COVID-19 Observer
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COVID-19 Observer

A Lonely Ultrasound and Other Challenges of Pandemic Parenthood

By Melissa Menny

It is 2021, an entire year later, and restrictions have loosened some thanks to vaccine availability. Still, I found myself in April alone with an ultrasound tech listening to our new baby’s heartbeat for the first time. My husband was not allowed to be in the room because of the lingering restrictions. It was such an exciting, but also a somber moment for me. Many moms were forced to forego their significant other’s support and presence last year because of the boundaries in overcrowded hospitals.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our newborn son was only three months old. After spending six weeks indoors to heal from an emergency C-section and only leaving to go to appointments, we had finally felt comfortable bringing our new baby out into the world. After taking him to see a few family members, that ended quickly. What began was something that no parent prepared for, let alone new parents.

How do parents raise children during a dangerous pandemic?

Hello and good-bye to family

Initially we had planned for my brother-in-law and his family to come spend a few days with us. The intention was to give us a little break by helping us with our little one. With the whirlwind of information circulating regarding the virus, we decided it was no longer a safe idea. The lack of actual interaction with others made the unpredictable journey even more unpredictable. I had gone from staying indoors for over a month while healing to back into the house for another month out of fear of the spreading virus. My husband was the only one who would leave to get necessities. The only moments my son and I stepped outside was to get a small change of scenery in our yard.

We were isolated, new parents feeling anxiety and fear. The amount of uncertainty, revolving and evolving restrictions, and the rise in cases were stressful to put it lightly. The many plans that we had for the year following the birth of our son were put on hold longer than we knew.

A bleak job outlook

Reports have pinpointed how the pandemic benched many working moms, forcing them to assist their kids full time with virtual learning and caring for their younger children. The New York Times reported that 5.1 million American moms lost paying jobs last spring. Today, 1.3 million are still unable to work. Working mothers were forced to forego their option to be working moms and had to figure out a new normal.

I thought I had it all planned out. As soon as my six weeks of healing ended, I hit the job market strong and partially confident. I say partially because I had to figure out how to schedule breastfeeding and pumping while away from my new baby. Not to mention the many physical changes my body was enduring and the emotions of being away from my newborn. I hoped to land a new job and place my baby in daycare once my husband’s maternity leave was over. Instead, my plans were derailed and taken in a different direction with the announcement of COVID-19.

Beyond taking a financial hit during the pandemic, many parents’ mental health took a hit as well. Reports have shown that more moms experienced increased depression, anxiety, and stress. Virtual learning was not only difficult for the students and teachers to navigate, but the parents as well. Parents at times felt like tech support and teachers. Some homes did not have strong internet, so students had to deal with the distraction of lagging. Others who had no internet had to convene at local community centers and churches that opened their doors to assist. Parents of ,children with disabilities were also overlooked during the adjustment to virtual learning. The routine for their children was heavily interrupted, especially those who require therapy.

Although it is understandable, it has not made the reality of it all easier to deal with. There was no manual or instructions on how to deal under so much compounded pressure. We were all simply winging it and dealing with the best of our knowledge and abilities. Even now, as multiple vaccinations are available, the COVID-19 virus is still a concern. With loosening restrictions and some lingering social distancing in place, many parents are still consumed with worry for their children’s well-being as we test the waters of the new normal.

Melissa Menny is an author with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism. She is a poet and a writer in all aspects. When she is not working, she enjoys painting, music, and spending time with her husband and son.

This article appeared in the COVID-19 Observer on June 2, 2021.

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The Observer uses human stories, medical news, trends and culture to tell the story of COVID in America. The Observer is the news page of the website www.covid19wallofmemories.org.

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COVID-19 Wall of Memories

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COVID-19 Wall of Memories memorializes the lives of COVID-19 victims while serving as a source of information about its impact on the United States.

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