College sweethearts and Mercy co-workers Jaclyn and Dean Sindel share their journey as they navigate their first pregnancy and parenthood during the COVID-19 pandemic. Join Jaclyn as she openly and honestly shares her and her husband’s concerns and excitement around welcoming their first baby into the world during these uncertain times.
Blog 1: "We're Pregnant! What's Next?"
I’m a planner. I make lists and stick to them as closely as possible. Before we got married, Dean and I made a “Bucket List” of all the things we’d like to do before we started a family. Buy our first home, land our dream jobs, travel to Europe and more. Over the past two years of marriage, we’ve been lucky to cross off quite a few items, but a trip to Europe in 2021 was the last big dream before getting pregnant.
Our hopes and dreams of visiting Ireland and Germany seemed to be just that, a dream, after revelations about the global pandemic in March. When it seemed like a ban on travel wouldn’t be lifted any time soon, we decided to try for a different adventure, parenthood.
In the fall of 2020, we had our first positive pregnancy test! Dean, being an overly cautious and medically minded nurse, wanted us to take a few tests before we got too excited. After a handful of bright blue positive tests, we knew this dream had come true! We were over the moon to know our first child would be arriving in June 2021.
After the initial shock wore off, COVID-19 uncertainties and worry set in. Would Dean be able to go with me to my appointments? Could I have the vaccine when available? Could the virus harm my baby if I contract it while pregnant? All the unknowns hit me, the planner, like a ton of bricks.
What will pregnancy during a pandemic be like? We’re here to find out.
Blog 2: What does the COVID-19 vaccine mean for me?
Have you been wondering about getting the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant or after delivery? Earlier this week, I caught up with Dr. Asal Fathian, a maternal fetal medicine doctor at Mercy Hospital St. Louis, and we recorded our session. She gave an in-depth glance at what we know – and what we’re learning – about the vaccine, pertaining to pregnancy and fertility (watch below).
As for our family, Dean received the first round of the vaccine the week it became available. He’s a Mercy nurse who spends his time either working in the intensive care unit or COVID-19 unit. He’ll be receiving his second vaccine soon!
At our 15-week appointment, Dr. Julia Phillips, our OB-GYN, and Dean chatted about both having had the opportunity to get the vaccine. The two even gave each other an air high-five to celebrate doing what they can to slow the spread of the virus as health care providers.
While the vaccine is not available for me, I’m thankful for those around me who are getting vaccinated. I do plan on getting vaccinated after delivery and when it is my turn. Having a spouse working on the front lines has caused some mixed emotions in our household since the start of the pandemic. However, we’re all starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Blog 3: Not-So-Routine Precautions During the Pandemic
Dean and I began dating the month he started nursing school. I’ve never known him to want a different profession, nor could I see him doing anything but caring for other people and using his passion and skills to bring comfort to patients. It’s wild to think that before he’s even reached three full years of being a nurse, he has worked during a global pandemic and cared for people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Just like so many others, COVID-19 has caused a lot of uncertainty in our home. Since Dean is regularly caring for patients in the COVID unit, we’ve adopted new routines to keep our home clean and our bodies healthy. From his cell phone to a beanie to keep his head warm, everything gets washed or sanitized after being at the hospital. He never brings his work shoes in the house, but that has always been a rule in the Sindel house. Dean changes in our garage and puts his scrubs in a shopping bag that immediately gets taken downstairs to our laundry room and heads straight to the shower. Dean is extremely cautious about what he’s tracking into the house and could potentially be bringing home to me and our unborn baby. There have been instances over the past year where we’ve even tried to keep distance from each other inside our house due to his exposure. Coronavirus has changed the way people live their lives across the globe and our family is just one of many that has had to make alterations.
Being extra cautious about what comes in the house is something we’ve done during COVID-19 and throughout the pregnancy, but this routine is something we will continue to do indefinitely with having children and to stay healthy in the future.
This past year has opened the eyes of so many people and has brought a great deal of appreciation for essential workers who are out interacting with the public. We are so grateful for all front-line workers who have continued to keep this world afloat during such uncertain times.
Blog 4: Ultrasound and Appointment During COVID-19
Is baby Sindel a boy or a girl? We'll be finding out in the delivery room. Recently, we had our 20-week appointment, which is also known as the anatomy scan. The anatomy scan is an ultrasound where the technician takes the baby's measurements to ensure they are growing on schedule. Dean and I were able to see the flicker of the baby's heart and watch them wiggle around. Also, we heard the sound every parent loves to hear, the baby's strong heartbeat. Aside from abiding by masking rules and having our temperatures checked when we entered the hospital, this pregnancy experience was just as we've always imagined. Following COVID-19 guidelines is a small price to pay to know we're being safe, those around us are safe, and getting to see our baby on the big screen.
