Becoming a Parent During the Pandemic
5 min read
by Catherine Santino | February 18, 2021
Pregnancy and parenthood rarely go according to plan, but first-time parents in 2020 had to face an entirely new, dare I say unprecedented, challenge: navigating it all in the face of a global pandemic. Not only did the situation throw a massive wrench in their birth plans, but the world in which they welcomed their babies was suddenly overrun with chaos and danger.
But of course, through it all, people continue to persevere. I spoke with two women, one living in New York State and the other in Chicago, Illinois, about their experience becoming new moms amidst the chaos of COVID-19 — from the hardships they faced to the lessons they learned.
Did you have any expectations of pregnancy/birth? How did the pandemic impact them?
Eileen, 29, New York: I think it's natural to have a vision for how your pregnancy and birth will go and the pandemic absolutely disrupts that. One thing that sticks out in my mind the most are the ultrasound appointments. I think it's safe to say that most women envision their partners attending their ultrasound appointments with them and experiencing that moment when they both get to see their child on the screen. Unfortunately the pandemic made those experiences next to impossible for us. Because of the inability to participate in those experiences, I think my husband felt more disconnected from the pregnancy early on than he otherwise would have.
Paige, 33, Illinois: We had so many expectations! That I would carry our baby full-term, that I would have been able to go to every doctor’s appointment, that I could give birth without a mask on, that my mom would have been able to come visit us in the hospital. But, all of that went out the window. My husband and I also got COVID-19. Luckily I had it rather mildly, but we were very worried that my husband would have to be hospitalized. He was able to come out the other side, but it was very scary to be eight months pregnant wondering if I was going to be losing my husband.
Due to an issue with having COVID-19, my liver was not functioning properly and if we did not induce labor early it could have caused a stillbirth. At 36 weeks, I was induced while wearing a mask. Our son was born relatively healthy, but his lungs were underdeveloped so he was in the NICU for eight days.
Everything was different due to COVID-19. None of our pregnancy/birth experience was what we had thought it would be. I am also not sure I would have chosen to have a child during this time. We made the choice to have a baby when we had an idea of what the world was going to be like. At times we wish we had waited, but you never know what the future will be like and we are grateful to have him!
Have you thought about what you’ll tell your child about the time in which they were born?
Eileen: I included some information about the pandemic in his baby book. The most important message that we will try to get across to him will be that we did everything we could to keep him safe and that it was a time for us to spend extra time together at home getting ready for his arrival.
Paige: I am not totally sure! This whole year has been very difficult in every aspect of our lives, but our baby is the bright spot and we will definitely be telling him that.
What has been the biggest challenge of becoming a parent during COVID?
Eileen: We have had a pretty challenging experience because I work in a hospital, and my husband was laid off. I was going to work each day during my third trimester knowing that I could be putting myself at risk of contracting the virus, especially because I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and was pretty sick, and we had the financial stress of expanding our family and suddenly becoming a single income household. It became especially challenging because the pandemic makes it nearly impossible to plan ahead.
Paige: The lack of help. Due to restrictions in my state, we did not see a single person besides the pediatrician for the first two months. To go through the hardest time without help from our parents or siblings was very hard. To watch our parents meet their first grandchild through a glass door and not be able to hold him for months was absolutely heartbreaking. I would not wish that on anyone.
Do you think the pandemic will impact how you parent going forward?
Eileen: Absolutely! The pandemic has taught us to appreciate every moment and to slow down and be more present. I'm sure we will carry this over to our parenting style. Children are only little for a little while, so we need to remember to soak it all in and enjoy it.
Paige: Yes, totally. I think that I will be much more cautious of strangers. It has changed me from an already slightly paranoid person to a very paranoid person. I never want my child to touch anything, because they put their hands in their mouth all the time.
New mothers often feel isolated even without the circumstances we're currently in — did you struggle/are you still struggling at all with feelings of isolation/loneliness? If so, have you found any ways to combat that?
Eileen: Absolutely. It's difficult when you have this new member of your family and you're not able to go out and do things that you would during normal times. One piece of advice given to me by my postpartum nurse was to go outside for at least 30 minutes per day. It's made a big difference in my postpartum journey. It has also been very important for me to communicate to those close to me how I'm feeling. We're not alone and there's no shame in struggling.
Paige: Oh my god, yes. I am never alone and yet somehow, so lonely. My husband only had two weeks of paternity leave, so a great deal of that time was me alone with our baby. It has gotten easier as we have gotten more used to being new parents, but I am still lonely. I don’t think I have found a good way to combat those feelings as I still deal with them regularly.
Any advice you would give to other new moms?
Eileen: No matter when you become a new parent, whether it's through birth, adoption, fostering, etc., it is completely normal to have good days and bad days. Things won't always go according to plan, but they will always turn out okay. You are the very best parent for your child and you will find your rhythm. When you need help, seek it out! Don't try to take everything on yourself. And prioritize sleep! You can't pour from an empty cup.
Paige: Being a parent is hard. But it gets easier every day and the amount of joy it has brought us during this uncertain time can’t be measured.
Has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted a major life event of yours? If so, how did it change your mindset? Share your experience with us in the comments.
Catherine Santino is a freelance writer in New York City. She’s written for Bustle, Wonderland Magazine, Insider, BuzzFeed, and many others. Currently, Catherine is also a features editor at LADYGUNN Magazine, where her work has been featured online and in print. Follow her on Instagram to see lots of memes and pictures of her dog.
by Catherine Santino