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.
Natalie Riley and her husband Justin were high school sweethearts who reconnected later in life, and have since been married for 10 years. Both originally from Yakima, Justin is now a flight instructor working to be a commercial pilot. The couple love being outside working in their yard, going on hikes and hanging at the park (well - before COVID). They have a daughter named Stella (5) and now Benjamin (4 months).
Seattle Refined: 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?
Natalie Riley: At this point I was almost 8 months pregnant, trying to figure out how to handle being pregnant during such a scary time. Being a school administrator made it even more stressful because I was around kids all day and everyone was worried for me. This is when I decided to pull my older child from childcare and keep everyone at home where I knew I could control more.
Take us forward from there. What were you thinking/feeling? What kind of prep/worries did you have that you either didn’t have with other kids, or you didn’t anticipate having?
We were worried about who would be able to watch our daughter while I delivered since no one was traveling and we were concerned about who came into the house. We had planned for her to keep going to childcare during my maternity leave for her to connect with friends, and now all that wasn’t possible. I knew that you needed a community around you after having a baby and I knew that wouldn’t be happening, I was so sad.
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?
Three weeks before my due date I was having headaches and called my doctor. They told me to check in the hospital to be cautious and make sure everything was ok. Well - my blood pressure was elevated and I was informed I would be induced that afternoon. When we checked in they screened us and informed my husband that he would be the only person allowed back for my entire hospital stay. We stayed for the required 24 hours only just because the idea of being in a hospital with all of this going on wasn’t ideal for us. We were not allowed to have any visitors and our daughter had to meet her brother at home the following day.
For those with newborns at home during isolation, can you tell us about what that’s been like - both good and bad? If you have other kids, what are similarities or difference between the first few months of their life and the first few months of your new babies life?
When you have a new baby it is so much of the holding, feeding and sleeping on repeat. Having a 5-year-old that has been home since March adds and entirely different element to baby snuggles and snoozing on the couch between feeding. We have had a lot more time home as a family while adjusting to having a newborn again and I am thankful for that.
What have been your biggest joys during this time?
Being able to see my little one grow and the love that my kids already have for each other. His big sister is so in love and I think he has been her silver lining among all the chaos.
What are your biggest fears/worries during this time?
My fear is that someone gets sick after being so diligent about staying home and taking extra precautions. I also worry about my daughter's school experience as we begin to tackle virtual kindergarten and what she might miss out on socially.
When Ben asks you about what it was like having him during the Pandemic of 2020, what are you going to tell them?
I am going to share with Ben that he was the best part of the pandemic. While I can’t write down all the people that saw him and will have to explain why half our pictures we are wearing mask- he still was born at the perfect time.
Final Update: Where do things stand now? How is the entire family?
We are all good. I am back at work figuring out how to navigate this new virtual world. My daughter is still excited about going to kinder and our son is beyond happy and doesn’t know that we can’t go anywhere.
For people whose loved ones are giving birth, pregnant, bringing a baby home, or pausing their fertility treatments or adoption proceedings right now - what can you do to support from afar?
Being a parent is tough and comes without instructions and that is true pandemic or not. Lean on your support people even if that means FaceTime or zoom. We all need people that love and support us, we just have to be more creative now to connect.