About a month ago, my wife brought a beautiful baby boy into the world. He was born right in the heart of North America’s first COVID-19 epicenter. The weeks that have followed have been interesting to say the least.
While each country’s experience with the coronavirus is unique, it is creating a wave of change that appears to touch the lives of everyone. People of all walks of life have tapped into unprecedented measures of preparation (looking at you, toilet paper hoarders). And if your corona experience just happens to involve a new-born, a few extra preparations are in order.
If that is the case, let me first congratulate you! COVID-19 (or, as I refer to it when speaking with our toddler, the No-Good-Dirty-Rotten-Altogether-Awful-Bug) may bring unique challenges to child-bearing, but it cannot rob you of life’s greatest joy.
That said, it is perfectly normal to feel afraid or uncertain. For help with that, I would like to offer a few tips from our experience of having a new-born during a pandemic.
Note: Experiences may vary significantly depending on where and when you deliver.
1. Plan for anything and everything
COVID-19 is disrupting birth plans across the world. In heavily hit areas, for instance, doulas are being advised not to attend home births, and partners are being banned from delivery rooms. Call your doctor, midwife, and/or doula frequently (daily if you are close to your due date) to ask for updates on their protocols.
Hospitals are having to figure things out as they go, so messaging and protocols can change very quickly. Stay up to date on everything you need to know for your delivery, as well as follow up appointments after the baby is born.
Stock up on baby essentials, such as diapers, baby wipes and powder, formula, children’s medicine, etc. Never assume you can just grab them later. Experts recommend having a supply of at least two weeks.
If this is not your first child then you already know that there are many trips back to the doctor after the baby is born–weight checks, immunizations, etc. Ask your pediatrician if any of these visits can be either done over conference call, or grouped together in one visit, to limit your trips outside the home.
We asked our pediatrician about their clinic’s exposure to the virus, and if there were other locations that we could go to that may be safer. They were really helpful and even provided ways for us to bypass the waiting room. Find out what your doctor(s) can do to help you limit your exposure.
2. Don’t assume you or your baby won’t get it
Despite the fact that relatively few pregnant women or infants have been negatively impacted by this virus, it is still extremely important to practice social distancing. Remember that we are all responsible for curbing the spread of the virus, which means limiting our exposure at all costs. A bit of creative planning and tapping into available resources can make this possible.
Thankfully, many essentials such as groceries and medicine are becoming more available contact-free via delivery apps and curb side pickups. Take advantage of these. Always wipe down packages you bring into the home and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with hot soapy water.
3. Take all the help you can get
One of the not-so-fun parts of caring for a new-born during this time is that your family may not be able to be there to help you in the early weeks or even months.
My parents booked flights months ago to visit us and help care for our son in his first weeks. Unfortunately, they had to cancel. It is uncertain how long they will have to wait to meet their grandson. If your family does not live close by, you may be wondering the same thing.
Without the typical aid of visitors to hold the baby so we can nap, or help do household chores, we have relied instead on asking friends to bring us supplies and food.
Ask your closest friends to help put together a meal train, make grocery store runs for you, and do whatever they can to keep you out of public places. You may be surprised at how much people want to help. We certainly have been.
Find out what charities and non-profits are available in your area helping distribute goods and meeting other basic needs. There may even be some specifically for helping families with newborns. Mothers: Put your partner in charge of tracking down help, if possible. You have enough on your plate.
4. Stay Positive
This one is true whether having a new-born during a pandemic or in the most normal of times. But it is even more crucial at a time when every headline seems to cause anxiety.
During and after childbirth, your body’s hormones go on quite the roller coaster ride, and it is not uncommon to experience postpartum depression. Know that this is okay, and it is so important to get help if you begin to experience this.
There are many ways you can stay positive and nurture your mental health during this pandemic. Here are some of the things that have helped us:
Avoid checking the news all day long: We still want to stay informed, but the constant barrage of breaking COVID-19 news was causing heavy anxiety. We have aimed to check the day’s news once a day at a chosen time, rather than continually checking our phones for updates throughout the day.
Same with social media: Yes, it is a blessing to have a connection to the outside world during times of quarantine, but it is also entirely very easy to get stuck in an endless scroll through your newsfeed, which can negatively impact your mental health. Set limits and make certain times of the day screen-free times.
Go on walks/exercise: Even just 20 minutes of light exercise can give your body a boost of energy and help improve your emotional well-being. Just remember to practice social distancing if you leave the house, and do not go out at all if your regional government has advised against it.
Help others in your community: It has been helpful for us to remember the less fortunate during this time and devote some time thinking of ways to help others. Here are some examples.
It may take time to adjust to the fact that things are simply different. Stay positive, get all the help you can, and stay healthy.