After our ultrasound, we met with Dr. Julia Phillips, our OB-GYN, for our scheduled check-up. At this time, Mercy Hospital Saint Louis, where we will be delivering our baby, is allowing parents to choose whether they will visit every four or every six weeks for check-ups. The purpose of this change is to allow parents to visit the hospital less often and limit exposure to COVID-19 while still prioritizing the health of the mom and baby. We've made the decision to visit every six weeks and feel confident in the choice.
Now we're in the process of finding a Mercy Kids pediatrician for our baby, gearing up to learn more about breastfeeding and what our delivery experience will look like during COVID-19. We're past the halfway point to holding our little one in our arms and we can't wait!
Blog 5: Breastfeeding During a Pandemic
Whether you choose formula or breastmilk, the most important thing is that your baby is nourished and has a full belly. I plan on breastfeeding when our baby is born. If for some reason it doesn’t work for our baby or my body is having struggles creating a supply, we will switch to formula. Choosing to breastfeed was a conversation that Dean and I had before we even tried to get pregnant. When Dean had his maternity rotation in nursing school a few years ago, we started discussing the options and now here we are. Breastfeeding during a pandemic was not something we had on our radar back then though.
Recently, I spoke with Dr. Susan Sullivan, a newborn hospitalist at Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas, about breastfeeding in the times of COVID-19. Dr. Sullivan is an advocate for the benefits of breastfeeding for mom and baby. Not only does she work with parents and children, but she is also a mother. Recently, she has been donating her milk supply to participate in a study about how the COVID-19 vaccine impacts breastmilk. She is donating portions of her supply and logging data about how she is feeling to help researchers gain more insight.
Dr. Sullivan shared that there are many benefits to choosing to breastfeed, but it could be even more beneficial during the pandemic. Breastfeeding is good for helping your child build their immune system. Additionally, anxieties are running higher these days and choosing to breastfeed also promotes bonding and a special time between a mother and baby.
Next up on the Sindel breastfeeding journey will be to start looking at breast pumps. At my 20-week appointment, Dr. Phillips shared a website with me to start doing research and to see what is available through my insurance. We’ve linked the website below if you are starting the search for breast pumps covered by your insurance.
Blog 6: Finding a Pediatrician
As I’ve said before, I’m a planner. As our due date draws closer, it’s time for a check-off list. Finding the right pediatrician for our child was one of our top priorities. But, how do you go about finding the right fit for your family?
Distance from home, office hours, nurse on-call and personality seemed to be the most common considerations we would hear from friends and family about what to look for in a doctor. I know when I was looking for a new OB-GYN a few years ago, I was looking for similar things in my provider. I also must say how thankful I’ve been for my office’s nurse on-call during my pregnancy! Whether I’m feeling dizzy or taking a little tumble from my dog getting under my feet, the nurse on-call has been there for my whole pregnancy to calm my fears and answer my questions. I knew Dean and I would be looking for a similar experience when it comes to caring for our baby.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Mercy Kids pediatrician Dr. Jessica Yocum of Oklahoma City to talk about common questions new parents have when looking for the right provider for their child. Dr. Yocum was so kind and reassured us that we were on the right track with asking questions and helped us to create our list of questions for finding a pediatrician in our area.
Baby Sindel will be a Mercy Kid and will even be a patient of the doctor who cared for me as a child! I had a wonderful experience with my pediatrician and saw her until I went to college[CJP1] . I’m excited to be taking my next generation to see Dr. Christie Bayer at Mercy Clinic Pediatrics – West County!
Dean and I are gearing up for the next steps in parenthood and prepping to have our child in our arms. Next on the list? Finishing the nursery, finding a safe car seat and finalizing a baby name. Wish us luck!
Blog 7: Baby's First Days and Appointments
As I prepare to round out my eighth month of pregnancy, the checklist I’ve been living by to prepare for the baby is thankfully getting smaller.
I recently spoke virtually with Mercy Kids Dr. Jessica Yocum from Oklahoma City about what my husband and I should be looking for in a doctor for our child. With Dr. Yocum’s advice and talking with friends and family in our community, we found the right fit for our family. I called the office and took the first step toward our child becoming a full-fledged Mercy Kid!
In addition to helping us navigate the waters of selecting a doctor, Dr. Yocum also gave us some insight into what we can expect when our little one is checked out at the hospital and their first official office visit. As new parents, we weren’t totally sure what to expect. Thankfully there are people out there like Dr. Yocum who are ready to help parents every step of the way.
Blog 8: Welcoming Visitors and a Newborn
Many celebrations and gatherings have gone virtual over this past year. We’ve found ways to raise a glass and cheers online, play virtual games and more, but how can you celebrate newborn baby cuddles digitally? Parents all around the world have been faced with decisions like allowing visitors or how to safely introduce their child to a world experiencing a global pandemic. COVID-19 or not, parents should still be taking precautions when it comes to allowing visitors in the home once a newborn has arrived.
Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Pediatrician Dr. Laura Waters from Mercy Hospital Springfield about what parents should be on the lookout for when it comes to letting family and friends meet the newest addition to the family. Whether you have questions about visitors at home, in the hospital, or are wondering about taking the baby to a gathering, Dr. Waters has it covered with advice and safety measures to keep your baby healthy.
We’ll be bringing our baby into the world in a few short weeks and it's health care providers like Dr. Waters who help answer all our new parent questions.
Blog 9: Waiting on Baby to Arrive
The hospital bags have been packed, car seat installed and we’re ready to welcome our baby at any moment!
We wanted to thank everyone for following our pregnancy journey during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past nine months, we’ve touched on vaccines, breastfeeding, and calming anxieties around bringing a new child into the world.
Dean and I are so thankful for all the Mercy physicians and health care providers who took time out from their busy schedules to help educate us and others about becoming new parents and answering our questions.
It’s hard to believe nine months have come and gone, but we’re very excited for the next step in our journey as a family of three.”
Blog 10: Welcome to the World, Stevie!
Stevie Lynn Sindel was born last week, weighing in at 6 lbs. 9 oz. and 19 in. long. Everything went great and we're already home enjoying our newly-expanded family.
I'm taking a few months off, naturally, but stay tuned for more updates from the next phase in my journey!
Blog 11: Celebrating Breastfeeding Week (and Month) with Stevie!
World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is a global campaign to raise awareness and galvanise action on themes related to breastfeeding. For those who've been following my journey, you know that I chose to breastfeed Stevie. Here's a video I put together for Mercy's social media channels. By the way, we're LOVING maternity leave. :)
Blog 12: Stevie's 15 Minutes of Fame
On Aug. 12, KMOV in St. Louis interviewed me about why I got vaccinated before Stevie's arrival. They also spoke with Dr. Laura Vricella, a maternal fetal medicine physician at Mercy, who said a growing number of unvaccinated pregnant women are winding up in the hospital, critically ill from COVID-19. Her team believes it’s likely due to the Delta variant, which known to make people sicker and is vastly more transmissible.
Blog 13: Stevie's Return to Television!
Recently, I was interviewed by KY3 in Springfield about my decision to get vaccinated while pregnant. Research shows that mothers who breastfeed can pass antibodies to their babies. Stevie, my daughter, drinks breastmilk, and the new research has provided our family with an even greater sense of peace.
With Dean, my husband, continuing to care for patients in the ICU, getting the vaccine while pregnant with Stevie was a no-brainer. Stevie relies on us to keep her healthy and make decisions for her. Deciding to get vaccinated at 20 weeks pregnant was one of the first decisions I was able to make as a parent to ensure the protection of my child.
If you're on the fence about getting the vaccine, talk with your doctor. I received the vaccine to protect my baby and other children. Will you do the same for my baby?
Blog 14: My Transition to a Working Mom
Like many other people across the globe, the pandemic transformed me from an in-office employee to working from home. When I got pregnant last year, I was lucky enough to spend my entire pregnancy in the comfort of my home and worked up until the day before I was induced.
As a first-time mom, I had no idea what to expect going back to work once maternity leave ended. My husband and I had childcare figured out, and I initially thought that would be the only thing to think about, but I was so wrong. I underestimated how strange, sad and stressed I would feel being home without my daughter, Stevie, while I worked.
I didn’t consider the tears I would cry as I pulled out of my in-laws’ driveway after dropping Stevie off for the first time. I didn’t think about the intense planning that would go into prepping a diaper bag for her to be away from home for a full day. How many diapers is enough? Will she be fine if I only send two sets of clothes? Did I pack her favorite blanket? These were all questions that kept me up the night before returning to work. I knew in my heart she would be just fine with her grandparents, but my mind was still racing.
In these first few months of parenting, we’ve come to realize each day comes with new learning opportunities and changes. Whether it’s going back to work, being more vigilant as she learns to roll, or adjusting to a new sleep schedule, Stevie has us on the adventure of a lifetime and it’s always changing.
The end of my maternity leave has been the latest adjustment, but it’s one that I’m sure we’ll master as we continue the journey.
Blog 15: Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?
Many people suffer from anxiety and depression, and I am one of them. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in 2019. My anxiety is well managed by my primary care provider, but I would be wrong to say I wasn’t concerned about developing postpartum anxiety after delivering my daughter. My OB/GYN was very thorough with discussing signs and symptoms of postpartum disorders and because of that, Dean and I were able to keep a close eye on my mental health. Thankfully, my anxiety has remained in check since Stevie’s arrival, but sadly, that isn’t the case for every mother.
