Reintegrating into post-pandemic life, especially for those with a newborn, starts with baby steps.
Parenting has always been a balancing act between caring for a newborn and tending to personal needs. Now, the pandemic has augmented this daunting reality by adding COVID-19 to the list of stressors for expecting parents. From overcoming pandemic-related anxieties to prioritizing personal needs, here’s what Dr. Rebekah McCurdy, an OB/GYN; Dr. Vanessa Carlo, a pediatrician; and Dr. Andrea Braverman, psychologist, at Jefferson Health University Hospital had to say about adjusting to post-pandemic life with your newborn.
What coping strategies do you suggest when navigating re-entry after COVID-19 with a newborn?
Dr. Braverman: Instead of looking at reintegrating into civilization like a boulder you have to move, look at it like a pile of rocks you move one at a time: Start with taking some time alone or with your partner defining who you want around your baby. Ask yourself: Is this reasonable? Can I push this a little more? Am I okay with masked individuals around the baby?
When you’re deciding your comfort levels, it doesn’t matter what everyone else is comfortable with. These parameters are set by you, for you, and adjusted in your own time.
Is it safe to have children in daycare?
Dr. Carlo: Daycare can be safe, but it depends on what specific safety precautions are in place. If your daycare mandates mask-wearing for staff and encourages the kids to wear masks, it is a safe environment. Conversely, if the daycare does not require masks, your children should not be going, especially now when young children are unable to be vaccinated. There are fewer COVID-19 outbreaks at daycares that implement and uphold the right safety measures.
Is it normal for parents to feel like they missed out on a typical pregnancy experience during the pandemic?
Dr. Braverman: I think a lot of people feel very sad or traumatized by pandemic pregnancies. Look at how quickly we forgot that at one point in 2020, partners weren’t allowed into the delivery room. Current or expecting parents have a lot of fear that things will change in a moment’s notice, and now, we must recognize and grieve that sadness. You may have missed having casual conversations or being offered a seat on the bus, but it’s important to also look at the list of things you do have: resilience, grit, a healthy baby and knowledge that there is an effective vaccine to support you and your baby as they grow. Consider these hand holds when you feel like you are slipping down into the dark well.
Dr. Carlo: I would also like to add having extra time with newborns as a pandemic silver-lining. COVID-19 has allowed us more time at home to enjoy everything about your baby and watch them grow.
Now that many mask mandates are being lifted, how can we approach the apprehension behind seeing people without masks?
Dr. Braverman: The best thing to do is think through your emotions and break down what is making you anxious. Ask yourself: If everyone is vaccinated, where is the danger? If I’m on the other side of the street, am I really putting my newborn in harm’s way? Will I get used to this again?
Giving yourself time to acclimate is like riding a bike, it comes back quickly. As far as the threat to your child goes, remember that you are the one who sets the rules. Nothing will ever be out of control when you are the one deciding what you allow people in your life to do and not do.
How can we explain the last year to older siblings and children?
Dr. McCurdy: Honesty is key. Your children don’t have to know everything about the pandemic, but what you tell them has to be true. For example, let them know a virus is causing people to get very sick and wearing a mask protects us from those germs.
Additionally, set the expectation that this next year is still going to look different—but be sure to follow through with events or activities important to your children. Instead of in-person movie nights, have a virtual feature. Another great coping mechanism is to highlight historical events or testimonials from people who have lived through similar events, like the 1918 influenza pandemic. Showing that others lived through global pandemics can provide comfort.