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New Mothers Discuss Becoming A Parent During A Pandemic

Vanessa Hoene was seven months pregnant a year ago with her first child. But in April 2020, the pandemic was spreading in Wyoming.

Credit Vanessa Hoene

"During pregnancy, especially for first-time moms, which I am, you have no idea. Like, am I the right size? Am I growing? Am I eating the right nutrition?" said Hoene last year, as she was getting ready to deliver her baby. Understandably, she was a bit more worried about it because of the pandemic.

A year later, Hoene, a water resources engineer based in Cody, is a new mom to her young son and a lot has changed. The one thing that still remains is the pandemic that is still continuing into 2021. And without a guidebook, millions of women who were expecting and had to give birth during this pandemic had to navigate foreign territories on their own, some with their loved ones.

Hoene's son was due on July 7, 2020, but arrived earlier, on June 30. But those types of unpredictability are typical in childbirth. There were more unexpected things, because of the pandemic, that Hoene didn't see coming.

"Everyone's wearing a mask... I wouldn't recognize any of the doctors that I saw in person because I haven't seen their whole face," she said. "We weren't allowed any visitors. So, my parents were actually in town, but not allowed to the hospital."

Her stay at the hospital was shorter, too. Instead of staying for three to four days after a C-section delivery, it was only one day.

Once she was recovering and feeling better, and her son was growing up, they started to leave the house a little bit more. But that was when things got challenging.

"It was just so different. Because, I mean, there are so many fears associated with newborns and sort of exposing them to new people. And then, the sort of heightened […] like post-traumatic stress from the pandemic, right? So now you're dealing with a newborn, and then trying to go out in public, and on top of that, the pandemic. So, it was just a little bit more nerve-wracking," explains Hoene.

Karagh Brummond, a new mom as well, could relate.

"The hardest part was coming back from the hospital [and] everybody wants to visit your baby, and everyone wants to see it. And you're like, 'Wait, we're in a pandemic!'" said Brummond.

Brummond is an assistant professor at the University of Wyoming and a first-time mother, too. She delivered her daughter in September of 2020. Her pregnancy went smoothly, despite the pandemic spreading.

"That was something that I think was a surprising benefit in the end, because I got to be working from home and, in a little bit more of maybe a relaxed environment, as my pregnancy kind of built throughout 2020," she said.

Her checkups and regular appointments were still held in-person. And for the most part, everything was fine, except for one thing that really made her nervous.

"They weren't offering any of the, like the baby classes, so, what to expect when you're expecting classes in person. We had to just follow this online," Brummond said. This meant that she and her husband couldn't practice positions or breathing patterns. "We just learned this stuff on a video, and had no real application of it. So, I felt really ill-prepared for what to expect," said Brummond.

She had sisters who she turned to for counsel, but it wasn't the same.

"It was just so hard, not having some of the classes in person, not meeting other women and families in the community that were in the same boat as us. So, it did really feel isolating and that I had no idea what to expect," Brummond said.

The COVID-19 epidemic has actually shown that being socially connected in meaningful ways is actually key to human health and survival. Ample of research has been done outlining how social isolation negatively affects learning and growth, and it prevents people from effectively socializing, which is a fundamental human need.

Credit Teddi Freedman

New mom, Teddi Freedman, is especially finding it challenging to grapple with this.

"I've been fortunate to have a group of women that I've connected with as a new mom. But you know, if the pandemic were not a thing, I would have more regular social interactions with other moms and […] more of my friends [that] I'd be seeing on a regular basis," said Freedman.

Freedman, who is the development director of the College of Engineering and Applied Science for the University of Wyoming Foundation, gave birth to her daughter in April of 2020, right around the beginning of lockdowns in the state.

"At the time, cases weren't spreading that rapidly, nor did we have a very high caseload here in Laramie," she said.

After returning home from the hospital with her baby and gradually resuming to normal activities, Freedman said she realized that the hardest part of this experience was not being able to walk down the street and show up at a friend's door and walk in the house, "or invite friends over to share a meal, and share conversation, and share our struggles or highlights or funny things that our daughter is doing," she said. "We can mention that to friends, but it's not the same because we just don't have that regular interaction."

As much as this ongoing pandemic has tested, and continues to disrupt our norms, Freedman said it's allowed her and her husband to stay present for their daughter. "We're more, I think, reacting to the day-to-day without thinking too far in the future. I think my husband and I would both agree that thinking too far in the future can cause a lot of stress," Freedman added.

Along with both Hoene and Brummond, these new moms plan to take in this new chapter of their life, one day at a time.

Naina Rao comes to Wyoming Public Radio from Jakarta, Indonesia. She has worked at NPR for Story Lab and the nationally syndicated show, "1A". Naina graduated from Michigan State University in 2018 with a B.A. in Journalism. Naina enjoys swimming, listening to podcasts and watching Bollywood movies.
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