DETROIT LAKES, Minn. -- Lexi Fritz had her birth plan all worked out.
The soon-to-be new mama was scheduled to have her labor induced on March 26. Her mother was going to be there to hold her hand during the delivery, and so was the baby’s father, Sam Williams. After the baby was born, they’d be surrounded by friends and family at the hospital. There’d be a strong support system and loved ones all around.
Just two weeks before Fritz’s due date, that birth plan was thrown out the window. Of all the difficult possibilities every pregnant woman has to worry about and try to prepare for, a global pandemic is one thing this expectant mother never expected.
As Fritz was waddling her way through her third trimester, COVID-19 was spreading through the U.S. A wave of social distancing rules, cancellations and closures quickly followed, including stringent visitor restrictions at hospitals.
On March 15, Essentia Health-St. Mary’s in Detroit Lakes, where Fritz was set to give birth, announced that only one adult visitor would be allowed with each labor and delivery patient, and that person could not be ill. All other visitors would be asked to leave.
The restrictions were put in place to help slow the spread of the virus and protect vulnerable populations, including newborns. Fritz understood the need for the restrictions, but was also deeply disappointed about what those measures would mean for her and her family.
She couldn’t have her mother in the delivery room with her, like she wanted. And there would be zero visitors at the hospital. Grandma, grandpa and everyone else would have to wait until she and Williams got the baby back home. Or longer.
Suddenly this big moment in Fritz's life, a moment she envisioned looking and feeling a certain way, was destined to be something quite different from what she’d dreamed.
“I was pretty upset,” Fritz said, especially about not being able to have her mom in the delivery room. “Had this (coronavirus) not been going on, all the family would have been there for the birth. A couple of friends were planning to come, too.”
She ran into another unexpected last-minute snag when Williams had to get tested for the coronavirus just a few days before her induction date.
A hockey player for the Evansville (Ind.) Thunderbolts of the Southern Professional Hockey League, Williams learned that one of his teammates had been exposed to the virus; that meant he had to be tested. If it turned out Williams was positive for COVID-19, it would create a chain of chaos that would affect Fritz, her family and everybody else he had been in contact with. He wouldn’t be able to attend the birth, and couldn’t see his newborn baby until after a two-week quarantine.
Fortunately, after a day of anxiously waiting for the test results, and with Fritz's scheduled induction on hold until those results were known, they got the good news that it came back negative. Williams could be there for the birth, and Fritz's induction could go on as scheduled.
On March 26, at 8:16 p.m., their baby girl, Amelia Lynn Williams, was born, healthy and content. With no visitors allowed, the new parents focused their attention on Amelia, and sought advice and support from the Essentia staff.
“I loved my nurses,” Fritz said.
They went home to Cormorant Township a couple of days later to settle into parenthood, and Fritz's mother and a few other immediate family members were able to see the new little bundle of joy. Continued concerns over the coronavirus, though, have kept most of Fritz's and Williams' friends and extended family members at bay.
Even Williams' immediate family has not been able to visit yet. They’re from Canada, Fritz explained, and the U.S.-Canadian border was closed to all nonessential travel on March 20 because of the virus. Though Williams' parents are eager to meet their new little granddaughter, they can’t.
‘We’ve had a few visitors. Not very many, though,” Fritz said. “We’re really limiting who she (Amelia) is exposed to. We don’t bring her to any stores … We’re laying low and doing what we can around the house.”
Amelia went to her one-week checkup, but won’t be having another checkup at two weeks, as babies typically do, in order to minimize exposure. And the newborn photo session that Fritz had scheduled in advance was canceled.
“That was a little heartbreaking,” she said, but the photographer is planning to visit their home soon to get a private session in while still practicing social distancing.
“It’s really messing with a lot of things,” Fritz said of COVID-19. “It’s crazy.”
A 2014 graduate of Detroit Lakes High School, Fritz works as a server at The Roadhouse in Lake Park. She’s been out of work since the state mandated the closure of all restaurants on March 17. Williams is off now, too, as his hockey season was cut short by the virus.
“It’s been hard,” Fritz said of this time in their lives, but they're trying to make the best of it. “Sam and I have been spending a lot of time with her (Amelia), and that’s been good.”