Parents welcoming babies into the world during the strange chaos of COVID-19 face an unusual new set of challenges and fears. Whether you're expecting, already welcomed a little one or had to put your fertility treatment 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.
Originally, the idea was to write up an article about welcoming a baby during the pandemic, and interview a couple different families. 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!
To kick off this series, we'd love to introduce you to the Rupp Family from Renton. John and Marcy Rupp are the proud parents to three darling little boys, Charlie, Ben and Alexander. The Rupp family is fun, goofy, chaotic, real and, most of all, full of love. They welcomed the newest member of their family during the uncertain times of COVID-19 — here is their story.
Seattle Refined: Ok, let's set the stage. It's March 23, 2020, and Gov. Inslee just issued the "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order. Where are you in your journey at that point?
Marcy Rupp: When Gov. Inslee issued the "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order, I was 39 weeks pregnant and scheduled for induction on March 25. By this time, COVID had rapidly taken over the news cycles, and Seattle had been declared a major hotspot for the virus. As an employee communications professional at my company, I'd been tasked with helping to provide COVID-related information and guidance to our 50k+ employees, which meant I was being inundated daily with information and data coming from local and national health organizations. Add that to a constant barrage of COVID coverage I was seeing in the media and on my own social feeds, and I could already feel the massive weight of the pandemic bearing down.
Although I had been working from home for the last two weeks, I was on edge about possibly contracting the virus. Then I learned that many New York-area hospitals were prohibiting pregnant women from having their partners or family members with them during labor. Without knowing whether or not the same restrictions would be put in place in Washington, I became fearful. While this wasn't my first child, the thought of laboring alone and the possibility of me or my son getting sick terrified me.
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?
I felt like I had very little control over what was happening. My parents were supposed to come up from Olympia to take care of our two older children (4 and 2) while we were in the hospital, but once the order was put in place, we weren't sure if or how to move forward with our plans. Was it still safe for my parents to come up? Should we reschedule the induction? Would my husband be allowed in the delivery room with me? We decided to move forward with our plan as-is. I called the hospital the day before my induction to learn what precautions were being put in place and what we should expect upon arrival. Thankfully, the Valley Medical Birth Center was not prohibiting partners from being in the delivery room. We would be subject to temperature checks when we arrived and encouraged to wear face masks when not in our room, but otherwise, things were running close to normal.
I was relieved. However, I still felt uneasy about my parents coming up knowing that seniors were among the most vulnerable. We did everything we could to disinfect the surfaces in our home, designate our downstairs bathroom for my parents' use, and place hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes in every common area. The one positive takeaway from all the extra work was satisfying my nesting urges.
Share with us what you're willing to about the actual birth.
Once in the hospital, I felt at ease. The team of nurses and doctors in the birth center were just as warm, welcoming and caring as they'd been with our first two children — even in the face of the pandemic. They answered our questions, made sure we understood any changes to protocol and helped us focus on bringing our son into the world safely. My husband was able to stay with me the entire time, and that evening I gave birth to our third son, Alexander. Thankfully, I didn't have to wear a mask during labor, but we were carefully moved to another suite and instructed not to move Alex from our room until it was time to be discharged.
The next day, our pediatrician came to see the baby. He made sure to take extra precautions during his exam, including wearing a mask and gloves, and that evening we were discharged.
For those with newborns at home during isolation, can you tell us about what that's been like, both good and bad? In comparison with your two older children, what are the similarities or differences between the first few months of their life and the first few months of your new baby's life?
Since bringing Alex home, my anxieties have definitely returned. My parents left not long after we got home from the hospital, and not having any in-person support from friends and family has been tough, especially with two rambunctious toddlers in the house. Thankfully, we've had a few friends drop off food or send us gift cards, which has helped relieve some of the pressure. With my first child, I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety, so I have had to be diligent about taking care of myself and watching for signs of mental distress. Unfortunately, it's hard to tell the difference between anxieties brought on by postpartum vs. the uncertainties of COVID, but so far, I think I'm doing pretty good. Having my husband working from home has helped quell some of the loneliness maternity leave often brings on, and being able to rely on my past experiences provides a good footing to handle the tough days.
