This is part three of a series of discussions with local parents about the experience of having a baby during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social isolation can harm the development of young children.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started and stay-at-home orders were put in place, families worried about how it would affect their children. A family in Fenton Township got help from their neighborhood to help socialize their three children.
Fenton Township resident Stephanie Mitchell gave birth to their third child, Quinn, on May 7, 2020, just weeks into the pandemic. Their other two children, Knox, 6, and Lila, 4, were barred from hospital and met their new sister on FaceTime.
Before being hospitalized, she had to undergo a COVID test and her husband, Tim, had to undergo a complete medical examination.
“I was actually super nervous about it because even with a slight rise in temperature he wouldn’t have been allowed in, so it was extra stress to worry about having to give birth alone,” a- she declared. She was allowed to take off her mask once her test came back negative, but Tim had to keep his.
Only one person was allowed in with her, and he was not allowed to leave the room once they entered, not even after the baby was born.
“It was a blessing and a curse because with my other two I didn’t get much rest after giving birth because of our visitors and you were trying to adjust to a new baby with people watching. But at the same time, it was really sad to introduce our newest family member to everyone via FaceTime,” she said.
She has a video of her two oldest children learning that they have a new sister and a video of her parents meeting Quinn via FaceTime.
“There’s only the first time anyone meets a new baby. I feel like this is a pivotal time for new parents, grandparents and siblings, so the biggest downside to have a baby during a pandemic was all the firsts you can ever get back,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said she felt like she was deprived of certain experiences.
Her father died of cancer 11 days after Quinn was born.
“The only photo I have of the two of them together is me holding her in front of a closed car window and a screenshot of him seeing her on FaceTime,” she said. “It’s almost like you’re happy and grateful because you have a healthy new baby, but at the same time you’re mourning the loss of everything that comes with having a new baby – that’s what makes you feel guilty.”
The uncertainty and impact of COVID added to his stress, but not all was bad during the lockdown. Doctors advised Tim, who works in critical infrastructure, not to return to work in person, so he stayed home with family for the first few weeks of Quinn’s life.
“The positives are that we’ve been able to spend a lot more time together as a family,” she said. “My older children were home due to school closures, so there were lots of cuddles and extra hands to help with the newborn and easier to transition into life with three children.”
It also forced them to come up with ideas and activities in their home, yard, and neighborhood.
They were able to spend a lot of time with their neighbors, which helps Quinn and her two other children continue to socialize. Quinn likely had more human interaction at this age compared to her first two, Mitchell said. She is also the most sociable and enjoys being outdoors.
“She was able to be with her parents 24/7, her siblings, being outdoors, etc., which I think really benefited her more than say playgroups or a guardian or having siblings in school. I can see where it would come into play though for parents who have given birth to their first baby or had to work and raise children,” she said. “Any parent who has had to work from home with children will tell you that it’s impossible to give 100% to work and family at the same time, so something or someone was always hurting.”
She was most worried about the development of her two other children, as they had to go through virtual learning.
“Watching 25 kids try to learn their letters on Zoom was something else. I give the teachers all the credit in the world because his teacher showed up every day doing his best to make him appealing and beneficial to the kids,” she said.