Alecia Vanden Berg and her husband, John, envisioned the arrival of their baby for months.
They couldn’t wait to introduce him or her to his sisters, Kamryn, 6, and Sadie, 4, bonding as one happy family after the scheduled C-section at Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital. Then, visits from grandparents in the hospital room.
But COVID-19 changed all those visions.
Jaxon arrived at 8:24 a.m. March 18, weighing 8 pounds, 4 ounces. But the visitor load? Light.
His sisters couldn’t be there to greet him. As health care facilities around the nation have been required to limit visitation due to COVID-19 concerns, Alecia could only have one visitor by her side, and visitors couldn’t take turns. One and only.
Alecia’s parents, Nancy and Jack Engelsman, found an end-around to ensure the little girls, and they, could at least get a glimpse of their new family member.
The Engelsmans brought the little girls to the lawn outside the third-floor hospital room. John held Jaxon in front of the window as the girls waved and blew kisses to their new little brother.
“The girls were a little disappointed they couldn’t come up and see the baby,” Alecia said. “But only one visitor is allowed per maternity parent and it’s my husband with me. The C-section had been scheduled for months. We were excited. We didn’t know what (boy or girl) we were having. It was a surprise. When things started to tighten up with coronavirus and policies changing, it was kind of back to square one.”
In preparation for the birth, the family “holed up” in their Hudsonville, Michigan, home for a week, in hopes that everyone could stay healthy.
Then delivery day arrived.
“The delivery went so smooth,” she said. “We came back to the room and relaxed.”
Later, John craved food from Mr. Burger in Hudsonville. He asked his in-laws if they could deliver.
“They said, ‘Sure, we’ll bring the girls and stand outside and wave,’” Alecia said. “So that’s how it happened. I was still in bed after the C-section, but my husband had a nice clear view of them down on the grass.”
John took a few photos of his family as he peered down at the smiling faces on the lawn.
“This is kind of a jump back in time in a certain way,” Alecia said. “With all the quarantining, it’s like, ‘Hey, let’s just get back to basics.’ It’s all in how we face this.”
After months of excitement and anticipation to welcome the new baby, then the realization that they wouldn’t be able to experience it as a family together in the hospital, the Vanden Bergs regrouped. Accepted. Took the situation for what it is and was, and still feel blessed.
“We have girls who are 6 and 4,” Alecia said. “We could have been really sad and projected that emotion onto them. But we were excited. My parents, too. They asked, ‘How fun will this be?’ The girls were excited to be waving up at the window.”
Even though they couldn’t be in the same room, Alecia said she’s grateful they could share their new family from afar, through the looking glass.
It may not feel like a fairy tale, but it does feel surreal at times, to stay in contact with loved ones using electronic devices.
As the middle school technology teacher at Dutton Christian School, Alecia preaches technology daily. She just never expected to be using it to share her newborn son with his siblings.
“We’ve been doing a lot of FaceTiming,” she said. “We do it a couple of times a day so they can see the baby. My daughters made cards for him. When my husband went downstairs to grab food from my dad, he got the cards, too.”
Although not what the family envisioned, they’re adapting, like so many others in this temporarily new world.
“It’s not how we pictured it, but it’s certainly not bad,” Alecia said. “Everyone here is happy and pleasant. From in here, I wouldn’t know that anything terrible is happening outside.”
And, something beautiful outside.
John said it’s a moment the family will never forget.
“All the nurses ran to the windows,” John said. “They said, ‘We’re just watching your family see their new baby brother.’ I just thought it was the sweetest thing ever. It’s not such a joyous time, but we can bring some of that to others. When I held Jaxon up to the window, the girls were waving and blowing kisses. They were so happy to see their brother in person instead of on FaceTime.”