In March, at the height of a global pandemic, I walked into the hospital to have my son.
In the middle of contractions, I was greeted by nurses and doctors donned in PPE and masks, I had no idea if my husband would be allowed to stay for the birth of his first child, and I feared that I was risking the well-being of my baby by even being in a hospital during COVID-19 times.
Nothing about my experience giving birth was what I pictured when I first decided to become a mother—and for those of us who became first-time moms in the midst of a pandemic, our fears are very real.
Can we go to the grocery store without getting sick? What about pediatrician appointments? Will our partners contact the coronavirus at their jobs and bring it home? Should our parents meet the baby or stay away? Where, and how, can we find postpartum support?
The anxiety can be, at times, completely overwhelming. So while I stare longingly at pictures of friends in other states hiking, social distancing at the beach, and having picnics in the park, I am sitting at home with my newborn baby and wishing that things were much, much different. But for all of the fears and worries that I experience daily, I’ve found some silver living in all of this. Here’s exactly what I’ve found to be the positives of having a baby, even during one of the most unsettling times in history.
I Spent More Time Co-Parenting with My Partner
When I first gave birth—with my husband thankfully by my side—we came home to a world in the middle of quarantine. I was on maternity leave and my husband was able to take off a whole month for paternity leave, an extreme rarity in the U.S. Without the ability to have any help in those first few weeks of newborn life, we stumbled, sleepy and bleary-eyed, through dirty diapers, lengthy daytime naps that only seemed to work if our baby was on top of one of us, and more laundry and dirty dishes that I could have imagined.
But through all the hardships, my husband and I bonded both with our baby and together as new parents. Let me tell you what, there is nothing quite like being isolated with a newborn to figure out whether the two of you can really handle the hardest that life throws at you.
We survived quarantine with a newborn and somewhat against the odds, our relationship thrived. We became a stronger team because we had to. Without our support network there to help us, we were either going to sink or swim—and we became the Michael Phelps of quarantining with a newborn baby.
“We became the Michael Phelps of quarantining with a newborn baby."
I Learned to Be Flexible as a Mom
Early on, I struggled with breastfeeding. My baby was latching and everything seemed to be going well, but he was still hungry. At a loss of what to do, my pediatrician recommended we see lactation consultant—virtually, of course.
After a few video conference calls, during which my husband had to awkwardly aim the computer camera at my breasts so that the lactation consultant could evaluate me, I was diagnosed with insufficient glandular tissue — which meant I would never produce that much breastmilk and had to supplement with formula. I was heartbroken, but having just given birth in a pandemic, I knew I could be flexible.
Before giving birth, I was determined to nurse my baby. It was breastfeed or bust. But the quarantine hitting just a few weeks before my due date forced me to be flexible in my expectations of how my entry into parenthood would go. To be honest, it’s almost the best thing that could happen to a naturally anxious person like me.
So, I was able to let go of my disappointment over not breastfeeding very quickly and began to supplement my baby’s food intake with formula. And now, four months into his life, I am still able to breastfeed part-time— all because I was able to be flexible in what our feeding journey would look like.
I’ve Had Endless Bonding Time with My Baby
By far, the biggest thing that I have loved during quarantine with a baby is that we have had so much time to bond. Without our family and friends being able to visit us, my husband and I had plenty of alone time with our little one.
And sure, not all of those moments were happy ones. Like all new parents, we didn’t know what we were doing much of the time and we stumbled more often than not. But we also figured it all out on our own, and we formed a relationship with our child that I know would have looked much different had it not been for the quarantine.
And now, with COVID-19 still upon us, I am continuing to find the silver lining. Sure, no friends came by with casseroles and hugs, but I’m working from home and loving my breastfeeding breaks during the day (especially since I hate pumping). My husband is able to work from home half of the week, and that has proven to be a special time for him too. Neither of us has missed out on our baby’s important milestones because we are home pretty much all the time.
Would I have loved to do all of the “normal” things that I first dreamed about when I imagined the postpartum period? Sure. It would have been great to have friends greet our baby, to have my grandmothers be able to come for a visit, to take my kiddo to the library’s Baby & Me time, to go to a postpartum support group during my darkest days.
But even as I have missed those aspects of new motherhood, what I have gained during this time has proven to be even more important: a stronger marriage, a new comfort with being flexible, the ability to learn parenting through trial-and-error without the interruptions of well-meaning advice-givers, and an incredible bond with my baby.
And those are things I would never trade, not even for the best casserole.