Maryland pandemics mesh with maternity, show beach, baby boom

Maryland pandemic tales of resilience during the coronavirus have recently focused on delivery room challenges, heartwarming gestures and Zoom calls between medical personnel and families.

There are also larger stories to tell, ones of how the pandemic has intersected with already dynamic moments in people’s lives.

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That was especially true at the Ocean City beach over the July 4th weekend. While there were plenty of news stories about beach-goers defying social distancing recommendations, it turns out there were many young families enjoying a very different kind of summer vacation: maternity stays.

Cassie and Ian Anderson of Huntsville, Alabama, were among the parents-to-be. They escaped the heat and humidity of their home state for an end-of-pregnancy getaway on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Cassie, who is a registered nurse, says the timing of their vacation wasn’t planned to coincide with their first child’s due date.

“We just kind of winged it,” she said, while walking near the beach with Ian pushing 3-week-old son, Knox, in a stroller.

The couple had booked an Airbnb for the week leading up to Knox’s due date. When Cassie started to experience contractions, she timed them on her phone, and after a few hours, they headed to Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin, choosing it over Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury because it was closer.

Knox was born July 4th at 5:48 a.m., making him one of several babies welcomed to the world at the Berlin hospital over the holiday weekend.

“We knew it was a possibility we’d be having our baby here,” Cassie said, “and we were prepared for that. … We love it here, so there’s no better place to have a beach baby.”

Dr. David Salvas, chairman of the Berlin hospital’s obstetrics and gynecology department, said it’s not unusual to see expectant mothers like the Andersons taking babymoons in Ocean City, but the hospital has definitely seen an uptick in the number of maternity stays over the past year.

“We’ve gotten very busy,” Salvas said, noting that the hospital averages about 500 deliveries a year.

Salvas has been with the Berlin hospital since 2007, and he has noticed a trend toward more young families vacationing in Ocean City. He attributes it to the decline of the once-popular family vacation destination in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which was hit hard by Hurricane Florence in 2018.

“Ocean City has a reputation for being a great place for families,” Salvas said. “It’s not as wild as Ocean City, Maryland, or Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.”

While the Andersons were spending their first hours with Knox, another young couple from Pennsylvania was preparing to take their 2-week-old son home. Sarah and Matt Nolan also escaped the oppressive heat and humidity of their home state for a relaxing maternity stay in Ocean City.

The Nolans’ son, Finn, was born June 22nd at Atlantic General Hospital. The couple said they didn’t give much thought to the fact that they might have their baby in Maryland, adding that they were prepared to make the 4-hour drive home to Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, if necessary.

“My doctor back home said she wouldn’t let me travel more than two hours away from home after 36 weeks,” Sarah said while sitting on a beach chair and feeding Finn a bottle. “So, we figured, why not come to Ocean City?”

The Nolans said they enjoyed their stay in Ocean City so much that they’re planning on coming back next year, with Finn.

“It’s really a great place for families,” Matt said. “We felt very comfortable here.”

Salvas said he expects the number of maternity stays at the Berlin hospital to continue to increase in the coming years. He said the hospital is planning to expand its maternity ward to meet the growing demand.

“We’re seeing a lot of young families coming to Ocean City,” Salvas said. “They’re looking for a safe and affordable place to vacation, and they’re finding it here.”.

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