Having a preemie during flu season made me hyper-aware of germs

I did not leave the house. Repeat. I did not leave the house.

Having a preemie during flu season made me hyper-aware of germs

My baby was born in early November, and was in the NICU for almost two weeks because he was six weeks early. It is not a secret this is the worst flu season ever, so we have been concerned.

We were asking the nurses about family get togethers over the holidays, and how to mitigate the germ-fest. Could we go out to public places? Could we visit family? Could we have a newborn photographer come to the house?

They all said, “Having a newborn this time of year is tough, but having a preemie? Well you’re basically going to be locked inside.” Not what I wanted to hear with a newborn and a toddler at home.


But he was a preemie, so I wanted to be mindful.

I did not leave the house. Repeat. I did not leave the house with him for weeks (maybe months) except to go to our parents’ houses or to the doctor or for a drive through coffee to combat those sleepless nights. It was too cold to go for walks and taking him to the mall or a crowded public place was definitely not an option.

I also didn’t have anyone over. We even decided to skip newborn photos. I couldn’t be sure that the props were clean enough, and that the stranger coming into my house was not just getting over a cold or something. While I wish I had those photos now, at the time, it didn’t seem worth the risk.

I became hyper-aware of germs—airborne and on objects—including my toddler.

We had hand sanitizer in every corner of the house. And should have bought stock in antibacterial soap based on how much we were buying. I was shocked at how, when you really think about it, all the things you touch are exposed to germs.

My brother would come to visit off a train from Manhattan, and I’d make him change his clothes at the door. My brother and sister-in-law came off a plane and they had to shower before they came over. I would bring my own pen to sign at the bank drive through. I would cringe when I heard someone cough or sneeze within a five-foot radius of me.

I would hand sanitize multiple times during a drive through coffee transaction. Hand my card. Sanitize. Get card back. Sanitize. Touch my coffee. Sanitize. I felt a little crazy while doing it, and was not blind to the looks I was receiving. But if my baby needed me to pop the pacifier back in his mouth, I wanted to make sure my hands were clean.

And forget about my petri-dish-preschool-attending toddler. I think I gave him a complex during this whole ordeal.

Anyone who walked in the house, he barked orders, “Shoes off, coats over here, and wash your hands.” These are all good life skills, right? ?

I toyed with the idea of pulling him out of preschool for flu season. But in the end, I felt that would have done more harm than good, for all of us. He loves school, and was learning so much. We just took extra precautions.

My mom would pick him up and wipe his hands immediately. Most days, she would shower him and wash his clothes at her house, so when he returned home, he was clean. We made sure he did not touch the baby’s hands, or kiss him on the face. I hope I have not permanently turned him into an OCD little human. But I could not bear the thought of my baby getting a fever and having to be admitted to the hospital.

Being super germ-conscious can feel really isolating.

Aside from the drive through attendant at my local coffee spot, and my parents, I really didn’t see anyone. We were in true hibernation mode. I know it was for the safety of my son, but I yearned to even just go out to the grocery store, but instead opted for Instacart. I wished I could go to the mall to buy some new clothes for my postpartum body, but instead the Amazon delivery guy became my new best friend.

Although I was lonely, and got stir crazy after a while, it served as some really great bonding time with my baby. Without distractions from the outside world. Without a revolving door of visitors. We lingered longer over snuggles. Plus, I allowed my post-C-section body to heal. I value that time we had together tremendously—just the two of us. And that time was about him, not about me.

And so goes motherhood. The needs of your tiny humans come first. From now, until the end of time.

You might also like:

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

Keep reading Show less

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Meri Meri: Decor and gifts that bring the wonder of childhood to life

We could not be more excited to bring the magic of Meri Meri to the Motherly Shop. For over 30 years, their playful line of party products, decorations, children's toys and stationery have brought magic to celebrations and spaces all over the world. Staring as a kitchen table endeavor with some scissors, pens and glitter in Los Angeles in 1985, Meri Meri (founder Meredithe Stuart-Smith's childhood nickname) has evolved from a little network of mamas working from home to a team of 200 dreaming up beautiful, well-crafted products that make any day feel special.

We've stocked The Motherly Shop with everything from Halloween must-haves to instant-heirloom gifts kiddos will adore. Whether you're throwing a party or just trying to make the everyday feel a little more special, we've got you covered.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Keep reading Show less

Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

Keep reading Show less