Baby boom: 11 CHoR NICU nurses give birth and get vaccinated against COVID-19
December 16, 2021
CHoR NICU nurses holding their babies

    11 CHoR NICU nurses give birth and get vaccinated against COVID-19

    Our neonatal intensive care unit nurses have experienced a lot of night shifts, diaper changes and snuggles this year – and not just at work. An astounding 11 of the nurses in our NICU gave birth to babies of their own during the six-month period between March and August 2021.

    “It’s been an exciting year in the NICU, that’s for sure,” said Sharon Cone, nurse manager. “I was so excited for each team member when I learned they were pregnant, but quickly recognized the impact having SO many babies and staff out on leave would have on remaining team members, especially during the peak time for summer vacations!”

    A special bond among nurses and friends

    CHoR nurse Megan Spataro and her baby girl

    Caring for tiny preemies and critically ill newborns can be a demanding job, so it’s no surprise that our NICU nurses are a tight-knit group. This served them well as they navigated their own pregnancies.

    "This is my first baby, so I was able to ask questions and get wonderful recommendations for so many baby items like breast pumps, doulas, bottles and so much more! And now with everyone delivered, we try to get together for ‘mom group’ every once in a while, and we all know we can ask even the silliest questions to each other,” said Megan Spataro (pictured at right), whose daughter Carmen is now 4 months old.

    Rachel Seese has been a nurse in our NICU for just over a decade and welcomed her second child, Sawyer, in June.

    “It was great being pregnant with so many coworkers and friends. I loved having others going through the ups and downs of pregnancy with me and all the support we provided one another. To this day we all still group text,” she said.

    The promising protection of the COVID vaccine

    Welcoming a new baby comes with a lot of important decisions. These nurses, and all new parents during the pandemic, were faced with an added question – when to get their COVID vaccines. The decisions varied, but everyone agreed the vaccines were important to protect themselves, their families and their fragile patients.

    “I received my first dose of Pfizer on January 6, 2021. What a day to celebrate! I was 11 weeks pregnant and so scared, but I knew I had made the best decision for me and my baby,” said Genevieve Tehovnik, whose 4-month-old daughter Lorelai is her third child.

    Spataro labored over the decision a bit more but came to the same conclusion.

    "I did get my COVID vaccines while I was pregnant. I was 18 and 21 weeks pregnant,” she said. “It was a VERY difficult decision for me. At the time, the current recommendation for pregnant women was to ‘not withhold’ the vaccine. Basically, it was my decision...that was not easy. I ultimately decided that the benefits outweighed the risks – healthy mom = healthy baby!”

    All 11 nurses ultimately got vaccinated at different points in their pregnancies, and some while breastfeeding. They were guided and supported in their decisions by the women’s health team at VCU Health. With the vaccines behind them, they can take comfort knowing they’ve reduced their risk of severe illness and focus on caring for the babies and families who count on them – at the hospital and at home.

    “As now a mother of two, my favorite part of parenting is watching my two girls develop a loving bond and relationship with one another. Sawyer is really starting to interact with her big sister. Watching the two of them interact and play is better than I could have ever imagined,” added Seese.

    Ending the year and enjoying the holidays with grateful hearts

    “We’ve had lots of new life in neonatology. As it should be! It’s been fabulous to share in understanding and supporting our nurses and team members including one of our trainees who also delivered her daughter this year,” said Dr. Karen Hendricks-Muñoz, interim physician-in-chief and chair of the Division of Neonatal Medicine.

    “I’m thrilled to have all our NICU team members back and healthy,” said Sharon Cone. “Some returned to their full-time status, while others are now working part-time. I am so appreciative to all our team members who consistently step up to meet the ever-changing census and acuity in our unit. The NICU team is amazing! It’s been a challenging year trying to meet that delicate balance between family and work life for all of our team members, while continuing to provide the best care for our patients too.”

    CHoR nurse Genevieve Tehovnik and her baby

    Certainly, family, friendships and health are top of mind for many this holiday season. These nurses are counting their blessings to have all three wrapped up so beautifully.

    “It was something happy and exciting to share with so many of my coworkers. It was something finally to celebrate after such a tough year working in health care,” added Tehovnik (pictured at right) of her 2021 pregnancy journey.

    Read more about the care provided in our Level 4 NICU.


    Photo credit:
    Moms and babies - Hannah Emery, RN
    Megan Spataro and baby - Luke and Ashley Photography

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