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(Image: The McCain Family)

Expecting a Baby During a Pandemic: The McCain 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.

Ashley and Justin McCain live in Renton with their 20-month-old daughter Marley and are currently nine months pregnant with their son, due at the end of February. The family loves to take road trips, visit family, take long walks with their dogs, and travel. Ashley has been pregnant nine out of the 11 months of the pandemic. The McCain's are very easy-going and love living life to the fullest while teaching their kids the value of family, respect, and kindness.

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?
Ashley McCain: We were two months away from celebrating our [current] toddler’s first birthday and then trying for baby number two. We had no idea how long the lockdown would last, but we were optimistic and wanted to stick to our timeline we had planned for long before we got pregnant with our first. With all of the unknowns, we made the decision to pull our daughter from daycare until further notice; although, daycare had not yet closed at the time. I remember crying, thinking of how we may be contributing to decreased hours and pay for our amazing childcare workers.

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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 first and foremost worried about our 10 month old getting sick, and wondering if it would be smart to get pregnant in a few months. We decided to play it by ear as the time came. Justin at the time was running his own business and decided to sacrifice his time to watch our daughter since I had a job that was less flexible when it came to meetings. Each week we put together a plan around our schedules so we could alternate watching our toddler. We worried about what his job would look like as a general contractor, as clients stopped booking business due to social distancing.

As of now, we’re nearly a year into COVID-19 and over nine months pregnant with our second child. The current guidelines have restricted my husband from coming to any of my appointments, and I’ve had to FaceTime him during ultrasounds. When I give birth in a couple weeks, I am allowed two support people, but no children – so we will have to wait until we go home to introduce our new son to his older sister, rather than in the hospital, which is an experience I’m a little sad about missing. If I test positive for COVID-19 when I check in for labor, I will have to deliver alone. So, I’m currently quarantining in order to avoid that and be able to have my husband with me.

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 baby’s life?
When our daughter was born in the Spring of 2019, it was amazing getting to bond with her, yet it was a little isolating as a first time mom on maternity leave, learning the new ropes as a parent and backing off from some of the usual summer activities. This time around we’ll be in isolation along with most people, whether or not they have newborns at home. So, I’m looking forward to the fact that the home life won’t be a drastic change.

What have been your biggest joys during this time?
Although remote working with a toddler at home has been extremely difficult, I’ve loved having the extra time to spend with our daughter and watch her grow during her early years. Also, while being pregnant during this time, it’s been nice to be able to walk away from the laptop and take a break – or a nap. This has been especially important during the first and third trimesters.

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What are your biggest fears/worries during this time?
My biggest fears have revolved around the unknowns of being a pregnant woman during a pandemic and whether or not I am high risk; which is something that has been somewhat unclear at this time. I was also worried about not being able to have my husband with me during our delivery, however I know that at this time he will be able to.

When your son asks you about what it was like having him during the pandemic, what are you going to tell him?
I plan to explain what the state of the world was at the time, but I want to be careful about not making his entrance into the world feel like a total hardship or burden, because it isn’t. I also don’t want him to feel like he was the result of some bored quarantine accident. We planned for him long before the pandemic.

Final Update: Where do things stand now? How is the entire family?
Things are opening up a bit in Washington state, front line workers and elders are getting vaccines, and the future is looking optimistic! I don’t think everything will be normal until at least the 2nd half of the year, but it’s looking up. Our family is so excited to welcome our new addition and spend quality time at home, despite what is going on around us.

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?
[Husband]: The best thing you can do is continue to show support and check in, even if it’s virtual. Check in via calls, text, FaceTime, or send essential items such as pregnancy needs or baby necessities. It means a lot.

And to other families reading this, going through something like this themselves - any words of encourage, support or advice?
Just know that you’re not alone. I’ve always believed that there is no ‘perfect time’ to plan for a family. Although this is a difficult time for everyone, my advice would be to continue to live your life on the path you chose to and give yourself some grace.