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Giving Birth During a Pandemic

A new Hazleton mom shares her maternity journey during COVID-19.


After five years of trying to get pregnant, Mary Ribarchik and her husband, Brad, were blessed with exciting news during the summer of 2019 – they were expecting. But the Hazleton couple never imagined they would welcome their little one into the world during a pandemic.

Finding out “We’re Pregnant!”

Ribarchik remembers the day she found out she was pregnant like it was yesterday. “It was surreal. I was happy and excited, because we’ve been waiting for it for so long,” she says.

She received a phone call from the fertility clinic that the third round of intrauterine insemination (IUI) worked. Overjoyed and excited, she shared the news with her co-workers and brainstormed creative ways to tell her husband that evening.

At their wedding, the Ribarchiks received a gift of wines and liquors to celebrate milestone moments like their first wedding anniversary and first dinner party. There was still one bottle left and that was marked with the words: first baby. Ribarchik poured a small glass for Brad, set an empty glass out for herself and put a baby bottle with milk and 2020 stickers in the middle of their kitchen counter. She hid in the corner of their home and captured his reaction on video when he got home from work.

The two couldn’t wait to be parents. After years of waiting, it was finally happening.

Pregnant in a pandemic

Despite living in this unexpected new normal due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), Ribarchik knew exactly what to expect when coming to Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Hazleton to receive care throughout her pregnancy. Her care team, including obstetrician Jill Snyder, DO, made sure she was aware of all the safety guidelines so she could be at ease.

“I wasn’t horribly worried going into my appointments because I knew they’d have all the safety measures in place. I trusted them to keep me safe,” Ribarchik says.

At LVH–Hazleton, there are many protocols in place to keep expectant mothers and their family safe and comfortable from the moment they walk in. Everyone is screened upon entering and must wear a face mask. Social distancing is enforced. Elevators are also separated to ensure that patients do not encounter any COVID-19 patients. Plus, the Family Birth and Newborn Center is its own separate unit.

“I knew Hazleton was one of the COVID-19 hotspots. That was a concern of mine especially with being at the hospital. But Dr. Snyder explained that the delivery floor was secluded as its own floor and the nurses there are strictly labor and delivery nurses – they don’t go anywhere else in the hospital. So, that made it a lot easier to give birth during the pandemic,” Ribarchik says.

Her biggest concern was having to do it alone. “I don’t want to do this by myself, giving birth is one of the best times of your life aside from a wedding,” Ribarchik says. As her due date grew closer, Ribarchik continued to stay informed about the hospital’s safety policies. She was thankful to hear that hospital guidelines allowed one coach and/or partner to accompany expectant mothers at the hospital.

Welcoming Baby Ribarchik

Baby Ribarchik was breached so a cesarean section (C-section) was scheduled for May 11. On that morning, Ribarchik made a video to document this exciting journey she was about to embark on – motherhood. Later that day she gave birth to their baby boy, Lucas.

I had a handpicked care team in the OR (operating room),” Ribarchik says. From Snyder to a nurse she knew from church to the anesthesiologist who offered to take pictures, they all made sure she felt comfortable and cared for.

From the early stages of her pregnancy to the day of her C-section, Ribarchik said her experience was “fabulous” at LVH–Hazleton. Her care team was there for her every step of the way.

“The staff was fantastic on the birthing floor and the obstetricians were great as well. I’m very thankful that they were very knowledgeable, took the precautions and kept abreast of everything going on to make their patients feel safe,” Ribarchik says.

Advice for expectant mothers

If she could share one piece of advice with other pregnant women, it’s this: Ask your health care team questions. “If you’re concerned about something, ask questions because they’ll be able to tell you everything you need to know with all of your concerns and help you feel more comfortable and confident, coming in during a nationwide pandemic or not,” Ribarchik says.

If you are preparing to have a baby during this time, you can rest assured that Lehigh Valley Health Network is taking all the necessary steps to provide safe care to protect you, your baby and family.

Watch our video interview with Mary