When I found out I was pregnant in 2019, I felt a happy mix of excitement and anxiety. Then the pandemic hit, and like so many moms-to-be, I found myself preparing to give birth during a time of great uncertainty. On the chilly April morning I went into labor, there were more unknowns about the virus than there were knowns. We weren’t sure exactly how it was transmitted (people were still wiping down their groceries and afraid to order takeout) or just how long the “15 days to slow the spread” would stretch on for.
We celebrated our son’s first birthday this month, with just his dad and sisters surrounding him, and his store-bought cupcake at the kitchen table. And while I absolutely hated bringing him into the world during such a strange and confusing time, I’ve learned some major lessons over this past year.
Having a small baby during a global pandemic really makes you appreciate just how out of your control everything is. For me, that realization was freeing. I took a hard look at the things I’ve always been too afraid to do, and asked myself what I was really scared of. After all, I gave birth during a pandemic, why should public speaking scare me? If 2020 taught me anything, it was that my comfort zone wasn’t guaranteed.
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Caring for a newborn during a pandemic also changed the way I parented my older kids. Before the pandemic upended our lives, I was frequently short on patience. But, after spending 24 hours a day with the three of them for months on end, I was reminded that the way I handle my frustrations teaches them how to handle theirs, leading me to be much more intentional about the way I react to everything from a leaking roof to burning dinner (the trick is a lot of deep breathing and laughter).
And I wasn’t the only mother who learned something new by having a baby during the lockdown. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, journalist and first-time mom Irina Gonzalez, says she wouldn’t have learned the importance of slowing down and focusing on just one thing: bonding with her baby.
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“I know that seems maybe obvious, but I am a very anxious person and also an extrovert, so I take any chance I get to go out and do stuff,” she said. “Before the pandemic, I already had things like mommy groups and library music time on my calendar.”
Gonzalez says that while she does feel like she missed out on those things, she feels grateful that she didn’t have to stress about going everywhere and trying to see all her friends. The forced downtime allowed her to rest, heal, snuggle, and learn to be a mom. “I know that, if it weren’t for the pandemic, I would have tried to do it all… but instead, I learned how to truly slow down for the very first time in my life.”
Second-time mom Sara S. gave birth in April 2020, right when the most intense lockdowns were happening. Because of that, Sara’s parents and in-laws weren’t able to meet their new grandson until he was 6 months old.
“That is time we will never get back, and the fact that they hadn’t met him in those first six months was awful for all of us,” she says. “I learned from that how much I value family and kids growing up with their grandparents.”
With all the family parties on hold for a year, Sara says she missed out on having celebrations for milestones like her son’s birth, naming, and bris (circumcision). Just last week, the family hit another milestone that had to be quietly and intimately celebrated: her son’s first birthday. “I learned from the experience that it is OK and a huge relief to not throw a party, and that being low key is way easier on my mental health than going all out.”
For all of the downsides, COVID did offer Sara a bright side: Thanks to being forced to work from home, she was able to spend a lot more quality time with her boys.
“COVID slowed things down and gave me more time at home to cuddle with my newborn and give attention to my newly 2-year-old,” she says. “And this past year, when I lost track of what month we were in, I just had to look at my growing baby and see a physical manifestation of the time that was passing by.”
Giving birth during the pandemic and spending nearly a year living in a “new normal” reinforced the idea that having a baby is a true blessing and gift for mom of three, Marnie Paige.
“Welcoming a healthy baby during this time of uncertainty made us appreciate the simple things in life and stay present and enjoy the moment,” she says.
And even though her son hasn’t been around a lot of people, or shared in the experiences his older siblings have, Paige says her son is a very happy baby. “He is [starting] to experience the world and other people now, and you should see the excitement on his face.”
Before COVID-19, mother of four Amanda Cortés was planning to spend as much time home with her new baby as she could while her older three were at school. “I planned on snuggling as much as possible with him and really soaking up the newborn stage,” she said.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. “Life abruptly stopped and all of my children were home, all day, and every single day.” The teacher even opted to forgo her maternity leave in favor of working from home, which is something she thinks robbed her son of special bonding time during his newborn days.
“A positive is that he was able to bond with his siblings, and they were able to bond with him,” she said. “Watching them love him was amazing. The ability to watch and witness developmental milestones was great and something I may have missed if it weren’t for the quarantine.”
With all the barriers Cortés says her family faced while bringing a newborn into a world of chaos and confusion, she says she wouldn’t change a thing. “He’s perfect and he continues to be well-loved by all.”
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