By Nasira Burkholder-Cooley, DrPH, RDN
We knew the winter of 2020 would be a whirlwind of change. We were anticipating the arrival of our first baby at the end of February and had been bracing ourselves for the exciting life event. However, we never dreamed that our new daughter’s life would begin amidst the brink of a deadly pandemic, lockdown at home, and isolation from family and friends. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our family in several ways, much as it has the rest of the country. As a new mom, I had planned to be home for a few months following our daughter’s birth. My husband and I imagined spending our baby’s first weeks of life surrounded by our parents and siblings as we all got acquainted with our newest family member. As COVID-19 became more widespread in Orange County, our expectations dramatically changed and we began to practice extreme caution, including isolating ourselves and our baby from our family members. This was difficult as we greatly desired to share our joy (and workload) of our newborn with her grandparents but felt unsafe doing so. We’ve maintained a careful perspective and hope and pray that the spread of disease decelerates so that we can once again interact worry-free with loved ones.
For the time being, Michael has shut down his dental office except to see emergency patients as mandated by the CA Dental Association. This is not ideal for routine patient care and clearly unfavorable for business, but on the bright side it’s allowed Michael to stay at home and share precious time with his new daughter. Under few circumstances would a new baby be welcomed into the world and spend several months isolated at home with both of her parents’ devoted love and attention. We are extremely grateful for the weeks at home alone with our new baby and yet the postpartum hormones, sleep deprivation, and rainy days bring about significant sadness. The distance from our parents and siblings continues to be painful, especially as we pass the Easter holiday and are unable to gather and celebrate. To alleviate the strain of distance from our tight- knit family, we’ve arranged several Zoom parties, which has allowed us to see the smiles and hear the laughs of our family members despite the miles between us. We get outside every day and enjoy the fresh air, exercise, and faraway greetings from neighbors enduring the same isolated struggle. We embrace slow-paced mornings and opportunities to sleep past 7am without the stress of making it to work on time. Each day is a gift, no matter the inconveniences and worries that we face.
Our hearts go out to infected individuals and their families, healthcare providers struggling to care for their patients with limited resources, vulnerable populations fearful of infection, single parents trying to manage working from home while raising and schooling their children, and lonely people isolated without a spouse or roommate or visitors to look forward to. This situation is particularly challenging for our country as the duration of the social isolation order is undefined. The unknown can be terrifying, but we strive to make the most of each day with the confidence that this too shall pass. Stay safe, stay home, stay well!