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New Parents Reckon With Unexpected Realities of COVID-19

new mother playing with son wearing a mask

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Key Takeaways

  • Strict hospital restrictions around visitors, social distancing, and mask-wearing are changing the birthing experience.
  • Many moms mourn the traditional birthing experience they had hoped for but are finding ways to adjust to new realities for labor and postpartum care.

If you’ve welcomed a new baby since mid-March, there’s a good chance your pregnancy and birth experience were pretty unusual, no thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. From wearing a mask to being isolated from family and friends, your journey to new motherhood during a global pandemic is one you'll never forget.

Haven’t given birth yet? You’re probably wondering what it’s like to deliver a baby and bring home a newborn during these unprecedented times. Luckily, we have the 4-1-1 from new moms that have gone before you. They’ve shared their experiences to let you know that you’re not alone. And although there are certainly some major things you’ll miss out on, there’s also an undeniable closeness and bonding that comes from this experience. 

Here are a handful of ways your new baby experience will be a little different than you expected, but they certainly won't affect your ability to be a loving and devoted parent.

The Baby Shower

Without a doubt, your baby shower is one of the biggest milestones of your entire pregnancy. Who can resist registering for all those tiny socks and adorable outfits? And of course, everyone loves a party! If you were one of the unlucky ones who didn’t have their shower before mid-March, there’s a good chance you may miss out on this special milestone.

At least in person, that is. Many couples are opting to have their showers on Zoom. And with simple online registries like Amazon and BabyList, trust us, your family and friends can still get you that special gift!

Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG

“In the time of COVID, new parents will certainly miss many social milestones, such as baby showers. That’s understandably disappointing since these social interactions impact parents in many ways. They’re excited to share this special time with family and friends.

— Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG

“We had JUST sent out the invitations the week before, had rented the camp for the weekend, and had planned to spend the night there with a few friends before the shower that Sunday, April 5th. Once schools closed on March 13th, we were in limbo like everyone else, and eventually had to cancel entirely due to gathering restrictions.” ~Vicky Roberts

“Our quarantine started mid-March, just after our baby shower invitations went out. We quickly realized no one was going to show up as the shutdown shuttered our small town, travel halted and family and friends started losing their jobs.” ~Justina Nielsen

Giving Birth Without Wearing a Mask

Even in the best of times, being in labor isn’t exactly one of life’s most comfortable experiences. So our hats are off to any mamas who were made to wear a face-covering while birthing a baby. 

“The day I delivered was the first day that doctors and nurses had been mandated to wear masks in labor and delivery. I was not required to wear one during delivery, but all moms that came in just two days later were mandated to wear them.” ~Sophie Schillaci

“During labor, masks were required for all. Try holding your breath for 10 seconds at a time, three times in a row, with a mask on while you push. Not amazing.” ~Justina Nielsen

Having Family Members Present at the Birth

Over the course of a few days in early April, moms in New York City—the epicenter of the COVID crisis—were forced to give birth alone.

Luckily, the ban on spouses attending births was quickly lifted. But there are still strict guidelines to deal with: among them, other close family members like grandparents and siblings still aren’t allowed to be present due to the pandemic. 

“My husband wasn't allowed to leave the hospital once he entered, or he wouldn't be allowed back in.” ~Alessa Caridi

“My mom had driven from San Francisco to be with us during my delivery. I had to break the news to her that she wouldn’t be allowed to come be with me or be part of the delivery. I was heartbroken. She was heartbroken. I missed having my mom by my side during the birth of my son. I always imagined her in the hospital with me.” ~Ariana Hellebuyck

Adequate Support for Postpartum Mental Health Challenges

A recent “flash survey” conducted by MotherFigure determined that an astounding 72% of moms who gave birth during the COVID pandemic had self-reported feelings of anxiety and/or depression after giving birth.

Clearly, postpartum mental health screenings are more important than ever. But stay-at-home orders and social distancing can cause these important post-pregnancy appointments to be put on the back burner, as many doctor’s offices remain at least partially closed to all but the most critical patients. 

“Pregnancy and the postpartum period are already vulnerable times for women, due in part to the hormonal fluctuations accompanying pregnancy and delivery, as well as troubles with sleep,” says Wendy Powell, a maternal health expert who founded the maternal program MUTU System.

Wendy Powell

“You can take these stresses and pretty much double them when you consider the heightened state of anxiety caused by the virus. New moms require physical and mental support in the aftermath of childbirth, and with the reduced capacity for check-ups and medically approved support, they can begin to feel incredibly isolated and alone.

— Wendy Powell

“The hardest aspect of COVID and newborns has been the lack of support. We planned on having extra night and day-time support after we brought our twins home, but that wasn't an option anymore.” ~Alessa Caridi

Visits with Extended Family

Before COVID, the birth of a new baby was invariably followed by a flood of visitors eager to meet the new little one. But now, this cherished tradition feels unsafe on so many levels.

It’s a strange time when you have to worry as much about Grandma as you do that tiny infant in your arms. And yet, here we are.

Just remember, it’ll be so worth it when the time comes that you can finally gather safely—even if that means your little one only meets the family over Zoom for the first year of their life. 

“My in-laws had to cancel their flights and still haven't met their first grandson. For the first two months of my son's life, the only person who had met him was my mother.” ~Sophie Schillaci

“Since we brought our little guy home, we haven't seen a soul. Per orders, he's not allowed to have visitors for at least 2-3 months, especially vulnerable people like his grandmas, who are both over 65.” ~Justina Nielsen

Bonding With Older Siblings

When you welcome another child to the family, it’s important to start the sibling bonding right away. But COVID has made that difficult, with siblings no longer allowed at the hospital at all.

If you’re concerned, simply make an effort to start the bonding process as soon as you get home. Offer your older child(ren) a small “gift” that’s “from the baby” as a way to get the little bundle in their good graces right off the bat. 

“I was devastated that my daughter couldn't come meet her baby brother in the hospital. I had seen so many heartwarming videos and photos of big sisters pressing their noses up to those clear bassinets to see their new sibling. I ached for that moment, which we wouldn't get.” ~Sophie Schillaci

Well Checks for Baby

For the most part, the heaviest lockdown of the first wave of COVID-19 has passed. According to Gaither, that means offices are opening up, physician appointments are being scheduled—albeit with staggered appointments—and waiting rooms are allowing for social distancing. So it’s important to make sure you take your new little one to all the visits her pediatrician recommends. 

Childhood vaccinations are more important than ever, so don’t let the pandemic keep you from bringing your baby to these important appointments. “Plenty of precautions are being taken to keep babies healthy during these appointments,” says Gaither.

“We have gone to well visits with our baby, and I've had my own follow-up postpartum visits. Only one healthy parent is allowed in for the well-baby checkups. We are screened for COVID symptoms before entry and we are only allowed to go in during the morning sessions. Our pediatrician's office is seeing well babies in the morning and sick children in the afternoons.” ~Sophie Schillaci

“We missed out on being able to go to pediatrician appointments together as a family. My significant other missed out on Luca’s first shots, his first ultrasound. He waited patiently in the parking lot as I Facetimed him. I remember hoping he was absorbing all the information from the pediatrician as I held a crying baby.” ~Ariana Hellebuyck

“Well visits have continued with proper CDC precautions in place, but even then I don't feel as ‘safe’.” ~Justina Nielsen

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  1. Motherfigure. Flash report on maternal care in the time of COVID 19. Updated June 2020.