Becoming New Parents During Covid-19 Pandemic

At the end of 2019, my husband and I were both so excited to bring new life into the world come 2020. Little did we know that a pandemic was waiting to greet us in 2020.

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My expected due date was March 14, 2020 aka Pi Day. If many of you recall, March 14, 2020 was the day social distancing in Toronto, ON started. Our little girl must have known something big was going to happen because she arrived 3 weeks early on February 25, 2020. Keep in mind I started my maternity leave one month earlier to make sure everything is ready before our baby girl arrives. This baby girl definitely had her own plans in mind.

Since our little girl (Everleigh) arrived, many individuals asked me how my delivery went, how everything is going, how is the adjustment period, etc. In this post, let me share with you my experience.

As an allied health care professional and someone who took the prenatal course, I know the signs of labour (water breaking, mucous plug, lightning show, contractions, etc).

In reality, I experienced all those symptoms- my water broke, I saw the mucous plug, I saw the lightning show and definitely had contractions but I was in complete denial and said there was no way I am in labour. My body even went into self cleansing mode as I went to the bathroom every 30 minutes during the night and had a regular bowel movement. I ended off with my first nausea and vomiting episode of my pregnancy in the morning. My husband encouraged me to call triage but I refused. My OB appointment was the next day early in the morning so I decided to hang in there. Before going to the OB appointment, my husband encouraged both of us to pack our hospital bags with us; however, I continued to be in denial (as a first time mom, how could my baby arrive 3 weeks early given that I’ve had no complications during pregnancy?) and was very confident that we would be back in home no time. I never made it back home. After the OB appointment, my OB sent me to triage as she said “You’ve been leaking fluids for ~36 hours. You are 3 cm dilated. Go to triage.”

While waiting in triage, I was surprised as there were so many other mothers to be waiting patiently in the room. Why was I the only mother to be who could not sit down for more than one minute? I constantly had to get up to help ease the discomfort of contractions. Not only was I experiencing contractions but my body continued to cleanse itself as I continued to vomit.  Later on, I find out the reason why all the other mothers to be were so calm was because they were all planned C-sections.

Remember how I said my husband and I both did not have our hospital bag? Thankfully I had mine packed but my husband did not have his packed. Luckily, the hospital I delivered at is very close to where we live so he was able to go home and bring the necessary items.

Key Things to Pack? For your husband and/or partner- blankets & pillows.  For yourself- padsicles (your lady parts will thank you). If you don’t know what padiscles are, look them up OR message me and I am happy to enlighten you as to what padsicles are. Although I packed an outfit for myself, I found that I was happy to live in my hospital gown. The opposite could be said though; I have known some new moms who said that they felt more like themselves when they put their own clothes on.

I don’t know very many people who are a fan of hospital food. Pack snacks and some items you’d like to eat in your hospital bag. You don’t have to pack any snacks at all because luckily, in the world we live in today, there is something called UberEats. Because our daughter arrived at 6:13 PM in the evening, all the food options in the hospital were closed by the time we were able to have a meal. Hallelujah for UberEats as we were able to order what we wanted to eat. The UberEats delivery person will be happy to meet you at the maternity ward.

me with sushi at sunny
Don’t worry. This wasn’t all for me. I shared. 🙂

The reality is you are typically only in the hospital for 24 hours. Pack your typical items you would pack for an overnight trip (toiletries and your necessities). I packed makeup but to be honest, putting makeup on was the last thing on my mind. We were there for ~72 hours (inclusive of the OB appointment and time spent in triage).  We needed to stay longer as our daughter did not pass urine for the first 24 hours (my milk supply had not come in yet and she had issues latching), she was at high risk for losing more than 10% of her birthweight and tests showed she was at high risk for developing jaundice.

During prenatal class, it is highly recommended to come up with a birthing plan. In my case, due to my state of denial and thinking I was experiencing Braxton Hicks, I did not  time my contractions (I downloaded an app in advance but never had the chance to use it). Once I was ushered into the birthing unit, it was closer to 1:30 PM (I waited ~3 hours in triage). Never mind the squat bar or hydrotherapy; my husband was not even back from grabbing our hospital bags. Thank goodness for my support nurse as she helped me breathe through the contractions. Don’t worry, my husband made it in time for the latter half of my contractions and was definitely there to witness the crowning and the birth. 🙂

I tried to get through as much of the labour as possible without medication; however, I knew from the beginning that I would need epidural. I took the the epidural  but I was surprised at how much of the labour you could still feel. With that being said, the two best pieces of advice that I have been given is this:

a) “Before giving birth to a baby, you will be told by many individuals of what their birthing experience was like. Many of these individuals will tell you horrifying and/or terrifying situations; however, throw all these stories out the window because you need to focus on your situation. Every woman is capable of giving birth and you are no different. You will get through the labour. It is possible.”

b) “To get through each contraction, imagine it being a wave as you are sitting on the beach”. As the tide goes out, you breathe out. As the tide comes in come, you breathe in. The most important thing to remember is to remain calm”.