Pregnancy and adding a baby to your family can add a new layer of anxiety and emotions to anyone’s plate. Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss postpartum anxiety and depression with Dr. Kristen Waterbury, an OB/GYN with Mercy Hospital South. Dr. Waterbury discussed the differences between the “Baby Blues” and postpartum disorders. She also broke down what mothers and their partners should be on the lookout for days, weeks and months after the arrival of a child.
If you are struggling with your anxiety or depression after the birth of your baby or believe your partner might be, reach out to your doctor for help. Having a new life join the family is a happy and exciting time, but it can also be extremely overwhelming. Your feelings are valid. Vocalizing your feelings is important and one of the first steps to getting help.
Blog 16: The COVID-19 Booster and Breast Milk
I was vaccinated against COVID-19 while pregnant and received my booster for added protection while still nourishing my daughter, Stevie, with breast milk. I made both of these decisions with the guidance of my doctor and Stevie's pediatrician.
After Stevie's birth, I made weekly and monthly goals for myself with choosing to breastfeed. Setting smaller goals for myself made the learning curve and challenges more manageable in my mind. I started with a goal of two weeks of feeding her breast milk, and the two weeks quickly grew to one month and so on.
When word started buzzing that a COVID-19 booster shot would be available, I knew I wanted to keep feeding her breast milk to potentially provide her with more antibodies, and just like that, my goal extended again.
Thankfully, I was eligible for the booster at the end of September. My body was able to nourish Stevie with breast milk for another two months after my vaccination. Even though our breastfeeding journey has just ended, I'm so thankful I had the opportunity to feed her breast milk and provide her with extra antibodies against COVID-19.
Having a baby during a pandemic has been quite an adventure for Dean and me. The journey of parenthood has been the greatest experience of our lives. We will continue to do what is best to protect our pandemic baby. Stevie is almost six months old now and will be eligible for her first flu shot soon. We're so thankful for modern medicine and each step we can take to keep our girl healthy!
Blog 17: Stevie's First Flu Shot
Here’s something they don’t prepare you for in the parenting books: how sad you’ll feel watching your little one get upset when receiving vaccinations. It breaks my heart when Stevie’s lip quivers when it comes time for her shots. As tough as it may be to see your child upset, there is also a huge sense of relief knowing they’re protected from disease and illness.
At six months old, babies are eligible for their first flu shot. Little Stevie celebrated her half birthday in December and received her flu shot at her regular check-up. The vaccine gave Dean and me some much-needed peace of mind since we’re in the thick of flu season.
I had the chance to chat with Stevie’s pediatrician, Dr. Christie Bayer, about flu season. She answered our questions about the age requirement, why children need a booster after their first flu shot and more. Dr. Bayer was my pediatrician as a child, making Stevie a second-generation patient!
Blog 18: Formula Shortage and Safety Concerns
Grocery store shelves have been looking scarce in the baby formula aisle. Due to supply chain issues and safety recalls, parents across the country are having difficulty finding their brand or type of formula for their infants.
Because of these shortages, some people have started looking for creative ways to feed their baby. However, some of the alternative methods can have dangerous consequences. Recently, I sat down with Mercy pediatrician Dr. Jessica Smith to discuss the hot questions her patient’s families have been asking.
My daughter, Stevie, is formula fed. While we haven’t had any issues finding her preferred brand, there have been times I have snagged the last can on the shelf with a sigh of relief. Stevie is about to turn one and will be transitioning away from formula soon, but here’s hoping we’re able to continue finding her brand until the summer. This is an incredibly difficult time for parents who are struggling to find safe formula options for their children, especially when their baby has dietary concerns.
If you are struggling to find formula, please reach out to your child’s doctor. They can direct you to other locations that might have what you need, or they may have samples they can share with you. As Dr. Smith said, “We’re all in this together.”
Have questions for me? Or want me to find something out for you?
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Please note, "Jaclyn's Journey" is meant to be a first-hand, exclusive look at one Mercy patient's unique experience. The information provided in this blog is unique to Jaclyn, and not intended to be medical advice and should not be substituted for the advice of your personal physician or other qualified health care professional. Please do not reach out directly to Jaclyn outside of her publicly listed email or social media posts on Mercy's various platforms. If you experience an emergency, please call 911. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care professional with any questions you may have regarding medical symptoms or a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog. We encourage interaction, discussion, commentary, questions and even criticism but ask that you keep your comments and posts relevant and respectful. Mercy reserves the right to moderate comments on this page as necessary to prevent medical, personal and confidential information from being posted. In addition, Mercy will remove all spam, personal attacks, profanity, racism, excessive posting, as well as any off-topic commentary, advertisements about goods or services or announcements about news or events not related to Mercy and may ban anyone who violates these guidelines.