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San Juan Island family gets creative to share childbirth experience during coronavirus restrictions

An outdoor waiting room of sorts is allowing families to share the miracle of childbirth at an Anacortes hospital.

ANACORTES, Wash. — It wasn't exactly the way Tracy James thought she'd watch her only daughter give birth -- through a tinted window, planted in a lawn chair among the hedges, and talking with the mother-to-be through a cell phone.

"I'm a little nervous," said James. "This is definitely different."

In the vast unknown of coronavirus, Chad and Hallie McGee decided to have the labor induced on Monday.

"We just wanted to control a kind of chaotic scenario and it made us feel a little safer," said Hallie McGee.

Under new coronavirus protocols, only one family member is allowed inside the delivery room.

That was dad.

"I feel lucky," said Hallie McGee. "I can't imagine being a first-time mom and having this experience. I'm just thankful my husband is in here."

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The couple's 5-year-old son, Jago, had to stay outside with his two grandmothers.

Fortunately, the birthing center at Anacortes' Island Hospital is on the first floor. So, the boy and his grandmas gathered at the window, noses pressed to the glass, iPhones in hand waiting for the big moment to arrive.

But it just wasn't quite the same.

"It's hard not being able to hold her hand," Hallie's mom said. "It's sad. I wish I could be in there with her."

"With our first child, people were able to visit," said Hallie McGee. "They brought food and gifts. It was a celebration. But this time, none of that is happening."

Since March, Island Hospital has delivered 87 babies with no COVID-19 patients in the Birth Center. 

Every patient and support person that has a scheduled birth is tested for COVID-19 ahead of time.

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"If we have a spontaneous labor patient, we use a rapid test on the patient and their support person, and proper precautions are used on patients that are not tested," said hospital spokeswoman Barb LeDuc. "If we were to have a positive COVID-19 patient, we would deliver them in a negative airflow room outside of the Birth Center."

On Monday afternoon, River Anthony McGee became the 88th baby of the hospital's COVID-19 era.

It was a relatively quick and drama-free delivery, with big brother Jago imploring his parents to open the window and let him in.

"It definitely makes you realize the important stuff," said Hallie McGee. "What matters is family."

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