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Three Local Moms Reflect on Motherhood During the Pandemic

Babies born after March 2020 have only ever known the world amid a pandemic. How did mothers cope with pregnancy and childbirth during COVID-19? Here, women share their unique experiences.

Multimedia editor Carly Williams contributed to this article.

During pregnancy, there are lots of things a parent or parents think to prepare for, like long sleepless nights, stocking diapers and baby wipes, or how to make sure their newborn’s crib is safe. A global pandemic would not have ever been on that list before March 2020. COVID-19 massively halted our daily lives, disrupted routines, plans, and medical procedures, but even the coronavirus virus couldn’t stop the miracle of life.

We connected with three women to hear their moving birth stories and reflections on high and low moments of motherhood over the past year and a half.

Andrea-Rutkowski with her twins Brynleigh and Mackenzie

Andrea-Rutkowski with her twins Brynleigh and Mackenzie.

Andrea Rutkowski
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

How would you describe your year as a mother?

It has been a wild ride, to say the least! Two infants, a toddler, and then working full time…it was definitely hectic for parts of this year. This time has shown me that no matter what, you will always find ways to make things work.

What was a high moment or especially happy memory from the last year with your babies?

Watching Bryn and Mac grow and having all the first moments happen is a special time. It has been fun watching the girls not only be so proud of themselves but proud of each other when they do something new. My favorite moments that happen frequently are watching the girls crack up at each other or at Raelynn (their big sister). You can’t watch without smiling. They are such happy babies. Their smiles are contagious.

I love our morning routine. I go in and they are both standing in their cribs and we do a little dance party—they love to dance, so we do it often! I pick them up and put them down and grab their pillows and tell them to follow me. I always have either “Moana” or “Frozen” playing for them since they love the music. They both race out laughing to not only get their bottle but to hear the songs. Watching them turn the corner and come down the hall crawling is a moment I love. Maybe it’s something you just need to be there for but it’s moments like these that I will cherish forever.

What was a low moment?

The pandemic played such a different role compared to when I had my oldest daughter. Friends and family came to the hospital to welcome her in 2018. The hallways were filled with loved ones stopping in to see the new additions to their families. You could hear and feel the love and laughter throughout the halls. When I had Bryn and Mac, my husband and I were isolated to our room. It wasn’t the same special feeling. It was a dreary feeling. We were filled with love for our girls, but worried about COVID-19 and keeping our girls safe. The isolation continued going home and unfortunately, I went through postpartum depression.

Do you have any concerns or worries about how the pandemic has affected your babies?

Yes and no. They’re growing up in a new world we are all learning together. So many family members and friends still haven’t met them due to the pandemic. Everyone will be strangers to them and that breaks my heart. We are doing everything we can to make sure they stay safe. Their health is our priority. It’s tough knowing that they won’t get to experience a first birthday party with friends and family. What they know is a life full of people in masks or people via Zoom. We are just hopeful that when they’re old enough and can start remembering stuff, life will be back to normal.

What is a piece of advice you would have given yourself a year ago?

Enjoy the moments more. Snuggle them more and know everything will be ok. Time really does fly by. It feels like I just had them—I blinked and they’re one year old already!

Pia Leone with her baby daughter at the beach

Pia Leone with her baby daughter at the beach.

Pia Leone
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

How would you describe your year as a mother?

Joy-filled and challenging. As a women’s health physical therapist at Jefferson, I work with new moms all the time. I felt like I was going into motherhood more prepared than many—but I now understand that you really cannot know how tough it is to be a mom until you are one. I have a newfound respect for all the mothers that I know. You love this little being so fiercely, that you can’t help but be fearful of what is out there that could hurt them. And especially amid a global pandemic, that fear is unfortunately very close to home. But because of this, we have been lucky enough to spend a lot of this year at home, being together as a new family of four (our dog Rosie included). This has allowed us to bond so much with our daughter and has given us the opportunity to slow down and enjoy each of her many milestones this year.

What was a high moment or especially happy memory from the last year with your baby?

There were many high moments from this year—it has been wonderful watching the world through my daughter’s eyes. One of the highs was introducing my daughter to her grandparents on Mother’s Day weekend last year. We completed our two-week quarantine after returning home from the hospital on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend, so we did get to spend the weekend with both sets of grandparents. I remember being so emotional leading up to that day, but when it finally came, I was nothing but smiles. It felt so good to see my parents and my in-laws finally get to hold the grandchild they had been waiting so long for. Plus, for me and my husband to get some additional support during the newborn period was priceless.

What was a low moment from this year?

My lowest moment was probably the point at which I realized that my daughter’s grandparents would not get to meet her until at least two weeks after her birth. My due date was the end of April, right when the predicted peak was for COVID admissions into the hospitals in Philadelphia. I remember the appointment where I discussed this with my Jefferson OB/GYN and I was heartbroken. This is the first grandchild for my parents and we are very close. I couldn’t imagine going through the first few weeks of my daughter’s life without their physical support, and I felt awful for taking those first days away from them.

Do you have any concerns or worries about how the pandemic has affected your baby?

I do wonder how the pandemic has and will continue to impact her socially. She has not had much of an opportunity to socialize with other babies or children. I pictured my maternity leave and early parenthood full of mommy and me classes, support groups, baby yoga, music classes, swimming, and so on, but that did not exist because of the pandemic. Also, most people she interacts with outside of me, my husband, and her grandparents are all wearing masks. I do wonder how this may impact her ability to read faces and emotions in the future.

What is a piece of advice you would have given yourself one year ago?

One thing I would have told myself last year around this time is that this is all just a bump in the road. In April 2020, the pandemic felt like the end of the world. I felt like everything I had dreamed or thought about doing with my newborn was over. In reality, the pandemic gave us reason to slow down, stay home, and spend more time as just a family. I’ve had the opportunity to spend so much time with my daughter that I don’t believe I would have had if life had continued on as normal. Yes, I do still mourn some of the things I feel we missed out on during her first year (she still has not met many family members and friends), but I am also grateful for our health, and the time we spent together getting to know each other this year.

Nancy Baxter with her baby son in their back yard

Nancy Baxter with her son Corbin.

Nancy Baxter
Jefferson Washington Township Hospital

How would you describe your year as a mother?

It’s been wonderful. I love watching him grow and explore. I feel like this was the perfect time in my life to have a child.

What was a high moment or especially happy memory from the last year with your baby?

I’m a pediatric nurse, so every major developmental milestone is a high moment. I also love when I get cheek-to-cheek snuggles. That makes me euphoric!

What was a low moment?

I love my job, but having to go back to work was a low moment. At first, I was not comfortable with sending him to daycare. Unfortunately, after three months, I was going to either lose my family’s health insurance or have to pay an obscene amount of money, something like $600 per week, to stay insured.

Do you have any concerns or worries about how the pandemic has affected your baby?

Honestly, no. Corbin goes to daycare, so he is socialized with other babies. I was initially concerned about him not being able to recognize facial expressions because of the masks, but he can easily tell if someone is smiling.

What is a piece of advice you would have given yourself a year ago?

I would tell myself to not stress so much about breastfeeding. He’ll be fine and you’re not a failure for having to supplement.

Experts from Jefferson Health and Nemours Children’s Health System are addressing the challenges new parents have faced, both in caring for their babies and themselves, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, in a webinar on Tuesday, May 25. For more information, including how to register, click here.

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COVID-19, Patient Perspectives

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