Despite some COVID-19 restrictions being eased in Man., new parents not ready to take risks yet

Starting Monday, you can hit the patios and golf courses in Manitoba, but one family in the province say they're still staying close to home when it comes to the safety of their new baby.

Tasha Spillett has been at home with newborn for 60 days

Tasha Spillett is a first time parent. She has been following the physical distancing measures and hasn’t been able to show off her baby to the community. (Leonard Sumner)

Starting Monday, you can hit the patios and golf courses in Manitoba, but one family in the province say they're still staying close to home when it comes to the safety of their new baby.

It has been nearly two months since Leonard Sumner and Tasha Spillett left the hospital with their first child, Isabella Sumner.

Their baby girl was born on March 3. When they took the baby home, relatives were only able to visit for the first couple days before public health orders instructed people to stay at home.

After that, it was just the three of them.

"It's like we came into the hospital and we came out with our brand new baby and the whole world was different," said Spillett.

Her favourite thing about being a new parent is the deep connection she has created with her baby while being at home during a pandemic.

"Without any other distractions, we have been able to connect and get to know her and get that really strong bonding time together."

Her least favourite? Not being able to share the experiences of being a new mom with her mother, sister and community.

"Physical distancing is 100 per cent because with a newborn, I'm just not comfortable with taking any risks," said Spillett.

While Manitoba began phase one of its reopening strategy on Monday, its chief public health officer still advised people to stay home as much as possible and to keep practising physical distancing while in public.

Spillett said that she has been home for close to 60 days with the baby, and that it was almost 40 days after the baby was born for her before she left the house.

"I am a new mom and having your parenthood collide with a pandemic I think, breeds more anxieties than a typical new mom experience," said Spillett.

Leonard Sumner shows off baby Isabella to his dad Jerry Sumner. Isabella is named after Leonard's mother who died last year. (Tasha Spillett)

Spillett, who is Cree and Trinidadian, said that she and Sumner, who is an Anishinaabe musician, have "very wide kinship systems."

"Community is very important to us, so I imagined having a spring baby, and being able to take her to powwows, barbecues and all of those things that we wait for all winter," said Spillett.

Connecting with grandma

Tasha's mother Leslie Spillett sang songs and prayed in the room to help welcome the baby when she was born in March.

"When she was lifted up and put in Tasha's arms, it was a beautiful moment for all of us," said Leslie Spillett.

Leslie was able to give the baby her first bath, but since then, has struggled with feelings of loneliness, especially for her two young grandchildren.

"Even though I feel really privileged, just missing holding these grandgirls of mine has been really hard and I cry sometimes because I feel like I'm missing their lives," she said.

Leslie Spillett Facetimes with her new granddaughter almost everyday. She says she can't wait to hold her granddaughter again. (Tasha Spillett)

She meets up with her other granddaughter, two-year-old Northstar, for physically distanced walks at the park, and has had to settle for visiting baby Isabella at the front door of their home and on Facetime.

"[Tasha] holds the baby up and I can see the baby, but it's not the same as holding her, rocking her, singing to her and bathing her," she said.

When the physical distancing restrictions start to ease, Leslie said she will do whatever it takes to make sure that her granddaughters are safe.

"The first thing I'm going to do is go over, I'll lift her up and hold her, introduce myself to her, talk to her, sing to her, hug her," she said.

"Maybe not kiss her because she might freak out with a big mask on."

For now, the family will wait for the word from public health officials on when it will be safe to visit in person again.


Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He was an associate producer with CBC Indigenous.