'I had twins the week before lockdown': Giving birth amid the Covid-19 pandemic

(FatCamera/Getty Images)
(FatCamera/Getty Images)

Meagan Morgan, 34, and her husband Shane, 38, were excited if a little nervous when they were heard they were having twin boys.

"It's not just having two children. Two children are okay, a lot of people do that. But two children with the exact same needs is hectic," says Meagan about her then five-week-old twin boys, Alex and Hudson.

The boys decided that 34 weeks instead of 38 was enough and they were done being womb mates. "I went into labour during the night. They tried to stop the contractions, but whatever medication they were giving me wasn't helping," says the Cape Town mom.

Alex and Hudson

Meagan had an emergency C-section and 10 minutes later, on 20 March 2020, Alex and Hudson were born. Just three days later, President Cyril Ramaphosa would announce a nationwide lockdown.

Meagan says she wasn't thinking about coronavirus then. She was rightly focused on the fact that she needed her babies to be born safely.

Even though when they arrived at the hospital, they were screened and asked questions before they were allowed in, the seriousness of Covid-19 was lost on her in that moment.

But in the days after the birth, it began to hit home.

The rules were changed that very day

Meagan says "Shane's parents came all the way from Hermanus to see the twins. We knew [the twins] were going into the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) because they came early, but usually, grandparents and parents are allowed to come and visit."

But the rules were changed that very day so as to protect the babies who already have compromised immune systems.

"They couldn't see their grandchildren. We only found this out when we were walking in, thinking they can see the twins, but they were told to turn around," says Meagan.

"The hospital staff were great. This was all new for them too. No one was prepared for this," says Meagan. Being separated from your newborn twins is already stressful, but it became even more so, especially as the twins had to stay until they were three weeks old.

"Initially, Shane and I could basically go in and out all day to go and see the boys, but then a few days later, they also cut back on the visiting hours for parents. Only one parent a day was allowed to see them from 9 AM to 6 PM," she says.

Then, Shane was no longer allowed to see them.

A few days later, even mothers were only allowed to visit from 10 AM to 2 PM. "I never thought it would reach the point where Shane wouldn't be able to see his kids," says Meagan.

"He went without seeing his children for over a week. Luckily their NICU stay wasn't so long, but he was seeing them through my eyes, through pictures from me.

"The stress also had an adverse effect. "I wanted to breastfeed. It was something I really wanted to do, but because of the circumstances, I was only able to pump and send it to the NICU.

But once they cut down the hours, my supply literally tanked," says Meagan. She jokes that the saddest part is that she spent R 8000 on a breast pump that she only got to use for two weeks.

The hospital became militant about restrictions.

"You couldn't just walk into the hospital. You got screened as you entered.

Everywhere you turned there were people with hand sanitisers. You had to sanitise your hands all the time. My hands still look terrible because of the strong chemicals. They eventually began handing out masks to people too," says Meagan.

The day the twins were discharged, only Meagan was allowed to fetch them and was escorted out by a nurse.

Meagan laughs now about their first car journey and how they only drove 40km an hour: "Newborns face the back in the car seats, so I made sure I had a mirror with me so I could see their faces to see if they were still alive."

Bringing the babies home

That day and the days leading up to it when they went to visit the boys, Meagan says it was eerie how quiet the roads were: "We take the N1. It's the busiest road. We take that road to work every day."

Bringing the babies home brought Meagan and Shane relief, but something else too. "It's very sad that our family can't come and see them. I send them videos every day, but it's not the same," she says.

Alex and Hudson are Meagan's mom's first grandchildren, and she's heartbroken that her mom can't see them.

"In [the coloured] culture, your mom spends a few days to help you and teach you how to look after your baby, but I didn't get that," says the first time mom, but hopes that this will be over soon so that their family can share in their joy.

Meagan's normal new mom worries are definitely exacerbated by the current climate. "They're supposed to go for their immunisation. We're trying to find a clinic that isn't as busy. We could go to the hospital, but do I want to go to a hospital where the risk of sick people is even higher?" she says.

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