Five Pregnant NYU Nurses Share their experiences becoming moms during Covid-19

By Colleen Crivello

When we caught wind there were five pregnant pediatric and neonatal nurses working throughout the pandemic at NYU Langone Hospital, we were humbled, to say the least, and grateful for a much-needed dose of good news!

Accustomed to being pillars of strength for others, real-life superheroes Amanda Gercone, Meghan Burton, Jackie Stein, Jessica Tessalone, and Nicole Sprotte describe the special bond they’ve formed while sharing their pregnancy experience during this beast of a year.

Nicole Sprotte

A beacon of positivity, Nicole is a critical care nurse in neonatology and pediatrics, due in January with a little boy. Also, she’s the founder of friendRN, a company providing services and support for mother’s seeking one-on-one advice and education and previously practiced as a neonatal intensive care nurse and primary care pediatric nurse.

Feeling?

I am feeling well! Every trimester has felt different: first being the most physically challenging with exhaustion and nausea (although these last weeks of my third trimester with reflux and sciatica make their statement). My body and husband continue to remind me that slowing down isn’t an option despite my best efforts. And, while I’m due in January, if there’s anything I’ve learned from neonatal nursing, even with the best-laid plans, the baby makes the ultimate decision for us (and I am okay with that).

With five of you expecting, what’s it like being pregnant with your colleagues? 

Getting pregnant while working during the peak of Covid-19 in New York meant colleagues and managers knew before families for our own safety–which is definitely not how we all expected that to ever look like. Jokingly we say we were each only 30 seconds pregnant, and already everyone knew, which was so nerve-wracking.

Jess and I had a funny interaction when she shared her news, “So I’m pregnant.” To which I replied, “Well, funny, you should mention it, me too!” Our boys will be two weeks apart.

Is there a group chat?

Don’t you know it! Labeled with 2 blonde and 3 brunettes pregnant woman emojis. While we’re all pediatric nurses, this is still our first time being pregnant and becoming mothers. We don’t know it all. Topics of conversations and questions know no bounds: what breast pump are you getting? Did you register for (fill in the blank)? What does your OBGYN think about induction? Being each other’s go-to normalizes anxieties, emotions, and peeing your pants.

Best part of sharing this experience? 

We are five pediatric and neonatal nurses who worked through a pandemic. We also all became pregnant for the first time. We all have had very different pregnancy journeys–some met with surprise and shock and others with instant relief and gratitude. Having one another on our best and worst days has been the greatest plan-not-plan we never had.

Path to pregnancy?

We conceived naturally after a few months of trying. Truthfully, considering my mindset amid the endless hours of work and stress on the pandemic, I never imagined my body would be able to get pregnant. And yet, on a rainy Friday evening, with a sigh of relief, wonder, and a few too many pregnancy tests later (just to be sure), I walked out of the bathroom unromantically telling my husband we were pregnant.

Being pregnant during COVID, especially as a nurse at the hospital? 

I was human and humbled like everyone. Before becoming pregnant, I assisted as a resource to an adult Covid-19 ICU and facilitated education as we learned what best practices were day by day. I was trying to be a “hero,” but felt fallibly human. After realizing I was pregnant, my exposure to Covid-19 areas and interactions were limited where possible. Hardest for me was helping my colleagues to the extent that I could and then watching them continue to put on their masks, gowns, gloves, and face shields and walk into it day after day. Was I doing enough? What was the right balance of keeping myself and this baby safe and living out my unequivocal agency of wanting to help others?

Advice you can share for new moms or newly pregnant women that may feel really nervous or anxious with Covid at this time?

You are not alone. Remembering to separate what is in our control and wYou are not alone. Remembering to separate what’s in our control and what’s not has been an enormous help. Thoughts are thoughts: think them, feel them, and remember they are just like any other thought: fleeting. Decide what makes you feel safe and comfortable. Make those choices and decisions for yourself and your baby–unapologetically.

As a soon-to-be working nurse-mama how do you envision balancing being at the hospital and having a new baby?

I think if 2020 taught me anything, it’s to take everything a day at a time. Fortunately, I will be taking maternity leave to spend with my baby–and I look forward to embracing that time to learn how to be a mom.

Lastly, one hope that you have for the next generation?

To raising humans who unequivocally respect, empathize, listen, and learn. To meeting people where they are, despite circumstance, to become better versions of ourselves. 

