British Columbia·Parental Guidance

Pandemic pregnancies bear added anxieties — but also promise more family time

Expecting a baby can be frightening and confusing and amazing, especially if it's your first — and being pregnant during a pandemic can heighten those feelings even more.

Some parents, taking advantage of less hectic schedules, are already having their 2nd pandemic babies

Ever changing recommendations, restrictions and advice amid new coronavirus variants are affecting everything for new parents and adding to the usual fears and worries of pregnancy and childbirth. (Dragan Grkic/Shutterstock)

This story is part of Amy Bell's Parental Guidance column, which airs on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.


Expecting a baby can be frightening and confusing and amazing, especially if it's your first — and being pregnant during a pandemic can heighten those feelings even more.

Along with all the usual fears and worries, the ever changing recommendations, restrictions and advice amid new variants are affecting everything for new parents practically from the moment of conception.

But in the two years since the first appearance of COVID-19 in B.C., there have also been a lot of new parents raising their children during a truly extraordinary time who can offer advice and hope. 

They point to less hectic work and social schedules, and the fact that fewer interactions have turned their attentions even more toward enjoying time with their newborns and toddlers. 

But there has undoubtedly been added stress around the time of birth, says doula Emma Devin, founder of Brood Care.

"There is much fear, especially in birth — either getting COVID-19 or [one parent] not being able to attend the birth, and then coming home and then thinking, oh my gosh, here we are. But we have a baby. And we have no community.' ... the anxiety of birth and COVID has passed and [now] there is more anxiety," she said.

There have also been knock-on effects from overworked health-care staff, Devin said. 

"Knowing that all of our coworkers, all the midwives and OBs [obstetricians], those folks are incredibly burned out and aren't receiving the care and support that they need either. So we're seeing that trickle down to the parents. It's just awash in melancholy," she said.

Anxiety has been especially acute for first-time parents like Candice Johnson, who is just weeks away from having her first child. 

"I found I was pregnant at the cusp of when vaccines were coming out. So that was a very stressful time because I didn't know whether it was the right thing to get a vaccine or not," said Johnson, who added that the heartbreak of a miscarriage early last year had left her feeling even more protective for her unborn child.

"When I fell pregnant it was just like I wanted to do anything to prevent anything from happening," she said. 

To be clear, health authorities say the vaccine is safe for pregnant women. Pregnant people are at increased risk from COVID-19 and a vaccine drastically reduces that risk. 

But a lot of parents who had already expanded their families in the early days of of COVID-19 found the experience so good, they've done it again. 

Many say they want to take advantage of the pandemic's slower pace of life, more flexible work schedules and their partners being home more.

For Candice Johnston (no connection to the previous Candice Johnson), it was the ideal time to not only have a third baby, but also help her close friends realize their dreams of parenthood.

Johnston decided to be a surrogate shortly after her second child was born in 2020. 

"The husband came over and said in jest, 'If you ever want to have another one...' And I sat there and was just staring at my new baby and thought, 'You know what? We're in the middle of a pandemic. What else am I doing?'" she recalls.

Johnston, who gave birth to her friends' baby earlier this month, admits it likely would not have happened if not for the unusual circumstances of the pandemic.

She says she was always at home with her newborn and elder daughter, now almost 4; her spouse wasn't travelling for work; and she was very insulated from the outside world. So she felt she was in a unique situation to help her friends.

Johnston wants parents to remember that regardless of any madness in the world and any chaos in your pregnancy, once your baby arrives they are your entire world.

"You're still in that new baby euphoria. You almost forget that there's a pandemic," she says. "A lot of the times when you are a new parent you are in your own world with this new human, and it's the same in the pandemic. Everything else just melts away."

The whole "it takes a village to raise a child" spiel is overused but it's still true — and for many people over the past two years, parenting has felt more like a lonely island. Long cherished hopes and expectations for the entire pregnancy and parenting experience have been dashed and altered and there's been a lot of sadness and disappointment. 

But on the bright side, there is something to be said for the unique experience of cocooning and getting to know your new baby so intimately and without some of the usual distractions from life and other people.

Everyone I spoke to — from new parents to health-care workers — mentioned how wonderful this has been for families. So embrace that, embrace your cute little babies and let's try to embrace whatever the future has in store for us all.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Bell is a digital contributor to CBC. She can be heard weekdays on The Early Edition as the traffic and weather reporter and parenting columnist.

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