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(Image: The Wilson Family)

Welcoming a Baby During a Pandemic: The 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.

Bryan and Alyssa Wilson live in Lynnwood and are high school sweethearts - they've been together for 13 years! The couple has four kids, Desmond (9), Chloe (7), Emma (5) and Finley - who was born May 2020. Prior to COVID, the family would spend free time at the park, the beach, or doing some fun family activity. They live everyday like it was a new adventure. Fun facts: the three older kids were born in June every two years and the whole family's names are alphabetized: (A)lyssa, (B)ryan, (C)hloe, (D)esmond, (E)mma, and (F)inley.

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?
Alyssa Wilson: I wasn’t too concerned about this “new virus” until we got our first case IN Snohomish County! And then the cases kept coming in. As a pregnant woman/mom, I was growing very concerned how this new virus was going to affect my kids. Leading up to March 23rd, our older three kids got the news that school was cancelled. They started crying and asking why was this virus here? It was so hard to not cry with them and assure them everything would be ok if I didn’t even know things would be ok. When the governor's order came, our world was officially turned upside down. I had to stop working due to my concern about bringing COVID home to my family, my husband lost almost all of his hours and lost his other job, and I suddenly had to figure out home schooling! This was stuff you see in movies, a terrible new virus pandemic, and here it was happening in real life, except you don’t know how it’s going to end.

Take us forward from there. Expecting moms/dad - 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 extremely anxious. I felt like everything I knew about hospital procedures for giving birth, being able to have sitters readily available, having my family come see the new baby... all gone or a distant memory. This is 2020 now. The new “normal”. This is our last baby and I really wanted to take the time to enjoy everything. I wanted Bryan home for the FMLA and to be able to buy diapers and not worry about the shelves being empty. My baby shower was canceled. So with 75% of our income gone due to this virus, we also had to get whatever we still needed for the baby...if it was available. Bryan also no longer had the luxury to be home and bond with baby Finley or help me while I recovered from my c-section.

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?
I had had 3 vaginal births prior, but was recommended a c-section by my OB. Up until this pandemic, we were monitoring her size. She was growing above average and with a previous birth complication and her larger-than-average size, we felt a c-section was best. We delivered at Swedish (which was a new hospital for me). I also had to be tested for COVID before my surgery, but there was such a backlog, I couldn’t get tested, so they made sure I was self-isolating 2 to 4 weeks prior, wear mask in public, etc (which I already was). We were pre-screened before checking in, as was Bryan. I was so worried if he could be there with me (because I heard some husbands in NY weren’t allowed). Luckily, Swedish made it a priority I had my husband with me. BUT no visitors and he couldn’t leave the hospital at all. Which meant a new job he just started two weeks earlier, he had to call out to be by my side. We welcomed a healthy and VERY large, baby girl, Finley. 10 pounds 6 ounces and 21.5” long!

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?
I feel like the main difference is being at home a lot more and less visitors. But this is our new normal. We wash our hands regularly, wear our masks religiously in public, and cover her car seat with those car seat canopies to protect her. I call it her “face mask” since she can’t actually wear one. We keep hand sanitizer in the car and Lysol spray to keep everything clean. The kids know they do it to keep baby Finley safe. Honestly though, I reminisce the old days of being carefree, just going to the park when we wanted, going shopping at the mall and pushing the stroller and proudly showing off our new baby. But that was then, this is now. Now I have to stay away from people or be cautious about what I touch. I get worried if I hear one of my kids coughing... “do they have it?” “How will I know I have it?” Etc

What have been your biggest joys during this time?
More projects, the pictures we make, the painting projects, all the board games we played, all my nesting urges satisfied. Also, lots of family time. I also have been enjoying seeing my husband more. I feel like the quarantine has brought us some much needed couples time.

What are your biggest fears/worries during this time?
The necessities running out. The things for basic living like food, housing, our health, even silly things we take for granted, like toilet paper! All those things are things I have to worry about each day. Everyday, I wake up and have to make sure we have enough to get through another day or another week. I also felt ashamed for having to tell our landlord we have to be late making rent due to COVID-19. We were even supposed to move in April to a bigger home for the six of us. Now because of Covid, we are stuck in our 2 bedroom 1 bath, quarantined with each other to stay healthy and stay safe.

When Finley asks you about what it was like having her during the Pandemic of 2020, what are you going to tell them?
I would tell her that I loved her so much and cared about her and her siblings, dad and I did everything we could to protect them. We also remained strong and never let them know we were scared too.

Final Update: Where do things stand now? How is the entire family?
With the launch in Phase 2, my husband got the job he wanted and we are financially doing ok now. Our savings have been wiped and we didn’t move, but we have high hopes to continue to move forward with our lives. We’re not letting COVID 19 ruin our lives. We did pause and it did cause concern, but we going to continue to move forward. We still have hopes to find a bigger home to rent (hopefully soon)! I think looking back, it made us better (overall).

For people whose loved ones are giving birth, pregnant, bringing a baby home, or pausing their fertility treatment right now - what can you do to support from afar?
Support one another. Join a support group or reach out to friends/loved ones often. Also, nothing wrong with a zoom baby shower or FedEx delivery of baby registry items. Also, don’t be afraid to get the benefits your family needs (food bank, etc). I had friends drop off meals and gifts to our front door. We showed off our baby from inside our house and they looked in to see her with the closed window protecting us.

And to other families reading this, going through something like this themselves - any words of encourage, support or advice?
Don’t give up hope and let’s all love and support each other. We are ALL going through this together. It might look different for your neighbor than it does for you. But let’s spread more joy and less corona virus.