NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Separated at birth. Not twins, but two parents and their newborn son.
Rhienna Murray was rushed to Yale New Haven Hospital last Tuesday when she went into labor five weeks early. Within minutes of her arrival at the medical center, she gave birth to a baby boy.
What happened next was “torture,” she said, and it had nothing to do with the birth itself.
Born premature, Murray's son was rushed to Yale’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
“They couldn’t give me a good reason from a health standpoint beyond protocol,” she said.
Shortly thereafter, the new mother learned she was positive for COVID-19 and was quickly taken to an isolation room. Her husband Todd, considered a close contact, wasn’t allowed to be with his wife – or his baby.
“It was torture. The most traumatic thing I have ever gone through,” Rhienna Murray said.
The immediate separation from her baby boy stripped the new mother of what is called “the Golden Hour,” a critical skin-to-skin bonding time with the child.
“I probably still haven’t processed it all,” she said.
When Rhienna Murray asked for her baby to be brought back to her – as she intended to breastfeed her son – the hospital said no.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the chance of a newborn getting COVID-19 from their birth parent is “low.”
Lori Atkins, a registered nurse and lactation consultant at Oh, Baby! Lactation in Glastonbury, told FOX61 there are no documented cases of COVID-19 transmission through breast milk.
“There are some risks. But the risks of separation and not breastfeeding are higher,” she explained.
She said skin-to-skin with a baby as well as expression of breast milk early on can really boost a mother’s supply.
Hospital staff eventually cleared Rhienna Murray for discharge, but she refused to leave without her newborn. Her husband was powerless at home.
“She gave her an ultimatum. She said you can walk out of your own volition or you are going to be picked up and taken out,” explained Todd Murray.
The couple retained an attorney and soon after, both mom and baby were discharged together.
“Seeing him for the first time. Seeing them for the first time was surreal,” the new dad said.
In response to the incident, Yale New Haven Health sent FOX61 a statement that reads in part: “In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, we remain committed to protecting our most vulnerable patients, their families, and our staff.”
It went on to say: “We continue to work towards safely reducing visitor restrictions.”
The New Haven couple said they are sharing their story to empower others.
“You do have power. That as a parent your baby doesn’t belong to the state or the hospital. It is not a product,” said Todd Murray.
They told FOX61 that in the days ahead, they look forward to spending quality time together as a family and focusing on making a decision they wanted to make much sooner…finally giving their baby boy a name.
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