New Brunswick

Families will have to wait a lot longer to deliver first hugs to newborns

As her March 8 due date approached, Mikayla Clowater had sweet visions of her parents meeting her first-born child for the first time. The baby is the first grandchild on both sides of the family, so excitement was mounting. 

New Hanwell mom worries about the impact of physical distancing on newborn

Mikayla and Josh Clowater welcomed baby Nico into the world on March 16 amid a global COVID-19 pandemic that has changed the way they interact with others. (Karrie Nash/Facebook)

As her March 8 due date approached, Mikayla Clowater had sweet visions of her parents meeting her first-born child for the first time. 

The baby is the first grandchild on both sides of the family, so excitement was mounting. 

But, like a lot of things in the last couple of weeks, that fairytale imagining of the introduction was sidelined by COVID-19 precautions. 

It didn't happen with an hours-old newborn in the quiet comfort of a hospital room. There were no snuggles or kisses; no photos of proud grandparents beaming at the camera while holding baby Nico in their arms. 

They haven't been able to hold him. Mom hasn't been able to give me a hug or anything.- Mikayla Clowater

 

Instead, the introduction happened in a driveway on the way home from the hospital. Nico remained in his car seat, covered with a hat and a blanket, and only his sleeping face visible to Clowater's parents —  all from a safe distance of two metres, of course. 

"That's not really how you picture anyone meeting your new baby," said Clowater, by phone from her home in Hanwell, just southwest of Fredericton.

"You could hardly even see his eyes or anything. We were lucky it was a mild day so we could sit him out there for a couple minutes, but it was still stressful and emotional just having that as their first meeting with him.

"They haven't been able to hold him. Mom hasn't been able to give me a hug or anything."

Mikayla and Josh Clowater have been introducing baby Nico to friends and family from two metres away on their front porch in Hanwell. (Karrie Nash/Facebook)

She worries that if things last as long as health officials are warning, her family may not get to meet Nico until his first birthday. 

"For the next undetermined amount of time, I will only have 'porch visits,' where we maintain six feet or more distance, or video chats," said Clowater. 

"I am thankful that our family members are respecting our decisions."

As Clowater wrote recently on Facebook, "No one expects to have a baby in the midst of a pandemic."

In addition to the usual concerns of a new mom, "I now have the loss of control of the virus as well to work through."

Clowater and her husband, Josh, started to get a sense that things wouldn't be business as usual when they went to the Chalmers hospital in Fredericton on March 14 to be induced.

The couple were warned that only two family members would be allowed to stay with her, but by the time she went into labour on the afternoon of the 16th, that was down to one. All Horizon Health hospitals have barred visitors or limited the number allowed for certain patients to one.

After Nico arrived at 11:47 that night — weighing in at eight pounds six ounces — Clowater kept asking the doctors for advice about meeting family and friends. She kept asking the question, hoping for a more positive response, but it was always the same.

Nico Clowater was born on March 16, weighing in at eight pounds six ounces. (Facebook)

"The bottom line was that no visitors was the safest option because they didn't want me or my husband getting sick and then having to care for a newborn, or getting the baby sick," said Clowater. 

"This meant that those special, sentimental moments everyone pictures with a new baby couldn't happen," she said. 

Looking ahead, Clowater worries about the impact of physical distancing on Nico. 

"If this virus goes on for as long as some predictions — some say 12 to 18 months or longer — and we have to continue social distancing, it's kind of cruel to think for a little baby and their development, that they only ever see or know or hear their parents."

But she also knows that things could be worse. 

"I am thankful I am not in a situation where I cannot say goodbye to a dying loved one," Clowater said. "I would rather a delayed 'hello' than a missed 'goodbye.'"

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