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(Image: The Mendez/Wilson Family)

Welcoming A Baby During a Pandemic: The Mendez-Wilson 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 or reach out on Instagram @June.In.January to be featured.

Meet the Mendez/Wilson Family. Tannya Wilson and Alfonso Mendez have wanted a baby for years - but it just wasn't happening, so they had kind of given up hope. When they found out they were expecting a sweet baby girl, they were over the moon! They named her Noelani, which means "heavenly mist" in Hawaiian; a name they'd had in their back pockets ever since they experienced said mist on a vacation to Hawaii years ago.

So here they are today, with a their 6-month-old miracle baby, Noelani, in the midst of a pandemic.

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?
Tannya: I own my own business and work as a personal stylist. I was only back from maternity leave two weeks and was devastated by the news. I love my job and was so excited to work with clients again. I remember the last client I had was on March 14th, I recorded a video on my Instagram story that was super vulnerable where I was crying and sharing how happy I was to be back at work but that I knew this was going to be my last client in-person for awhile. I had clients reschedule and cancel appointments when COVID hit because they were afraid to go shopping and try on clothes. As a business owner, I had to pay my own maternity leave and was ready to go back to work with big goals. I had a team of two employees I had to pay and of course my own bills. I quickly went into Hamster Wheel Mode to turn my styling business online and also create paid workshops to help clients from afar. I couldn't sleep, I'd wake up early to work. Feed baby and put her down to get things done. I had to take action.

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Take us forward from there. What kind of prep/worries did you have that you didn’t anticipate having?
It's been a crazy ride and definitely not how I saw life going with a new baby. At first I had so much anxiety from the news and was scared that anything would happen to me where I couldn't take care of Noelani. I couldn't even fathom what it would have been like to see her sick. I wanted to do anything and everything to prevent something from happening. We had a big scare because my boyfriend's son, who works closely with him, caught COVID. I remember when the test for him came out positive, I cried so much. I was convinced we had it too. Luckily we didn't get sick, and his son got better without complications.

For those with newborns at home during isolation, can you tell us about what that’s been like - both good and bad?
I was going to leave home and work with clients one-on-one three days a week, until COVID hit. Since then, I've been juggling baby and work. Breastfeeding and typing with one hand (doing it right now as I answer these questions). I feel like I have so much pressure to keep life together. I feel like COVID has had me working more hours and extra time to make up for lost sales. I've almost had to build a whole new part of my business with little sleep and with the determination to keep my employees working. It also gives me a sense of purpose as I try to navigate what's most important to clients now and how can I shift my practice to address their needs. Some days I'm able to get everything checked off my list, then other days are hard for her and she needs every ounce of attention and love. I've done live Zoom presentations where I'm breastfeeding and have my face right up to the camera, I have client calls with the baby in my arms, and I'm just going with the flow. If you listen to my podcast, Lifepreneur Project or watch my videos on YouTube, you'll hear baby crying or babbling in the background! I've just let it be part of business now.

What have been your biggest joys during this time?
I had no idea I would enjoy breastfeeding so much. It allows me to pause, be with her, nourish her, connect with her, have eye contact with her, talk to her, sing to her. The only downside is since I've been at home, the bottle makes her cry so much and once a week I drink a glass of wine, and once a week she has a fit forever to take her bottle. I'm also grateful I have had extra time with her. I was and am ready to be fully at work but being at home has been a blessing, and being able to expand my business and be a mom has been the best. The best part at the end of the day, is I'm here with her. I've gotten to know her really well. I know what her different cries mean, when she's sleepy, how to put her to bed, when she's hungry, and all the little changes in her personality. I'm working extra hours but she's here with me. I feel we are more connected now.

What are your biggest fears/worries during this time?
It's so hard to see my step mom over video. She was the biggest help when Noelani was born and when we told her and the rest of the family we had to separate for two months, they were torn. The first months, the first year are the most precious because everything is new and they grow so fast. I remember hopping on a video call with my step mom and trying to get the video to work and when she saw Noelani, tears were welling up in her eyes. She said, life was so good before all this happened, and by the time Noelani would see her again, she won't remember who she is. My heart broke. It was hard to be alone. I also missed seeing the family and having my hands free. I'm also worried that she doesn't get to connect with other babies or see many people. She's getting so used to me that I'm afraid she won't be ok alone. I don't know how long she'll be ok with me gone. I'm worried that she won't get immune to regular things that other babies do from germs. We are protecting her so much, washing everything like crazy, our hands, her toys, her clothes, everything.

When your daughter asks you about what it was like having him/her during the Pandemic of 2020, what are you going to tell them?
Your father and I did everything to keep you safe. You were our top priority above anything and everything. I changed the way I ran my business and your father worked extra hours to make up for the time I had lost but I got to be with you, love on you, and watch you grow. It became the biggest blessing because I was able to see the first time you rolled, the first little words you said, the first time you ate, I got to see the first food you didn't like. Even though I spent so much time with you, every time I woke up, you always seemed bigger and I didn't want to lose any moment. We became closer than I had ever thought possible.

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Final Update: Where do things stand now? How is the entire family?
We are all healthy. I'm not as anxious (even though the number of cases keep going up!). I have started seeing clients again in person but am only opening my calendar to two in-person clients a week and three online clients a week. She's seeing her grandparents and family again. I have someone come to watch her while I'm out at work but I only leave a max of four hours.

And to other families reading this, going through something like this themselves - any words of encourage, support or advice?
Be so kind to yourself. Ask your partner for extra help. Stay connected to your friends, seriously, those times you get to talk over the phone and laugh and share will make a difference. You'll feel less alone and will be able to recharge and give back to baby. If you can even go to the grocery store by yourself, take your time and breathe.