Jessica Tessalone

Bright as can be, Jessica, a pediatric RN, started her nursing career in the Neonatal ICU and then transitioned to the Pediatric ICU. Currently, practicing in the pediatric post-anesthesia recovery unit at NYU with a baby boy coming January 1st!

Feeling?

Depends on the day, but overall, I’m feeling very grateful for this healthy pregnancy. 

This is wild; what is in the water at NYU? How fun to be becoming new moms at the same time as your colleagues, what has that experience been like to lean on each other?

I think pregnancy in itself can be very isolating for a woman, especially as a first-time mom, so going through this journey with close colleagues and friends has made all the difference. If I didn’t have them to talk through all the highs and lows of this process, I don’t know what I would have done.

Best part of sharing this epic experience?

The special bond of strength and support we’ve formed is unlike anything I could have imagined – juggling the fears of working as a nurse through this pandemic coupled with the uncertainty of being a first-time mom.

Path to pregnancy?

Grateful to share that our path to pregnancy was speedy. My husband and I were supposed to get married in Brooklyn in May 2020, but Covid-19 had other plans for us. While we put our wedding date on hold, we decided we didn’t want to do the same with our growing family.

Being pregnant during Covid-19, especially as a nurse at the hospital? 

It’s been a journey. When the pandemic first hit NYC, I transitioned from pediatrics to an adult COVID ICU nurse, where we soon learned of our new pregnancy. Balancing the daily fears of being on the frontlines, along with the struggles and excitement of this pregnancy, has been challenging yet humbling.

Advice you can share for new moms or newly pregnant women that may feel really nervous or anxious with Covid at this time? 

Be kind to yourself. Pregnancy is not a comfortable journey for everyone, and compounding that with the anxiety of Covid-19 certainly makes this problematic. Being understanding of your unique needs during this time is really helpful to get you through the tough days. 

What about wellness? How are you making sure to stay healthy now, and are there any special precautions you are taking?

NYC went into lockdown really early, and having seen how serious this illness is, my husband and I decided to limit our interactions. It was unfortunate to skip birthdays and holidays, but being so close to meeting our baby boy (and thankful for FaceTime), we kept our sights on staying safe.

Lastly, one hope you have for the next generation?

This year was full of divisions on the surface – be those political or how to abide by guidance in what’s best to protect ourselves and others’ safety. What I hope for the next generation is the understanding of togetherness we need to practice. We are all linked together in our actions. I want this year to be remembered for the selfless acts and the lessons of helping others in need that change the world, one at a time. 

Jackie Stein

Originally, a pediatric anesthesia recovery nurse in New York, Jackie transitioned to becoming an adult Covid-19 ICU nurse during the peak of the pandemic. Just after we met, Jackie had her baby and is happy and healthy, on maternity leave.

Path to pregnancy and baby’s arrival?

Following all intuition, just as Covid-19 was peaking, I decided to take a pregnancy test! My husband and I usually love taking the road less traveled (but traveled by us the way we know best): we abandoned the idea of a traditional wedding and eloped a few years back; here we were abandoning all plans by getting pregnant ahead of our intended schedule in the midst of a pandemic. Nevertheless, grateful and humbled, our baby girl arrived on December 3rd to bring some joy to this year that’s been every ounce of unprecedented.

Meghan Burton 

Lovely as ever, Meghan, a pediatric nurse in Neonatal Critical Care is having her first, a girl come April.

Feeling?

Great! Now that I’m out of the first trimester

What has been your experience to lean on each other?

It’s been great! I’m a little behind everyone else, so I definitely have been going to them with my questions and when I need advice.

Best part of sharing this experience?

With Covid-19, it’s made it difficult to share my pregnancy as I would have with my family, but these girls have been like family through this process and couldn’t have gotten through without them.

Path to pregnancy?

We conceived through IVF.

Being pregnant during Covid-19 especially as a nurse at the hospital?

It’s a little nerve-wracking for sure, but I try to stay as safe as I can with my mask and wash my hands.

Advice you can share for new moms or newly pregnant women that may feel really nervous or anxious with Covid at this time?

It’s ok to feel anxious! Find ways to channel the anxiety – for me, keeping my bubble has helped with my anxiety.

As a soon-to-be working nurse-mama, how do you envision balancing being at the hospital and having a new baby? 

My husband and I both work pretty long hours, so after leaving, it will be a bit of trialing different ways to make schedules work. And thank goodness for grandmas!

What about wellness? How are you making sure to stay healthy at this time and are there any special precautions you are taking?

