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I'm days away from giving birth during the coronavirus pandemic

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It's late March and as I walk into my typically warm and inviting OB-GYN's office, I'm greeted with an ominous sign at the door warning travelers, delivery personnel, patients' spouses and anyone with a fever or cough to keep out. I press onward to find the waiting room flipped upside down, giving off a particularly apocalyptic mood. A large leather couch is pressed up to the front desk, protecting the mask-wearing receptionist from being approached. In lieu of a sign-in sheet, she calls to me from across the room: "Name?!"

A handful of scattered chairs are the limited remaining seating options. After all, I can't be expected to stand for long in my present state. At this moment, I'm 38 weeks pregnant.

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Back in July, just a few weeks shy of my oldest daughter's first birthday, I learned that I was expecting my second child. I sat on my suspicions for several days before taking a pregnancy test—as if I could somehow delay the inevitable just a little while longer.

Now, just two weeks ahead of my due date, I find myself wishing to delay the inevitable again. Ready or not, I will be delivering this baby smack in the middle of a national emergency: the COVID-19 pandemic.

As I prepare for childbirth, what should be a time of uncomfortable-but-happy late pregnancy hibernation has become a state-wide "Shelter in Place" order. Businesses are closed, grocery stores are stripped of essentials and everyone I know is (smartly) holed up in their homes, leaving a crucial source of support I'd typically lean on largely out of commission.

As each day ticks by, I'm left wondering when my water might break and whether or not I'll have the supplies my family needs when it does.

According to my doctor, this little boy in my belly could have a complication-free delivery. Ordinarily, I would welcome this assurance with all the labor-inducing wives' tales: endless walking, pineapples, dates, and for Angelenos, a "special" salad with mysterious, baby-birthing powers.

But when the best answer we have regarding newborns, pregnancy, breastfeeding and the coronavirus is, "We don't know," followed by logical best guesses and limited statistics, I hardly feel confident about bringing something so tiny and precious into this semi-quarantined version of our world. While people continue to go about their business, risking exposure and spread of an unbridled, lung-attacking virus, I fear for my baby's fragile and defenseless little lungs.

My body is stretched beyond recognition, but I now find myself hoping and wishing that he would stay tucked safely inside just a little while longer.

I've dreamed of introducing my soft-hearted, nurturing 19-month-old daughter to her new brother in the hospital, pressing her little nose up to the clear bassinet to watch him sleep, but I now know that she won't be permitted to visit at all. After months of watching her cradle a baby doll in preparation for this moment, I feel robbed of our first hours together as a family of four.

I now fear that my husband could miss the birth of our second child with no other safe options to care for our first. Knowing what childbirth entails makes potentially going it alone all the more daunting.

As a stay-at-home parent and the primary caregiver for our bright and sensitive daughter who calls out for "Mommy!" first thing in the morning and reluctantly accepts help or comfort from other adults—I fear our impending days-long separation. My heart aches for how she may react when I do suddenly return home, a new mother to someone who is not her.

I now picture long, solitary days and nights in our home. No helping hands to wash the dishes, fold the laundry or offer a meal. No memories made with loved ones in our child's first days on earth. No airport pickups for eager grandparents, who may end up waiting many months to meet our son.

I wonder, Have I or my family been exposed to COVID-19 already? At this point, would the symptoms present themselves before or after the baby's arrival?

I plead, please don't let us become an example.

By all assurances from my doctor and the Center for Disease Control, we will be well cared for through this journey. But as any pregnant woman knows, logic and reason aren't always our forte at this stage in the hormone game.

As I scroll through endless COVID-19 content on Instagram, fear ebbs and flows through my body. I know I should stop. But my fingers can't quit.

Like a ping pong ball, I bounce back and forth between feeling excited butterflies as I imagine my newborn baby boy to feeling a heavy pit in my stomach. I mourn the loss of the birth and fourth trimester I envisioned. I reluctantly accept that so much of this is out of my control.

