What I Learned After Having a Newborn in a Global Pandemic
I delivered my third baby girl on March 12, 2020. The following day, while in the hospital, I received an email that my oldest daughter would no longer attend school in-person.
A few days later, I sat on an ice pack, nursing my baby and watched the breaking news: we were ordered to shelter-in-place for three weeks. I remember thinking three weeks seemed like forever, and sheltering-in-place would be impossible.
Yet here we are, nearly five months later, still under the shelter-in-place order in California.
In just a few days, our lives were turned upside down. Not only because of the newborn - she was anticipated for months. It was the unexpected that made it so hard.
Playdates for my kids were canceled, our family and friend’s trips to visit us and help were canceled…life as we knew it was canceled. The reality started sinking in that no one would meet our baby and share the joy she brought to our family for potentially a long time.
Although the pandemic is not over, and my baby is still young, I learned a lot as a mother and a healthcare provider over the last several months. I want to share what I wish I knew about bringing home baby in the midst of a pandemic.
This pandemic proves that you never know what might be out of stock at the store. I found myself unable to purchase some items I needed, which increased my stress level while caring for a newborn.
My husband went to four different stores to find pads for me! Although hoarding supplies seems unnecessary, I wish I had a one-month supply of these items when I came home from the hospital:
- Toilet paper
- Hand soap
- Hand sanitizer
- Pads for post-partum
- Lanolin cream
Rely on Your Trusted Healthcare Provider
Sometimes I think society forgets how difficult postpartum can be both physically and emotionally. Despite the pandemic, support is still available. Your primary care doctor, gynecologist, lactation consultant, pharmacist and pediatrician are still working every day, and you should rely on them.
Every medical office has new procedures for cleaning, and video or phone visits may be used instead of in-person visits depending on the concerns. Talk to your pediatrician about the specific changes in their office and go to your well-baby visits.
My pediatrician, for example, scheduled half as many patients, and patients who were sick went to the opposite side of the clinic and used different exam rooms, and everyone was wearing masks and social distancing. Also, only one parent could attend the appointment.
My daughter’s 2-week appointment was almost an hour-long because both the pediatrician and I were craving a face-to-face conversation with someone outside of our home; it was a refreshing outing for me! I continue to rely on my pediatrician heavily for advice, especially when there are so many unknowns.
Plan for Help
Caring for a newborn is difficult, and you will need extra help. If possible, plan to have your spouse or support person home with you for a few weeks while you recover.
You may also want to ask family members (after considering the potential risk) to quarantine for several weeks in advance of your due date so they can safely stay with you when the baby is born. Each family should assess their unique situation and be thoughtful about the benefits and risks of interacting with people outside of the household.
My parents live close by, and they watched my older daughters while I was in the hospital. Since the shelter-in-place order was implemented while they had our girls, we decided to quarantine together. My parent’s help and my husband’s paternity leave were essential during the first few weeks.
You May Feel Isolated
Feeling lonely and isolated is very common after having a baby, and this feeling is amplified during the pandemic because interaction with others is restricted. Connecting with others at a safe distance will not only help your emotional well-being but will also give you something to look forward to. Plan to introduce your baby to your loved ones in safe ways, such as video calls, through windows, or sending pictures.
There were multiple evenings when friends came by to drop dinner off on our front porch. The five- to ten-minute interaction as I stood in my doorway and they stood at least six feet away made me feel human again, and it was much needed. Texting, calling, and video chatting with friends and family also helped me remember there are people who love me, and there is life after a newborn.
Anxiety is Normal
The feeling of anxiety was foreign to me until I had a baby during a pandemic. The main things that contributed to my anxious feelings in the first few months included the worry that someone in our family would get sick and stress about daily schedules.
I would lie awake while my mind was racing: what could go wrong, could we get sick, what if my older kids got sick, what if my baby got sick? Social media amplified my nerves as I wound up reading incomplete, unfounded articles.
Reminding myself that we were as safe as possible got me through the early days of anxiety. My family stayed home, we washed our hands, disinfected household surfaces, and only went out for essential needs while practicing social distancing and wearing masks. I deleted social media from my phone for a few days at a time to avoid reading click bait articles.
I thrive on a schedule, so having places to go and people to see distracts me from my newborn’s lack of a schedule. Being stuck at home made me hyper-focused on my newborn’s unpredictable sleep, and I stressed when she did not do what I expected.
After my five-year-old asked, “Every day feels the same – what day is today?” I realized we needed a change. We sat down and chose simple activities to define the days. For example, Wednesday was movie night and Friday; we did an outdoor adventure like a hike or bike ride. Meal planning commenced during this time as well, and I found that having a plan in place helped the whole family feel more comfortable about daily expectations.
There were some silver linings to having a baby during a global pandemic. Sheltering-in-place kept my newborn safe from other illnesses. Our family enjoyed a slower pace of life because all our activities were canceled. When I returned to work as a pharmacist after maternity leave, I empathized better with my patient’s pandemic struggles.
Nothing can adequately prepare you to have a baby, let alone during a global pandemic. My firsthand experience was a bumpy ride. Prepare as best as you can, get help when possible, remember you are not alone and do your best to find your silver linings!
- Allday, E. Bay Area orders ‘shelter in place,’ only essential businesses open in 6 counties. San Francisco Chronicle. 16 Mar 2020. Available from: https://www.sfchronicle.com/local-politics/article/Bay-Area-must-shelter-in-place-Only-15135014.php. Accessed 20 Jul 2020.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronavirus: People with Certain Medical Conditions. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html. Published 2020. Accessed 20 Jul 2020.
- Humenick SS. Overcoming isolation of the new mother. J Perinat Educ. 2003;12(4):iv-v. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1595174/
- Merriam-Webster. Clickbait. Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Available from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clickbait. Accessed 20 Jul 2020.