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Navigating first time motherhood during COVID-19

Navigating first time motherhood is both an exciting and challenging journey for all new parents, but becoming a first-time mom during a global pandemic comes with many unexpected feelings and some silver linings, too.

“Being isolated for more than eight weeks has been both lonely and incredibly special,” shared first-time mom Natalia Angulo-Hinkson.

This experience certainly hasn’t been what she and her husband expected.

“I envisioned my maternity leave to be a time to get things done and get out and see things, which hasn’t been the case, both because of the pandemic and because as a first-time mom, I clearly didn’t realize what having a newborn would really be like!” Angulo-Hinkson said.

Among the outings the family has are frequent pediatrician appointments to ensure their newborn is growing, meeting milestones and getting her necessary vaccines. Those appointments have been impacted by new protocols to protect patients and families, but Angulo-Hinkson is grateful.

“Our pediatrician visits have been well-choreographed events, similar to how organized my delivery at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women was,” she said. “Our pediatrician, Dr. Maryann Tholany’s, office at Texas Children’s Pediatrics Heights is handling newborn visits with the utmost care and sensitivity to the baby and parents. When we arrive, we are asked to sit in the car and call in. Then, we wait there until they are ready to bring us back directly to our room, making sure to avoid contact with any other patients after screening us at the door. I was a bit nervous for our first visit a couple days after leaving the hospital, but once I saw how this plan played out in real life, I felt more confident that our daughter would be protected and subsequent visits haven’t been stressful,” Angulo-Hinkson continued.

In order to protect their newborns who haven’t yet built up their immune systems, many new parents aren’t able to introduce their babies to family members and friends due to the highly contagious nature of COVID-19.

“We weren’t able to introduce our daughter to friends and family from the get go, which has been the hardest part. Even simply laying out plans for how to introduce her to people has been tricky. Can they hold her? Should they wear a mask? Do they come here or do we go there? How close should they stand?” Angulo-Hinkson reflected.

New mothers caring for their newborns during this unprecedented global pandemic can also face the mental toll of isolation and uncertainty.

“Keeping perspective has been my biggest struggle,” Angulo-Hinkson said. 

“I don’t have clarity on what the coming months will look like and that can feel overwhelming, particularly with a newborn. It’s been hugely helpful to still be able to have virtual therapy sessions via the Pavilion for Women’s Center for Reproductive Psychiatry. What I’ve realized is while I’d like to know for sure when it’s safe to take my daughter places and introduce her to everyone I know and love, the best I can do is take safety precautions prescribed by our physicians and take it one day at a time,” she continued.

Despite the abundance of challenges and uncertainties facing all families with newborns at this time, the Angulo-Hinksons have also discovered some silver linings of being homebound as they learn to become parents.

“We’ve had the chance to really bond and get a rhythm going as a new family of three and that’s something my husband and I are going to always cherish. Maternity leave hasn’t been filled with field trips to finish errands I’ve put off or with travel to see friends and family, but I’m loving the extra snuggle time and embracing that becoming parents in a pandemic can be both isolating and uniquely rewarding,” said Angulo-Hinkson.

“My husband normally works remotely, so that part of my leave plan has stayed the same and it’s been so nice to ‘meet for lunch’ daily. I know when I go back to work it will be quite different than how it has been thus far, as it will likely be remote, but I will just try to lean into the change. And bonus: I get to keep seeing Isabel throughout the day!”

If you or someone you love is finding navigating new motherhood especially difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic, reach out to your OB/GYN or healthcare provider who can connect you with resources to help.

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Natalia Angulo-Hinkson