I feel sorrow and awe for all the medical workers putting themselves at risk each and every day to care for others while knowing that I too will be occupying a hospital bed any day now.

And yet, like all expectant mamas, I can hardly wait to see my baby's sweet face in the flesh. To hold him in my arms, hear his cries and count every last finger and toe. To smell his newborn skin.

My hospital bag waits diligently by my door, filled with toiletries and a flowery robe for me, and itty-bitty, beautifully patterned ensembles for him. I spent hours selecting them, envisioning what they'll look like on his little body. My heart swells at the thought.

Because even as terror looms over me, the joy of welcoming a new child rings louder. Because no matter the timing or circumstance, the juxtaposition of overwhelming fear mixed with overwhelming love is all part of the universal motherhood experience.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

There is a blog post going viral from author Jaime Ragsdale's blog, Altogether Mostly, that's reframing our perspectives on how our children are learning right now, at home, with us. With some states already making the call of closing schools for the year, and many parents in other states mentally preparing for that same call—we're all left wondering, How are we going to make sure they're getting what they need? How are we going to make sure they're prepared for next year?

We're questioning whether we're doing enough or not, we're wracking our brains trying to figure out how to incorporate lessons into our day while the kids run around and we run behind on our workload. We're staying up at night worrying if all of this means that our children are going to fall behind—with friends, with school, with life.

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But then I read these words, and it felt like a breath of fresh air.

Because it asks us to pause in the madness and think about things differently for a minute.

It says:

"What if instead of 'behind' this group of kids is advanced because of this? Let's talk about helping our kids during social distancing.

"Hear me out.

"What if they have more empathy, they enjoy family connection, they can be more creative and entertain themselves, they love to read, they love to express themselves in writing.

"What if they enjoy the simple things, like their own backyard and sitting near a window in the quiet.

"What if they notice the birds and the dates the different flowers emerge, and the calming renewal of a gentle rain shower?

"What if this generation is the ones to learn to cook, organize their space, do their laundry, and keep a well-run home?

"What if they learn to stretch a dollar and to live with less? What if they learn to plan shopping trips and meals at home.

"What if they learn the value of eating together as a family and finding the good to share in the small delights of the everyday?

"What if they are the ones to place great value on our teachers and educational professionals, librarians, public servants and the previously invisible essential support workers like truck drivers, grocers, cashiers, custodians, logistics, and health care workers and their supporting staff, just to name a few of the millions taking care of us right now while we are sheltered in place?

"What if among these children, a great leader emerges who had the benefit of a slower pace and a simpler life. What is he or she truly learn what really matters in this life?

"What if they are ahead?"

—Jaime Ragsdale

This post, written so beautifully from the heart, asks us to reconsider life at home right now. To push through the fog and get to the clear skies in order to see—our kids are doing okay. And they're going to be okay. In fact, they're going to be great.

Because if you look past the worksheets that you can't seem to get your kiddo to finish and the billions of (wonderful but also a little overwhelming) teaching resources available to us due to COVID-19 school closures, the simple lessons being learned at home right now might just be the most important ones, too.

This generation of children we're raising is doubling down on empathy, family bonding time, resourcefulness and resilience whether they can see and understand that or not. And those are the big things—the things we probably needed to double down on anyway.

Thanks to this post, and our mindset shift, we can see and understand that now ourselves—even if our kids can't quite yet. We know they one day will.

Life

Family life is more complicated than ever right now, which can make chores a challenge. Kids might be likely to whine and complain about doing the dishes or folding laundry, but stay strong, mama—these tasks are not only teaching them life skills they will want to know one day, you can turn these jobs into a valuable lesson, like personal finance.

The key is to treat your kids' chores as if they are a real job. You can still make it fun, but chores are supposed to teach responsibility, accountability, time management and honesty.

One way to make chores feel like a real job is to open your wallet on a weekly basis and pay an allowance. Handling their own allowance could be the only money management practice your children will ever receive, since most schools don't teach the subject. Identify a dollar amount you think is fair for your child to earn per week and then create a list of chores that must be completed to earn that money.