What have been your biggest joys during this time?
My biggest joys have simply been being able to spend time with Alex, watching him grow and learn, and seeing how well his brothers have welcomed him into the family. When you have your first child, it's easy to get caught up in the uncertainty and exhaustion of it all, which can make it difficult to truly enjoy new parenthood. As an experienced mom, though, I've been able to really cherish this time and take it all in. I'm also finding that with the whole world essentially stopped in its tracks. I'm not feeling the sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) that I did with my first two — no one is going out for a drink, no one is really going on major vacations and all my friends and coworkers are stuck at home like me. There's no such thing as missing out when there's nothing to miss out on!
What are your biggest fears/worries during this time?
Right now, our biggest concern is keeping our family safe and healthy. Sadly, we have had to avoid visits with family and friends to make sure we're keeping the virus at bay. My parents are the only ones who have met Alex, and it will most likely be some time before my husband's parents and the rest of our family get to meet him in person. We also have concerns over what life will look like when I return to work in late July and how the pandemic may change, and possibly spread, heading into the fall. Without knowing whether or not our offices and schools will be open makes it difficult to plan ahead, and the fear of the unknown keeps my mind racing most days.
When Alex asks you about what it was like having him/her during the pandemic of 2020, what are you going to tell them?
When Alex asks, I'll want him to know how tragic the pandemic has been on so many lives but that we did everything we could to make sure we brought him into the world as safely as possible. I'll recount our journey, share with him the ups and downs and, make sure he knows that while this year has been full of challenges in so many ways, the bright spot was bringing him into the world.
Final Update: Where do things stand now? How is the entire family?
Alex is now three months old, and we're on a good routine. While COVID cases continue to grow around the country, we're staying put finding ways to spend time together and enjoy our family. We get out when we can — going for drives, getting donuts to-go and exploring our neighborhood. We do Zoom calls with family and friends and just try to stay positive as best as we can.
For people whose loved ones are giving birth, pregnant, bringing a baby home or pausing fertility treatment right now — what can you do to support from afar?
Now is the time to be empathetic and offer a listening ear to anyone who needs it. They may not show it on the outside, but families who are preparing for a baby at any stage right now are likely are full of fear, anxiety, sadness and maybe even anger. Becoming a parent is scary in and of itself, but doing it when the whole world feels like its crumbling around you is absolutely terrifying. If there's a new baby in the family, follow the parents' lead on visits and other ways they need support. Being pushy to meet the baby, or dismissive of their feelings, will only make matters worse. If loved ones are preparing for a baby or having to pause their plans, ask them how you can help. Some may want some time and distance, while others may need daily chat sessions. Do your best to check in on them and do it OFTEN! The last thing they need is to feel forgotten and isolated when they're already in physical isolation: the more support you can give, the better.
And to other families reading this, going through something like this themselves — any words of encouragement, support or advice?
While the world seems like a scary place right now, try your best to focus on what's most important. Prepare yourself by talking with your doctor about your concerns, familiarize yourself with what to expect at the hospital/birth center and learn what you can do to bring the baby into a safe environment if you're birthing at home. Be sure to also connect with your friends and family and let them know how they can help quell your fears and support you after the baby arrives. Perhaps it's a family Zoom call the week before your due date, or even a Facetime chat while you're in labor. Don't be afraid to ask for food or grocery deliveries, or anything else you think you might need.
Above all else, don't let COVID or the million other fears you may have get in the way of your excitement for your new baby. This is a happy time that you deserve to enjoy! After all, if we all have to bunker down at home anyway, there's no better way to do it than with a new sweet bundle of love in your arms.