What It’s Really Like to Have a Baby During a Pandemic

As you may have seen on my previous posting, we welcomed our much awaited rainbow baby, Charlotte, on October 29th.

As we all know (and I’m sure, feel) 2020 has been anything but ordinary. While up nursing the babe at 4am today I came across a posting from another blog, Her View From Home, about how a 2020 baby was a light during the dark year and it made me think. While yes, Charlotte is definitely a positive thing that happened this year, I’d say having a baby during a pandemic has been anything but a positive/perfect/easy experience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m 1000% so thankful for Charlotte it’s just that having a baby during a pandemic is definitely not something I’d add to my list of things to do again. 😂🤦

When we found out we were pregnant the first week of March, covid had barely started here. Rob went to my first appointment confirming the pregnancy and doing an ultrasound but, after that he was only allowed back at one other appointment (anatomy scan ultrasound) and then her birth.

In the first few weeks of my first trimester, office closures started and fertility clinics had to limit their appointments. I had luckily already become pregnant so I was still seen while so many others had to put their cycles and family planning on hold. I remember going to my second scan by myself just praying that the ultrasound would show that baby grew as expected. When I got the news that she had, and when I was able to hear a heartbeat (for the first time out of our 3 previous miscarriages) I was alone. This was the first of many pregnancy milestones I wouldn’t really get to share with anyone or celebrate and it was bittersweet.

As the pregnancy went on, and the pandemic grew in severity, Hannah started staying home from daycare (which eventually 100% shutdown – and still hasn’t reopened), we stocked up on groceries, and we quit seeing most of our family and friends. Throughout the pregnancy we were very cautious about exposure (with all of the unknowns of covid for pregnant women) and hardly saw anyone. In the beginning we kept to just our household and Rob was the only one who went out. As the weeks and months passed, I eventually went out to the store more and my dad started helping with a few days of childcare here and there.

Despite expanding our bubble to include immediate family members, it felt like I didn’t get to share my growing baby bump with anyone. If it weren’t for my work colleagues, I really wouldn’t have done anything to celebrate the pregnancy. They were amazing and threw me my only shower for Charlotte. Our work team is all spread out across the country so doing things remotely wasn’t new for us and they didn’t miss a beat. It was a baby shower over Google Hangouts where they all came together to ship presents to my house and organize games for us to play together. It was fun and, looking back on it, so so appreciated and special. Having had three miscarriages previously, Charlotte deserved to be celebrated so much so it makes me sad that that wasn’t able to happen really. With our local friends and family, we didn’t have a baby shower (or sprinkle, what they call it for second babies) and most of our friends never even saw me when I was pregnant. Getting ready to have Charlotte was so isolating and lonely. We missed out on a fun family vacation in July (with a whole side of the family I hardly ever see) because we didn’t feel it was safe (and if we weren’t pregnant we probably would have gone). I was so selfishly bitter about missing it and not spending time with all of my family in a massive lakehouse on Lake Wylie. It would have been our last little *family of 3* vacation before the baby came.

The family got a photographer to do family pictures while they were all in Wylie

Then, once I had Charlotte in October, the isolation only grew more intense. The pediatrician recommended we not see anyone outside of our household that wasn’t necessary. She recommended that family visit and meet Charlie through our glass front door (“pope visits” as some of our family called it). With flu and RSV season also upon us (alongside the pandemic) we were asked not to take Charlie out of the house, unless to the doctor, at least for two months. Two months takes us into January so I’m sure it’ll be longer than that but we aren’t there yet. This advice meant that the bubble we had pre-delivery (that included our immediate family) was shrinking again.

For the first few weeks it was just the 4 of us. Charlie was jaundice in the beginning and a weak/lazy babe until her bilirubin levels were back to normal. This made nursing and weight gain hard for her. Her first two weeks home consisted of doctors appointments almost every other day. Her struggle to have regular weight gain and her poor latch early on meant we spent the first 3 weeks triple feeding (nursing, pumping, and supplementing a 1oz bottle) for each feed, even overnight. It was exhausting and I felt like my supply wasn’t ever going to recover from her low demand early on. I wish I knew poor latch meant poor demand and I would have started pumping as soon as the latch discomfort started. Still, pumping after nursing you don’t get much (if baby actually latched right), especially when they’re newborns, so it always felt like a let down (no pun intended) measuring out the half oz to an oz I got each session. It was just a rough few weeks for me. I was so down on myself no matter what positive encouraging words Rob tried to remind me of. Postpartum life is hard.