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You can also make it simple by using apps to help keep track of who is responsible for what chores and when the payments are due. Bonus: Kids can learn to save, invest and donate directly through the app as well.

Here are age-appropriate chores for kids of all ages:

Chores for 2-year-olds

1. Pick up toys

This helps teach kids at a young age to pick up after themselves and is an easy first chore to start with. Designate a basket in the area that your child plays in and model the act of picking up a toy and placing it in there for them to follow.

2. Wash produce

Have kids help wash produce as part of meal prep. This chore can get their feet wet in the kitchen while teaching them an important step in preparing their own meals or snacks.

3. Be an extra pair of hands

At this age, kids like to touch and hold things—have children help separate laundry into colors, darks and lights, for example, or let them help unravel the vacuum cleaner cord before you plug it in.

Chores for 3 + 4-year-olds

1. Wipe it down

Give kids a dust cloth and have them wipe down the areas that can be hard for you to reach including baseboards and lower shelves.

2. Grocery sorting

As you unpack grocery items at home, have kids identify the correct place each item goes. This will get them prepared to unpack the groceries themselves in a few years.

3. Make the bed + tidy their room

At this age, kids can start trying to make their own bed in the morning. If your child doesn't sleep in a crib any longer, have them straighten the pillows and stuffed animals and pull the covers up. You can also ask them to make sure all of their toys are picked up put away.

Chores for 5 + 6-year-olds

1. Take care of pets

Have kids scoop their pet's food in the morning before they eat breakfast and at night before dinner. Ask them to monitor the water bowl and fill it if they are able to or alert a parent when it needs to be refilled. These chores help teach responsibility as well as getting kids used to a schedule of doing chores at a specific time.

2. Get dressed

Have kids sort their clothing and identify what items fit and are appropriate for the weather, and which ones can either be donated or put in a storage bin for next season. This teaches kids organization skills and helps keep clothing from being strewn across the room.

3. Make to-do lists

Kids tend to be learning how to write at this age to prepare them for kindergarten. Have them help make the grocery or family to-do list to help the family stay organized and not miss anything.

Chores for 7-9-year-olds

1. Help with meal prep and clean up

Have kids set the table, assist in cooking dinner and clean up afterwards including dishes. Ask them to look up recipes for dinner and make a list of the ingredients needed.

2. Yard work

Make yard work a family affair one Saturday and give everyone a task to help teach teamwork skills. At this age have them attend to simple tasks like watering the planets, pulling weeds and wiping down play equipment and lawn furniture.

3. Room cleaning

Have your children pick up their toys, put their clothes away and wipe down any furniture.. Getting kids in the habit of doing all of these tasks in their room by themselves at a young age can save a lot of hassle later in their teen years.

Chores for 10-12-year-olds

1. Basic budgeting

Teach kids about budgeting by having them make a list of necessary items for the house, looking up the prices for each and determining a minimum amount of money needed to buy essentials.

2. Wash the car

Cars seem to be a magnet for leaves, dirt and nature's other gifts. Instead of paying for a car wash or doing it all yourself have kids lend a hand with the process.

3. Set knobs and dials

Give kids more responsibility when it comes to doing the load of sweaters and jeans that need to be washed by having them set the dials to the correct setting and pressing the buttons. The same goes for the dishwasher and starting the oven.

Chores for teenagers

1. Mow the lawn and rake the leaves

Teens can mow the lawn and rake the leaves as well as offer their services to neighbors for a small price. This teaches them work ethic that will pay off later in life and helps them earn and save some extra cash.

2. Help pay bills

Since financial literacy is rarely taught in school, tech kids at home by making a list of all the bills that need to be paid and the dates they are due. Show them the process of how to pay them, whether it is online or writing a check, and how you budget for the expense.

