Having a newborn during a pandemic is the hardest thing I’ve ever done

I celebrate despite "it all." I celebrate myself. That I am managing. I am managing. These feel like heartbreaks. These feel like miracles.

newborn during pandemic
Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

I have come to accept that this year will not be my most productive year ever.

I knew this at the start of 2020. I was due to give birth at the end of January and dedicated time to getting ready: balancing work life and home life, while scrambling to make enough freezer food to get me through the haze of newborn life. I knew that we would be challenged without having a "village" nearby—our families and close friends are scattered across the United States and our closest family member lives 13 hours away.

And so we baked and sanitized our way into the new year, and carefully budgeted for furniture from IKEA for a nursery. I had saved up my sick leave for five years in order to have 12 weeks of paid leave after birth. That was the plan. I was prepared.


Late January came, and there was our daughter. Beautiful and bright, if a little jaundiced. We were ecstatic and fearful and tired and grateful and in love.

But there was no way to prepare for what came next.

My father unexpectedly dying. My mother's house robbed. My mother furloughed. A global pandemic. My husband and I frantically conserving food and bleach, telling each other in grim voices, "I'm going on a run" to the grocery store as if we were living the reality of The Walking Dead.

We live in a designated hotspot of the coronavirus in the Southeast. We barely leave the house and often find ourselves in tense negotiations with family members who are convinced we are overly cautious. As the school year looms, we are hearing reports that teachers are being advised to create wills in preparation of heading back to campus or into classrooms. As contingent faculty on one-year contracts, we worry over our jobs, our students, our lives.

Amidst this, I am still working on managing everyday postpartum life—the thrills, the guilt, the laughter, the resentment. It's hard to balance emotion as the go-to parent. As I am exclusively breastfeeding, I do not have uninterrupted hours, uninterrupted time. Being screened for postpartum depression has left me bewildered in the time of COVID-19. Where to start? I blink, and answer that I'm managing. That's all I can hope to do.

There are small wins: that brief moment when I wake up before my daughter does and I forget, for a moment, staring at her through the baby monitor, what has happened, what is happening. She stirs and I go to her, dressing her for another day, keeping her clean and dry and (I convince myself) safe. She's just started to have a deep belly laugh and I breathe her in, deeply. It is all her then, like a kaleidoscope of joy and hope and time.

But each day I step into armor, worrying plating my shoulders, my neck, the tension rigid like steel.

Work, family, friends, the world—these feel like scattered grains of rice I am constantly gathering together to hold safe in my hands like the mythic Vasilissa, though without cosmic help. They spill through my fingers with each breath.

So I'm letting go.

My good friend gave me the best piece of advice when I was pregnant: readjust expectations. Parents and in-laws and family will act differently than you assume. People you expect to "show up" won't. Others step up to bat for you in surprising and touching ways. This is all true.

But this also needs to happen for ourselves. By readjusting my expectations, I'm letting go of any pre-ordained "work-life balance." Work has infiltrated our home. Working remotely has left me (limping? braving? prospering?) through Zoom calls while breastfeeding.

For myself and other working parents, work has required checking with a supervisor for their permission to keep our children in our homes during "work" hours. When people complain about children or dogs—life—happening in the background of Zoom calls, I listen. But I speak up too, heart thudding with nerves—reminding colleagues and supervisors that parents may not have much choice, with so many daycares full, or closed for cleaning or quarantine, or no longer financially available. I sweat in those moments, feeling brave, feeling exposed, feeling dismissed.

I celebrate despite "it all."

I wanted to breastfeed my daughter at least six months, and we met that goal. Feeding your child—no matter the method—is hard. We used formula in the early days to supplement, and I exclusively pumped when I traveled to say goodbye to my father—all of it was time consuming, worrisome and hard.

I celebrate that my husband and I have not been furloughed yet. That I live in an age when I can FaceTime with my 95-year-old WWII veteran grandfather in the Midwest, my mother on the East Coast. That I have time with my daughter every day. She is our beacon in the midst of a storm. And I am grateful for my husband's presence in the middle of the night when I wake up, terrified of my phone ringing, of more bad news.

I celebrate myself. That I am managing. I am managing.

These feel like heartbreaks. These feel like miracles.

Once, before my daughter's birth, a friend told me to stop listening to those who would urge me to enjoy my daughter now before she grows up. To cherish this age, this era. He shook his head and grinned, full of pride for his own two grown kids, and said, "Every age is the best age."

Perhaps for us, too.

In This Article

    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    A Montessori-inspired gift guide—for newborns to 6-year-olds

    There are plenty of Montessori-friendly toys that are beautiful and engaging, but also appeal to children's developmental needs.

    With so many toys out there, it can be hard to find intentional gifts for our children that are both fun and meaningful. Using a Montessori approach to your shopping doesn't mean your choices need to be academic. There are plenty of Montessori-friendly toys that are beautiful and engaging, but also appeal to children's developmental needs.

    Montessori toys are usually made from natural materials, non-electronic and foster independent play, creativity and concentration. Montessori materials are simple and somewhat minimalist in general, and this is especially true for infants and young toddlers. The world is so stimulating for these little ones already, that simple toys made of natural materials spark the child's curiosity without being overwhelming.

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    In a recent survey shared in the Reproductive Health journal, one out of six women in the United States reported being mistreated while in labor, where mistreatment included, "loss of autonomy; being shouted at, scolded, or threatened; and being ignored, refused, or receiving no response to requests for help."

    One out of six.

    To make these numbers even more sickening, mistreatment was more common among women of color, women with partners of color, women with lower socioeconomic status, and women under the age of 30.

    (And yet people still question the validity of stating that black mothers are at a higher risk of pregnancy and birth-related complications.)


    Rarely at a loss for words, I find myself almost unable to speak.

    I am a midwife, and I am disgusted.

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