As I leave you with the two most helpful pieces of advice I received, I will only say that labour (i.e. pushing phase) was much better than anticipated. You CAN get through it and you WILL get through it. Before I knew it, I had my baby girl in my arms. The only regret I had was I did not get a chance to check out the placenta. I know many individuals find these things to be gross and disgusting but I, for some reason, find these things fascinating.

Lessons learned as a new parent:

  1. As a new mother, your sole responsibility is to feed the baby. Your schedule revolves around him/her. You will find that you won’t have time to do much else. Between feeding the baby, trying to nourish yourself as well as cleaning and/or sterilizing the equipment needed for feeding times, there is not much time left for much else.
    1. Learn to prioritize what you would like to do with your limited “free” time.
      1. Currently, I’d rather go out for a 10 minute walk with the entire family (husband, dog, baby and myself) OR I’ll go for a walk with the dog while my husband holds down the fort.
      2. I choose to read a book rather than sit in front of the TV and binge through a Netflix series. It’s not to say that I haven’t watched Netflix but it will take up to 3 days to finish 1 x 60 minute episode of a series.
      3. During Covid-19 times, having video chats with grandparents on a daily basis is crucial.
  2. There is nothing you can do about the broken sleep schedule to accommodate the frequent feedings of a newborn baby. Too many times have we all heard the phrase “Breast is best”. Don’t be afraid to pump some breastmilk so that your partner can get involved with the feeding as well.  Work with your partner to figure out a routine that works for both of you. The mother can’t do this alone. I know many new mothers who like to take naps throughout the day. I’ve never been a napper and currently still struggle with the concept of napping.
    1. In our  current situation, my daughter feeds, on average, between 10-12 times per day (~ every 2-3 hours). My husband has agreed to do one to two feedings anytime between 12-3 AM. I will be responsible for the rest of the feedings. What does this mean for my sleep pattern?
      1. I usually am able to sleep between 11:30 PM- 3:30 PM. Go back to bed between 4:30 AM-6:30AM and beep for the rest of the day with the occasional nap.
        1. Of course, there are days where the day is an exception to the general routine. There have been days where my daughter has fed 15 or 18 times per day which pretty much means during my waking hours, she’s feeding on the hour at every hour. I definitely am a bit more sleep deprived on these days.
  3. Having appropriate support systems in place is very important. It’s okay to accept help. It does take a village to raise a baby.
    1. As mentioned above, a mother’s sole responsibility is to feed the baby and the partner’s job is to support her in whatever way possible. Therefore,
      1. Who is designated for meal prep?
      2. Who can help out with house chores?
      3. Who can help look after the baby should the mother and/or father would like a nap?
      4. Who can help watch or take the dog (if you have a dog) out?
      5. Has anyone offered to help with bath time for the newborn?
  4. Breastfeeding is not easy. I delivered at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and am very fortunate to have access to a breastfeeding clinic where lactation consultants are on staff. My milk supply came in late and my daughter had latching issues. With that being said, for the two weeks of life, I needed to supplement her diet with formula. As a Registered Dietititian, I always do encourage clients to exclusively breastfeed for as long as possible. Accepting that I needed to supplement my daughter’s diet with supplement in the beginning until my milk came in was a challenge for me. Needing formula in the beginning is not a sign of failure.
        1. I am happy to say that my daughter is currently feeding well but with the help of a nipple shield.
  5. My husband and I are truly trying to enjoy/savour every moment with our newborn. Another piece of advice I really appreciated is: “Enjoy every phase.  Each phase will bring new joys for you and your partner”.

 

How has the Covid-19 Pandemic affected parenthood?

I appreciate all the extra time we have as a nuclear family. I love how the pace of life has slowed down and we really enjoy being in the present. I would say the biggest impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on parenthood is social distancing. Before Toronto was on lockdown, I thoroughly enjoyed visitors coming over. I found that if we have two visitors (individuals/groups of individuals), it was manageable. I would tell other visitors to come on another day. If you are not comfortable with visitors, let people know. People will understand.

I was mentally prepared to spend the majority of the first month indoors as the feeding schedule allows you with little flexibility to go out and enjoy the fresh air. Having said that, we welcomed visitors but as soon as lockdown occurred, all visitors voluntarily cancelled (understandably so). As it is now past the one month mark and with no end in sight for the social distancing to end, I do wonder if we’ll ever get back to a state of “normal” again.  It is so hard to even have to limit the visits from grandparents which is why video chats on a daily basis is crucial. It feels very weird not to have Everleigh interact with her older cousins in person. Thankfully, we do live in an age where video chats are possible so it’s not complete isolation. 🙂

Food For Thought: Bottom line is: being a new parent or not, we are all faced with challenges during these difficult times. My heart goes out to those laid off. I am in awe of parents who have no choice but to take care of their child(ren) and balance working from home. I think of the students who are affected by the pandemic and the struggles they may encounter as the online learning system seems very self-directed. Last but not least, I think of those who have had to postpone their weddings and/or other celebrations . Let’s all do our part and stay home as much as possible. Keep abiding by social distancing rules so we can flatten the curve.

grayscale photo of man woman and child

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