I try to work out 3-4 times a week to move my body and clear my mind. I’m commuting to work on public transportation for precautions, so face masks, hand sanitizer, and vitamin C have been my best friend! 

Lastly, one hope that you have for the next generation?

I hope the next generation grows up, showing compassion and grace towards each other. My hope is my husband and I can raise our little girl to be compassionate and show grace to those around her.

Amanda Gercone

New mama, Amanda, a pediatric and neonatal transport RN, with a passion for caring for the tiniest of patients; her background is primarily in neonatal ICU nursing, caring for sick and premature infants. Amanda gave birth to her daughter Sloane 4 weeks before we met in mid-November. 

Feeling postpartum?

Being a new mom is challenging but also so rewarding! I never could have prepared myself for the intense emotions and all the love that I would feel for both my daughter and my new family.

How wonderful to be a new mom at the same time as your colleagues; what has that experience been like to lean on each other?

I feel so fortunate to share this journey with some of the most amazing women I know. It has been tremendously helpful to have someone to confide in who is going through a similar experience at the exact same time. Whether it is the 2 am text freaking out about a new symptom or just having someone to sympathize with and truly understand what the other person is feeling as we navigate this new journey together. 

How did you tell each other? 

Because of the rising pandemic and how uncertain the medical community was with how Covid-19 would affect pregnancy and developing fetuses, all of my co-workers learned shortly after I did about my pregnancy. At first, this was challenging sharing the information and left me feeling very vulnerable, but I was thankful to have these ladies’ support during that time. 

Is there a group chat? 

We started a group chat shortly after discovering each other and continuing to update each other often about what is happening. As many of our due dates are approaching, we are anxiously awaiting texts of each of our new babies arriving in the world.  

Path to pregnancy?

I am fortunate enough to say my husband and I had no problems conceiving our daughter, and she was somewhat of a surprise post honeymoon. My husband and I both are wholly grateful and recognize that this process is not easy for all couples and acknowledge that many struggle with fertility issues. 

Birth story?

Although getting pregnant was not a struggle for us, I would not say I had the most fantastic pregnancy. I struggled with nausea throughout all three trimesters and ended up diagnosed with both gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension. At my 36 week appointment, I was told that we would be induced no later than 37 weeks due to newly diagnosed hypertension. Three days later, we were in the hospital being induced for my safety and the baby’s. Labor was relatively easy and lasted about 24 hours; we welcomed our daughter at 11:52 pm on November 16th. Both she and I were healthy and happy after delivery and couldn’t have asked for a better team to help us welcome her into the world. We are beyond thankful for all the NYU Langone staff who took care of us made sure we were both healthy and safe during and after delivery! 

Are you breastfeeding? 

Yes, I am currently breastfeeding, and although it is going well, it can be challenging at times due to how time-consuming it can be. This process has made me realize what warriors women really are and how powerful our bodies are. I am beyond thankful for what my body has done for me (and my daughter). 

Being pregnant during Covid-19 especially as a nurse at the hospital? 

Being pregnant during Covid-19 was an added continuous stressor to an already stressful situation. Being pregnant for the first time brings its own set of challenges as it is hard to know what to expect and what is “normal”. On top of that, OB visits were limited and reduced to about half of that from normal times and partners were not allowed. So my husband had to attend all of our visits via facetime instead of being there to hold my hand and experience it all for himself as well. This caused the pregnancy to not feel like “real” right off the bat because he was not allowed to be as involved as he usually would.

Additionally, having limited visits made it stressful for me as a first-time mom because I did not get that constant reassurance that the pregnancy was going well. Each visit felt rushed as the providers were trying to quickly get patients in and out of the office to prevent any transmission risks. After having my daughter, Covid-19 continues to play a role in our birth story. We are cautious about who we allow visiting our daughter, and most of our families have still not had an opportunity to meet her as they all live out of state. We knew it would be challenging to navigate after her arrival, which continues to be right now even as she is here. 

Advice you can share for new moms or newly pregnant women that may feel really nervous or anxious with Covid at this time?

Take each day in stride and try not to overthink it too much. We can only control so much in an ever-changing environment, focusing on the things you can manage and ways to keep you and your infant healthy and try not to stress about the things you cannot control. 

As a soon-to-be working nurse-mama how do you envision balancing being at the hospital and having a new baby?

I am still trying to figure this out myself and probably won’t have a clear answer for a while.