3. Plan dinners

A few nights a week, turn over the family meal planning reins to your teenager. Have them create the menu, look up recipes, and create a grocery list as well as cook and serve the meal.

Learn + Play

A new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study looking at coronavirus in American children supports the findings of an earlier study of pediatric COVID-19 cases in China.

The research is good news: The data suggests children are way less likely to become seriously ill if they contract the virus, compared to adults (with the important caveat that babies are more vulnerable than older kids).

The CDC says that nearly three-quarters of kids who get COVID-19 develop fevers, coughs and shortness of breath, but 93% of adults develop those symptoms. Most other symptoms (including sore throats, headaches and muscle pain) are more common in adults. The only symptom that's more common in kids than adults is a runny nose.

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According to the CDC's report, "relatively few children with COVID-19 are hospitalized, and fewer children than adults experience fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Severe outcomes have been reported in children, including three deaths."

Kids who are immunocompromised are more vulnerable to severe symptoms of COVID-19, but the CDC wants parents to know that because healthy children may get a very mild version of the illness (so mild you might not notice they are sick) it's important for families to stay home during this time as kids can be spreaders of the disease and give it to older adults who can become more severely ill.

"Pediatric COVID-19 patients might not have fever or cough. Social distancing and everyday preventive behaviors remain important for all age groups because patients with less serious illness and those without symptoms likely play an important role in disease transmission," the CDC notes.

The CDC says more data is needed to understand why COVID-19 impacts kids differently, and outside experts agree. "Compared to other respiratory diseases, this is incredibly unique in the proportion of severely ill children," Dr. Srinivas Murthy, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of British Columbia (who was not involved in the study) told the New York Times.

Murthy continues: "We would expect more hospitalization based on the number of kids that might get infected, and we're not seeing that at all. And we still don't know why."

Of almost 150,000 confirmed cases in the United States between February 12 and April 2, only 2,572 were people under 18 years old.

News

There's no denying that Christmas trees bring the joy of the holidays to life into our homes. They make us happy and decorating them creates moments of happiness with our family. And now during these trying times, people are finding that same joy decorating Easter trees.

Some parents are digging out their faux Christmas trees and redecorating them for Easter.

"Given the current situation and the craziness of it all, I thought we'd try and cheer the house up a little bit, because we're all stuck here for the foreseeable future," says mama Louise Connolly.

"And it gave the kids something to do. They thought it was hilarious! I just want to make this time memorable for them in nice ways," Connolly says.

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While the trend is fairly new in the US, Germany and Sweden have followed the trend for centuries. Known as Ostereierbaum, the tradition symbolizes the start of the spring season.

Some mamas are opting for minimalist versions while others are going full Christmas with faux evergreen trees.

From whimsical pink and farmhouse to sparkled and rustic, there are a rainbow of Easter tree varieties to buy or DIY. Just don't forget a pair of bunny ears at the top!

Need ideas? Here's what to put on your Easter tree for a cheerful pop of color:

  • Plastic dyed eggs
  • Rabbit-themed stuffed animals
  • Feathers
  • Faux peonies + roses
  • Pastel-hued lights
  • Faux carrots
  • Paper bunnies + chicks
  • miniature birds or bugs
Instagram mama Ania Krezalek says her kids had so much fun with their indoor minimalist version that she's now doing her outdoor trees, too.

Krezalek tells Mothery some moms in her neighborhood suggested outdoor Easter trees as a way to cheer up everyone's kids.

"A lot of moms are resorting to drives with the kids to get out safely, and for the kids to spot out homes with trees decorated for Easter I'm sure would put a smile on their faces," she explains.

From outdoor trees to indoor lights, mamas are making the most of anything festive right now.
Grey's Anatomy star Camilla Luddington dug out her Christmas lights (sans tree) to cheer up her daughter.
She tweeted "We've renamed them Easter lights :)"

During these hard times, we all need something to smile about, and if you're one of the people who can't wait to get their Christmas decorations up you now have the perfect excuse to get them back out.


News
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