Luckily, as the days went on, her bilirubin levels evened out and she eventually did get the hang of nursing – several visits to a lactation consultant definitely helped us – weighted feeds too. We quit triple feeding at every feed at week 4 and were down to one bottle, then no bottles, shortly after. Having our nursing journey take a more positive turn helped with my stress a lot. The postpartum hormones, plus a lack of sleep and a busy toddler, were wearing on me (and Rob) so we decided to widen our bubble once again to include my dad. He is retired and strictly follows all the covid guidelines so we felt he was the best next person to include. He was able to watch Hannah a few days a week to help out and, just that little bit of support, helped us so much.

All of this to say, it truly does take a village to raise kids and, not being able to lean/rely on your village is the hardest. Postpartum life is hard already and having support from loved ones can do so much for a new/growing family. When we needed people most, covid took our village away from us and for that, I hate 2020 a little bit more.

We couldn’t get friends and family together to celebrate this pregnancy – even just a barbeque to share our happiness. We couldn’t have a photographer document Charlotte’s labor/birth like we did with Hannah. Our family didn’t meet us at the hospital to celebrate. My sister hosted an online meal train for us and only two friends and my neighbor signed up. (My mom and Rob’s step mom did bring us dinner too, just outside of the meal train sign up – my mom loves to drop goodies off at our house.) My mom or Rob’s mom/step mom couldn’t come over to help or snuggle the baby while I showered. My friends couldn’t come see the baby and visit with me to see how I was doing – I’ve only seen three friends in person since I’ve given birth even. We couldn’t let Hannah go to her grandparents for a sleepover and some 1:1 attention. Hannah wasn’t enrolled in a daycare and could hardly get out of the house to burn off energy due to a fear of germs from others (at a park or places like the aquarium). All around, covid robbed us of all of that support and all of those special moments so far. So yes, while Charlotte is and has been a light during the dark year of 2020, I feel like this journey has been anything but what you typically envision having a new baby to be. Of course, because of covid there’s been a lot of time where it’s just us and we’ve been able to bond with her but, honestly, I feel like we still had that with Hannah too. I didn’t allow company everyday when Hannah was a newborn anyways. I guess as much as I want to focus on the good things that came from 2020, it’s hard and the year definitely dealt its fair share of challenges.

With Charlotte being 8 weeks now she’s only met a portion of our family (pope visits or actual physical visits). Only 4 family members outside of our household have been able to hold her – and that says a lot when we have so so much family locally. Luckily we did just recently decide that we’re going to expand our bubble a little bit more to include my mom and Rob’s step mom and dad. They can help more with Hannah and we need it. Sometimes we have to make decisions for our sanity and this was definitely one of them. Our bubble is still small but the change is worth it. She hasn’t met all of her grandparents or great grandparents but this way we get to include a few more. Her aunts still haven’t been able to snuggle her yet either. And, to be honest, I’m not sure when everyone else will get the chance to meet her – great grandparents, cousins and such. At least after a ten day quarantine period maybe, right?? 🤦 The distance is something I’m always trying to come to terms with; something I’m always feeling guilty about. Something I know I’m doing for her own health and safety but still hate nonetheless. Net net: raising a new child in 2020 is for the birds. With Christmas just a few days away, I’m trying to focus on us getting to enjoy a calm holiday home but I’m sad about all of the things we’re missing out on; I’m human and it’s okay to be sad. Normally we’re that huge busy family who does 6 holiday gatherings all across the city in just over 3 days so this year is very different.

Although we have prayed for this baby girl so much (and don’t get me wrong, my negativity is not directed at her), I wish the year would have gone a bit differently and I can’t wait for life to be normal again. I just hope she won’t have to be a year old (or even older 😵😱) before the rest of our family and friends get to meet and hug her. She’s definitely a blessing during this dark shitty year but man how I wish I could have given her a better 2020 too. ❤️