in partnership
The new parents live in Columbia City and are both teachers who have a huge passion for learning and education. They welcomed their son on Juneteenth and couldn't be prouder. (Image: The Reynolds Family)

Welcoming a Baby During a Pandemic: The Reynolds 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.

Reshonna Booker and Travis Reynolds are officially a proud family of three! The couple welcomed their newest edition, MalcolmXion Reynolds (named after Malcolm X) on June 19, 2020 - aka Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. The new parents live in Columbia City and are both teachers with a huge passion for learning and education, who also love to travel and seek adventure.

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?
Reshonna Booker: On March 23 when the stay at home issue was ordered, we had both been on the second day of planning our baby shower. Because we both love the color yellow, it was supposed to be a yellow and black bumblebee theme. We had the day picked out and the phrase: "Welcome babee" and we were both excited to plan this baby shower. My boss called me and said, "You can't come back into work because you're pregnant and high risk for COVID." My heart sank because I knew the baby shower was going to be canceled, and COVID was serious.

Take us forward from there. Expecting moms/dad - what were you thinking/feeling?
The only thing we thought about was how afraid we were. They kept saying that people with asthma or any other health issues were the ones that were dying. It turned out that more Black and brown people were dying from COVID at higher rates, and that scared me so much. In the beginning of my pregnancy I had received very inadequate care as a Black woman, so I didn't want to take a chance with getting sick. I had already been having complications during my pregnancy, and Travis and I both have asthma and we decided we wouldn't leave the house because it's too risky. The only time I left the house was for my doctor appointments. Travis wasn't allowed to come with me, so it scared me so much.

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?
For our birth, I was extremely stressed out because our son was seven days late. With the unjust killing of George Floyd and COVID happening, it's almost like he didn't want to come out and be apart of this madness. At this point, I was stressed out and worried. My midwife told me that African American women have a higher rate of getting a C-sections for late pregnancies and because of stress. I was planning on getting induced until my water broke on June 18, early in the a.m. It was so great because we were going to have a Juneteenth baby, and that's all we could think of. We were ecstatic, but I was also nervous about labor/delivery. During labor, everything was going well until his heart rate kept dropping every time I had a big contraction. I was frightened, but my midwife kept telling me everything was going to be ok. I was approximately six centimeters dilated and his heart rate kept dropping lower and lower each time my contractions got bigger and more powerful. At that point, a few doctors rush in and tell me that I'm going to have to get a C-section very soon. My husband and I decided that our baby seemed like he's struggling, so let's get the C -section. And within 15 minutes, we heard a cry, and the surgeon told us that his umbilical cord was wrapped his neck two times. My heart broke, but my miracle baby was here. I said to him, "Hello son," and he looked back at me and smiled!

For those with newborns at home during isolation, can you tell us about what that's been like - both good and bad?
For me, it's been good being home and locked in the house for a bit. It's taught me to slow down and be more patient. The hardest part for me was not being able to have people come over to hold him or have my doula come over and help us out after he was born. Giving birth is difficult, but the day you come home from the hospital is the the scariest and hardest part. You have so many nurses to help you, and once you're home, it's all about thinking quickly on your own. Me and my husband managed to bond and figure out so many things together as a team after he was born. I couldn't move much because of the C-section scar, so he did lots of things for us.

What have been your biggest joys during this time?
Our biggest joy was having our son born on Juneteenth and finally getting to see his face! Him being born on Juneteenth gave us hope! It meant so much to us as a Black family living in a white led world that Juneteenth was OURS! We didn't plan on it happening this way, and it worked out just right. It's almost like our baby knew that we were suffering and hurting at this point, because of George Floyd, and he wanted to make us smile. When we announced his birth to family and friends, they all rejoiced. Everyone needed that small glimpse of hope that he brought us. We had already selected his name in the beginning of our pregnancy, and him being born on Juneteenth made it all fit! It was just right! MalcolmXion Reynolds has blessed the world on Juneteenth to make everyone feel Joy! We named him after Malcolm X.

What are your biggest fears/worries during this time?
My biggest fears and concerns were of us being Black in a world that doesn't want Black people around. I kept asking myself certain questions such as; How will I raise a Black child in a predominantly white city? How will everyone receive him because of his name? Will my husband be ok walking alone with my son? How will we raise him to be a strong Black man that's proud of his heritage? etc. All day, these questions would run across my mind. I knew I couldn't do much about it except pray for their wellbeing.

When MalcolmXion asks you about what it was like having him during the Pandemic of 2020, what are you going to tell him?
When MalcolmXion asks me what it was like being born during a pandemic, I will have to remind him that he encountered two pandemics — COVID-19 and being a Black man was the second pandemic he faces. One will go away, and one will remain for the rest of his life. I will make sure to tell him that both pandemics were scary, but he brought so many people joy with his name and him being born on Juneteenth. I will make sure he knows that he made so many people smile.

Final Update: Where do things stand now? How is the entire family?
Right now, we're doing good! We've had so much support and well wishes from lots of friends and family. People often check on us and send heartwarming emails or texts. One thing that we had planned was our wedding on Aug. 8, we had to cancel it because of COVID. I really wanted MalcolmXion to be a part of the wedding to give me away as his mother and for my husband's family to come from Florida to see us, but maybe we can do it next year.

For people whose loved ones are giving birth, pregnant, bringing a baby home, or pausing their fertility treatment/adoption processes right now - what can you do to support from afar?
I think we can all support each other from afar. We should know that COVID babies are the strongest babies. If we keep filling each other with love and grace, we will get through this.

And to other families reading this, going through something like this themselves - any words of encouragement, support or advice?
To any family reading, this just remember to stay strong, keep your head up high, reach out for care and just embrace the moment as it is. So many wonderful people are around to help and love on your family. Take it one day at a time, and slow down and appreciate what's around you. Be intentional about your time and make things happen. COVID won't be around forever!