But the world they’re arriving into looks dramatically different from the one of a few months ago, a fact that weighs heavily on Heather’s patients. Where prenatal visits and delivery rooms used to be nests of human-to-human contact, they’ve by necessity become fortresses of distance, faces like Heather’s now cloaked behind the protection of surgical masks.
“We’ve had lots of tears and worrying,” says Heather, a nurse practitioner, of her patients who could hardly have imagined the current scenario when they first saw their pregnancy sticks change color months ago. She’s keenly aware of her role now, how valuable her voice, her eyes — both warm and familiar — are behind the mask.
“It’s been a very important time to be there for them,” she says.
It’s not just expectant parents’ worlds that have been turned upside down. Just a few weeks ago, Heather would have told you that her husband — a police officer — had the riskier job. But the rise of an invisible enemy has changed that. As a medical provider today, she’s constantly on guard — disinfecting, wiping down, always cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. “Now,” she says, “my husband worries about me going to work.”
Her children — 1-year-old Brody and 5-year-old Ty — feel it, too, especially Ty who talks often about the bad germ. “He asks what it looks like. He wants to watch the news,” she says.
But the routine of going to the Bright Horizons at Baylor child care center – a place the whole family has known since Ty was a baby – has been good for everyone, mom and dad included. “Not being able to work would have put our family in a hard financial position,” she says. “And I would not have been able to care for the patients who need me throughout their pregnancy and delivery.”
She marvels at the teachers, and credits them for bringing normal into a totally abnormal situation. It’s not just the love and care: it’s the activities, the routine, and their ability to make things like masks seem less intimidating. “Ty wants to wear a mask now,” says Heather. “He feels like a Ninja.”
Even in a pandemic, she says there are genuinely good things that have stood out — the random acts of kindness; the people cheering for the frontlines; the donations of protective equipment; the support from the community.
“It’s demonstrated the heart of our humanity,” she says.
And always, always, there are the babies.
“The birthing of new babies and new life always bring joy,” she says. “Like a little light in the dark or glimmer of hope amid the fear.”