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(Image: The Bantle Family)
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Welcoming a Baby During a Pandemic: The Bantle Family

Originally, the idea was to write up one article about welcoming a baby during the pandemic. We put the call out on social media hoping for two or three responses, and waaaaaaay more flooded in! We realized people were feeling alone, wanted to tell their stories, and that this may be a good weekly outlet for others going through similar circumstances, and to give hope and power (even if it's through the screen) that you're not alone! Whether you're expecting, already welcomed a little one, or had to put your fertility treatment or adoption proceedings on hold due to COVID-19, we'd love to hear from you and share your story in this weekly feature on Seattle Refined. Email kateneidigh611@gmail.com or reach out on Instagram @June.In.January to be featured.

Amanda and Chaz Bantle met in college at the University of Montana back in 2007 and have been together ever since. The couple currently lives in Snohomish with their new bundle of joy, Caden, and their 4-year-old Sheepadoodle, Melrose. Amanda works as a project manager for an economic development company, and Chaz is a senior recruiter for Bulletproof 360 and a captain in the Washington Army National Guard. The duo loves to travel, cook and spend time outdoors and cannot wait to bring their son on all of our adventures once the pandemic is over.

Seattle Refined: Ok - let's set the stage. It's March 23, 2020 - and the Governor just issued the "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" Order. Where are you in your journey at that point?
Amanda Bantle: Our son was born Dec. 27, 2019, six weeks early via emergency C-section and ended up spending two weeks in the NICU to finish developing and learning to breathe and eat on his own. So, even once we were home, our pediatrician had recommended to stay home for at least two months while he grew strong. In March, we were just starting to welcome visitors to meet our little man and starting to get comfortable with the idea of taking him out into public. When this order came out, it definitely stopped us in our tracks.

Take us forward from there. What were you thinking/feeling? What kind of prep/worries did you have that you didn't anticipate having?
When the Governor put out the "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order at first, we were nervous about what the virus actually was and what this would mean for our friends and family visiting and even completing day-to-day tasks such as going to the grocery store. At the beginning, we thought it might only be around for a little while, but when it kept going and the stores started running out of toilet paper and basic life supplies, we began getting a bit more nervous, but we were fortunate to never fully run out of anything. We both tried to keep a positive outlook and just embrace the fact we were getting special time with our son and watching him grow.

Share with us what you're willing to about the actual birth. Were partners/parents allowed in the room or to visit? What was your experience like?
Our birth was completely unexpected. I went in the Monday before Christmas for my check-in. They had been watching me for my whole pregnancy because I was exhibiting high blood pressure. On Dec. 23, they ran a bunch of blood and urine tests to check my numbers, Caden's heart rate was strong, so there was no reason to admit me at this time. We went thru the holidays, and I was very swollen and tired, but I thought it was to be expected when you were in your third trimester of pregnancy. On Thursday, Dec. 26, I received a call from my doctor that my numbers for my kidney and liver levels were above normal, and they wanted to recheck in with me the next day. I woke up that morning with the odd sensation that I was going to give birth to our son. My husband, however, did not believe me since it was about six weeks early and this was just a check-in appointment. So I packed a quick, simple hospital bag with just a few essentials, and we were off to the clinic. When I got there, they took my BP, and it was high — initially, I told them it was due to white coat anxiety, which I had experienced before, so they let me rest for 10 minutes and took it again. A couple of minutes after the second reading, the doctor came in and said, 'your numbers are out of a range that I am comfortable with. I need you to go to the OBGYN emergency department within 30 minutes to get your blood pressure back into normal range'. Off we went to the hospital, still thinking they would just give me meds and send me home. That was not the case. They ended up admitting me at first for monitoring for 24 hours, but then around 8 p.m. on Dec. 27, they tried to get me off IV blood pressure medication, and my numbers spiked right back up.

The nurses wasted no time and immediately called my doctor, and all I remember her saying was "like immediately," and she looked at myself and my husband and said, 'baby!' Within the next hour, I was taken into the operating room for an emergency C-section. At 10:11 p.m., Caden James Bantle was born. Once he came out, I got to see him briefly, but since his lungs were retracting, they immediately brought him up to the NICU. As previously decided, I sent my husband up with our son, and I stayed in the care of our nurses. I was not allowed to have anyone but my husband with me at that time. Once I got back to my room, I luckily was able to have my parents and sister there to help get me situated while my husband was up, making sure our son is OK!

For those with newborns at home during isolation, can you tell us about what that's been like - both good and bad?
Being in isolation with our first child has been quite the rollercoaster ride. We have loved getting to spend time with him nonstop. Both my husband and I have had the privilege of working from home and getting to see him grow each day and learn new things. The hardest thing about isolation is we are the only one who gets to enjoy the little things and watching him grow. We have been able to see our local family, but my in-laws are spread around the country, so we haven't been able to see them since this isolation began. Luckily we do have a Facebook Portal, and we video chat with them at least once a week, which is nice, so they can interact and see him as he is growing. We also use the family album app, which all of the aunts and uncles have access to during this time as well. The tricky thing is our son has definitely become a fan of both the TV screen and our computers because that's where we let him interact with family. Another thing is we have been very cautious about who we see while in isolation and who we let into our quarantine pod because he is so small we are afraid of what might happen if he gets it. As his mother, I am very aware and nervous about any symptoms he might be showing.

What have been your biggest joys during this time?
Our biggest joys are getting to spend quality time as a family unit with our dog. We try and make it a point to go out for a walk every day. Another joy is getting to spend time watching Caden grow up, normally we would be so busy running around to brunches, parties and sporting events we would have missed some of the special moments, but now we are able to embrace them the best we can!

What are your biggest fears/worries during this time?
That something will happen either to one of us or family members close to us and that Caden, our son, isn't getting the ability to interact with other kids or people other than our immediate family. Also, we were originally supposed to do a bunch of traveling and visiting family and friends, but due to the pandemic, we have no left the greater Snohomish area.

When your child asks you about what it was like having him/her during the Pandemic of 2020, what are you going to tell them?
It was an Adventure. We had good days, we had bad days, and we grew stronger as a family and learned what is truly the most important to us at the end of the day. We also got to try out new hobbies such as cooking and baking (like everyone else in the pandemic) and get back to the simpler times in life.

Final Update: Where do things stand now? How is the entire family?
We are still being extremely cautious but slowly trying to get back to doing a few things with our life. We wear our masks and order from Amazon and groceries as much as we can to prevent any unnecessary exposure. The summer weather has definitely helped us keep our spirits high since we are doing a lot of things outside. We also took up bike riding, which has been very fun and a nice way to spend time as a family. We have slowly started to allow family and friends to socially distance and see/meet Caden for the first time, so that has been nice for him to meet people in person.

For people whose loved ones are giving birth, pregnant, bringing a baby home, or pausing their fertility treatment/adoption proceedings right now — what can you do to support from afar?
Honestly, the best thing to do to support them is to be a listening ear and be understanding everyone's comfort level is different, and everyone is making the best choice that works for them and their family. And the thing I have appreciated the most is just getting occasional check-ins from family and friends. It brightens my day and keeps my spirits high.

And to other families reading this, going through something like this themselves — any words of encouragement, support or advice?
This is a tough time that no one has ever experienced before, and just try to take a moment and find joy where you can. And with your partners, significant others, or family, just know communication is key and take time for yourself, whether its sitting vegging in front of the tv for twenty minutes mindlessly or going to for a walk or doing a crafting project just each of you takes the time for your own personal self-care each day!

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