional booklet, and had long phone calls with me to explain what to expect from the birth process,” Keesy said. “It was overwhelming at first, but Marian understood the situation, was very comforting and definitely knew her stuff. Her warmth and her experience put me right at ease.”

The day she went into labor at home, Keesy tracked her contractions through an app on her phone. She messaged Malinski.

“Marian returned my call right away,” Keesy said. “She helped me through one of the toughest parts of my labor.”

As the contractions became more frequent and strong, Malinski recommended Keesy take a warm shower for relief.

“And I kept her on speaker,” Keesy said. It was then that her water broke.

“Marian calmly talked me through it, telling me very gently what to do – and to call my doctor and go to the hospital now.”

Malinski stayed on the phone with Keesy, advising her and her husband about where to park and what to expect when they arrived (wearing masks) at the hospital.

Nika Maria Keesy was born at 11 pm on the dot, April 27, at UM St. Joseph Medical Center.

For Malinski, on the cusp of retirement, Nika’s birth was the perfect ending to a career spanning 45 years. She estimates that she has taught some 37,000 couples during that time.

“I believe the number may be higher, but I don’t want to brag,” she said.

“COVID-19 has changed the way we educate new parents,” Malinski said. “It seems strange that I’ve never met Paola – or Nika – in person, but, during Paola’s labor, there was just this connection between two women, unspoken, but serving our highest purposes at that moment in both our lives.”

A Surprise Arrival

The Hicks Family

ABC News covered the heart-warming surprise arrival of Private 2nd Class Tyrell Hicks on leave from a US Army base, where he was in training.

Just minutes after his dramatic arrival, his wife, Alanna, gave birth to their son, Kannon, at UM St. Joseph Medical Center in January 2021.

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