You won’t find “pandemic” in indexes of parenting books.
Bringing life into the world is stressful under normal circumstances, but women giving birth are navigating motherhood during a global health emergency.
“It’s a scary time to be a new mom,” said Karen Benjamin Guzzo, acting director of the Center for Family & Demographic Research at Bowling Green State University.
For one, moms are giving birth with less of a support system at their sides.
In response to the coronavirus, hospitals are strictly limiting outsiders. For example, two major hospital systems, New York-Presbyterian and Mount Sinai, initially updated their policies to bar all visitors, including partners and doulas. They later changed their policy to allow one visitor.
Locally, Lindsey Cabral gave birth to her first child, Logan Michael Cabral, at 9:41 a.m. March 15 at UF Health Leesburg Hospital.
The Wildwood resident underwent a C-section because Logan was in breach.
She was nervous enough about undergoing her first-ever surgery, and couldn’t imagine doing it without her husband, Jeff, there, too.
Cabral’s grateful UF Health Leesburg had an exception for visitors to new moms when it restricted outside visitation.
Even with partners in the delivery room, though, moms also experience the added worry of having their children in an environment where COVID-19 patients are treated, potentially exposing them to infection.
Guzzo, whose husband is an emergency room physician, said hospitals are implementing guidelines to ensure pregnant patients aren’t in contact with those patients, such as having them use different entrances and treating them in areas separate from COVID units by staff who do not move between units.
“They’re really making some extraordinary steps to make sure not only that people feel safe, but that they really are safe,” she said.
Still, the mother of two said she understands why expectant moms are worried about entering a hospital at this time.
Such fears are making a lot more women more inclined to the possibility of having a home birth, said Dr. Kristi Watterberg, professor of pediatrics at University of New Mexico Health Sciences.
Watterberg is the lead author of the recently updated policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics concerning care for babies born at home.
The AAP has been working on updating this policy for more than a year, so the timing of the release with the coronavirus pandemic was coincidental, Watterberg said.
The policy doesn’t recommend planned home birth, although they offer guidelines, because it’s associated with a higher infant death rate.
The risks of home birth may be especially steep during the pandemic if living in an area with a high rate of COVID-19 cases, Watterberg said. If a home birth goes wrong, the mother will need to get to a hospital.
“If you are having a home birth and you have an emergency, in many places around the country the first responders are overworked and exhausted and working long, long hours and may not be able to get to you (in time),” she said.
Watterberg understands why home birth appeals to moms.
“It’s more comfortable surroundings. You’re with your family. You can direct what happens,” she said. “I really understand the desire to have that, but I want people to be aware of the risks.”
Giving birth is a difficult process, even with medical professionals in a hospital setting, Watterberg said.
And the challenges of motherhood don’t end when mom and baby return home.
“When you come home, new moms need a lot of support,” Guzzo said. “New moms are really kind of on their own.”
Cabral’s parents and sisters in Massachusetts planned to fly down April 4 to spend time helping with the newborn.
They canceled because of the pandemic.
Now Cabral doesn’t know when her mom and dad will get to meet their first grandchild.
They’ve seen him over video chat, which is nice.
“But, I mean, it’s not the same,” Cabral said.
Cabral is dealing with the challenge of being alone a lot.
Her husband is helping as much as he can, including getting up at 3 a.m. to feed Logan so she can sleep a little.
But Jeff, who runs an air-conditioning service, is considered an essential worker and can’t be there to help during the day most of the time.
“I’ve had to do a lot of things on my own,” Cabral said.
His family members, who live in Ocala, have stepped up to offer assistance, but they’re also working.
Despite the hardships, Cabral is enjoying life as a new mom.
“The best part of motherhood is having this little guy rely on you,” she said. “Seeing him smile at your voice, that’s definitely rewarding. Another great part is watching your husband become a dad.”
Cabral is watching Logan learn and start to explore the world — he recently rolled over from his belly to his back for the first time.
Though far from forming words, he’s started to make little noises.
“He’s slowly finding his voice,” Cabral said.
Senior writer Ciara Varone can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5395, or firstname.lastname@example.org.