British Columbia·Point of View

Having a baby is hard work. Now try doing it during a pandemic

Sleepless night, fussy newborns and Covid-19? Oh my!

Pregnancy is a magical and scary time. How does Covid-19 impact new parents?

Being pregnant during a pandemic has its challenges, but some things — such as both parents being home long term — are a benefit. (Pond 5)

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

Bringing a child into the world, especially if it's your first, is a magical, terrifying and utterly unique experience. So how does a pandemic affect that incredible journey? 

I may be a very long way from those early days of becoming a mom, but I remember them very well: the excitement, the fear and the great unknown of what life would be like with my new babies. 

These days, anxious parents are not only navigating pregnancy and fussy newborns, but they are doing it while facing the equally terrifying and unknown COVID-19.  As if there isn't enough to deal with at first!! 

For Vanessa Woznow, who just gave birth to daughter Elanor a week ago, there have been a lot of emotional ups and downs. From her husband Marc not being able to attend ultrasounds, to online only prenatal classes, there have been a lot of tough spaces to mentally navigate. Because sometimes all you really need is someone close to tell you it's going to be fine. 

"You just really want to be with someone and have them hold you and touch you and tell you that everything is going to be OK." said Woznow. "As great as it is to have your partner say that, sometimes you want someone who's gone through it and knows that space your occupying."

COVID worries after birth

Once baby arrives, many new parents are truly on their own in a way that they may not have been expecting: no visits from friends, no mother-in-laws coming to help out with cooking and cleaning. 

There's also the very real fear that all new parents deal with — that constant questioning of our own parenting skills. First time mother Katie Steele had her baby Henry in May.

The birth of a newborn in a pandemic can be an unsettling experience, even for experienced parents. (Shutterstock/KieferPix)

She and her husband were uncertain about how much family was allowed to see the newborn at first and constantly wondered if they were doing the right thing by opening their bubble to immediate family. She's also had to deal with second guessing herself with something as simple as leaving the house with Henry. 

"I didn't want to get the looks of like, 'why is she out with a baby?'" Steele explained. That might just be my own thing, but I was just a little worried about not thinking I was doing the right thing."

But even for experienced parents — where you typically feel a little more prepared and less anxious — things are new all over again. And that means a lot of parents who thought they were out of the "rookie woods" are dealing with a lot of new things.

Watch | Mom Karen Sleiman describes the experience of watching her parents meet their granddaughter through a glass window:

New mom's emotional first visit between her newborn and parents, through a window

2 years ago
Duration 0:39
Karen Sleiman said it was both heartwarming and heartbreaking when her parents drove three hours to meet their new granddaughter with a glass window separating them.

I spoke with Johnny DeFazio about having baby number two, Asher, on June 17. With everything from pandemic job loss, feelings of isolation from doctors and brand new nursing issues, it's the lack of family support and bonding that has been incredibly different this time around for them and all their relatives

"She's got a large East Indian family and I've got a large Italian family, " said DeFazio. "All they want to do is come by and to help and, of course, see the baby ... but visiting was pretty much non-existent. 

There are some benefits though. 

Steel and DeFazio expressed how thankful they were to have both parents at home in the early days of parenting —something many families pre-COVID were not able to experience.

Maybe this early closeness and co-parenting will set the stage for a more balanced and fair model for families and they won't fall back on those tired stereotypes of one parent child rearing, while the other leaves behind diaper duty for office tasks. 

Although there are drawbacks to having a baby during a pandemic, there are also benefits, such as having both parents at home. (Shutterstock / HelloRF Zcool)

But it really does take a village to raise kids, and while that village is smaller and at a distance for many right now, please make sure you are still supporting parents while they navigate everything from sore nipples to sleep deprivation.

Check in regularly to see what they need and to make sure they aren't dealing with postpartum issues, both physically and mentally, on their own.  Step up, even if you have to physically take a step back for a little while longer. 


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.