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I started this series in 2020 to help growing families connect during COVID - it's been a honor to share so many stories and now, I get to share mine. (Image: French Sessa Photo Co.)
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Expecting a Baby During a Pandemic: The Neidigh 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 treatments 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.

Hello friends, my name is Kate Neidigh and I'm a writer for Seattle Refined. I started this series in 2020 to help growing families connect during a lonely and scary time, with the hope to create a sense of community. From welcoming babies, sharing about pregnancy loss, and navigating fertility treatments during COVID, it's been a honor to share so many stories. An honor, but also a little difficult at times, as while I've been writing about all these pregnancy journeys during the pandemic - I've been quietly and determinedly on one of my own.

Writing about other families stories has been at times cathartic, at times emotional, and always hopeful. Every time I'd post a new story, I'd imagine one day adding my own family's story to the series. And now, I'm so excited to say, I get to!

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After four years of hoping, praying and a lot science, my husband James and I are thrilled to announce that we have a baby on the way! We are so excited to add this new bundle of joy to our family come February, and even my five year old daughter June is coming around to the idea. When we first broke the news to her she demanded that we "cancel the baby" and that we were "making the worst decision." But now she's come full circle and embracing the idea of becoming a big sister. Like so many other families, our journey to parenthood hasn't been a straight line. We conceived our daughter June with the help of fertility treatment back in 2016 and now thanks to IVF and the amazing team at Seattle Reproductive Medicine, baby number two is on the way.

When I first started this series I (like so many of us) didn't anticipate that we'd still be in a pandemic in October of 2021 - but here we are. Trying for and expecting a baby during these uncertain times adds a layer to parenthood that you can only grasp if you're in the thick of it. If you are - you're not alone. Here's our story.

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?
In March of 2020 when COVID took center stage, my husband James and I were in the thick of fertility treatment at Seattle Reproductive Medicine (SRM). After a series of failed IUI's - we'd been trying for baby number two for three years at this point and knew our next option was IVF. We were also juggling a then 4-year-old and trying to maintain a sense of sanity while working from home with zero childcare (sound familiar?). Like so many others, we were worried about the unknowns COVID presented. We worked hard to distance and protect our daughter, our parents and the general public. We had lost my beloved father-in-law to cancer in May of 2019 and were really looking forward to 2020 as a healing and growing year, but the world threw all of us a curve ball that we are still dealing with. Regarding our baby plans, wait times at SRM were getting longer, and appointments were getting pushed back further and further. There were so many unknowns at this point and adding to our family remained a top priority, but felt like a long shot. My husband being the person that he is, lifted my spirits and told me we'd have our time.

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 became more and more concerned that we wouldn't have our shot at IVF as we became lower and lower on the waitlist due to the impacts of COVID. My sweet nurse at SRM would call and give me updates on the projected timeline - but at the same time between COVID, having my daughter home 24/7, working and juggling grad school - I didn't have a ton of time to focus on growing our family. I fit in fertility appointments and acupuncture as if it were just a normal part of my weekly routine, kind of on autopilot. I felt a little concerned about the growing age gap between my daughter and future baby, but reminded myself that I couldn't control that. At times I felt selfish for even trying for a baby - the world was falling apart and here I was thinking about a baby, always longing for another baby... baby, baby, baby. But then my husband said to me, "The most brave thing we can do right now when so many lives are being taken is work to bring a new life into this world." I felt guilty for wanting more, but at the end of the day I know in my heart that June and James were more than enough and I fully accepted that. I got to the point where I wanted another baby, I didn't need one. There's a big difference. That was a hurdle for me to jump over and I'm so thankful I got there. My husband and I went into IVF hopeful, but realistic that it might not happen for us and that was OK. It was a true "Jesus take the wheel" moment.

Because of COVID I had to go to all of my SRM appointments alone. When we went to SRM in 2016 it was a completely different experience, my husband got to be there and hold my hand through all of it. COVID made this experience feel more lonely, but empowering at the same time. Part of being a mom is doing hard things and I knew I could do this for my family, I had to just keep moving forward. In March of 2021 I underwent my egg retrieval, it was St. Patrick's Day. After the retrieval the nurse came in and told me excitedly that they had "found a pot of gold - 34 eggs!" I knew I had a high ovarian reserve, but 34 eggs! I felt like a superhero. We were over the moon and for the first time I felt truly hopeful. After all was said and done we were told we had 5 viable embryos, a huge deal as we were originally told to anticipate 1-2. Now we played the waiting game, and in May we had one embryo transferred.

Due to genetic testing, we were informed that we had embryos of both sexes and we had the power to choose male or female, for our second child. We opted out and requested that the strongest embryo be transferred, boy or girl. We've never cared about that, we just want a healthy baby. I attended the transfer solo as my husband wasn't allowed in the room due to COVID restrictions. It's an experience that's so unique and hard to explain, but it was magical to see our little embryo placed. I wished so badly that my husband could be there, something COVID robbed him of. Nine days later I took an at-home pregnancy test and it was positive, we were pregnant! We are so lucky that the first transfer took. It was early on a Sunday morning and I jumped on my husband while he was still asleep and woke him up to share the exciting news. Then I spent the next four months vomiting - because YAY, pregnancy is awesome.

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What have been your biggest joys during this time?
I think COVID has forced us to prioritize what's important in life and to not sweat the small things. Spending time with my husband and daughter brings me the most joy. Watching my belly grow and knowing there is a new life on the horizon fills my heart with so much joy. We are thankful that the majority of our family and friends are fully vaccinated so we got to tell them our baby news in person. Being able to see my parents after being isolated for so long has been life changing. We wish my father-in-law was here in person to celebrate with us, but we know he's somewhere up there rooting us on and he will live on in both our children. After all a legacy like his never dies. June started kindergarten this year and it's been so much fun watching her grow, learn and make friends of her own. We are enjoying the community we've built, lasting friendships and taking it one day at a time.

What are your biggest fears/worries during this time?
My biggest concern is the lingering threat of COVID. I worry about June getting sick at school or me getting sick and something happening to the baby. We've been hunkering down as much as possible since finding out we are expecting, masking up, etc. But I don't want the fear of the unknown to dictate our life. I have to remind myself often that this is June's childhood and my husband and I will do everything we can do to keep her safe, while still ensuring that she gets a real childhood experience during this unique time in history. The last thing she needs is to internalize our stress. We work daily to protect her from that. We also worry about having a newborn and protecting the baby from COVID. It will be a different experience than our first baby for sure. No visitors at the hospital - introductions to family and close friends will have to be made via FaceTime. I find that part a bit heartbreaking.

When your child asks you about what it was like having them during the pandemic, what are you going to tell them?
I think this is a hard response to predict, but my main focus will be telling my child how loved they are and how badly we wanted them. This baby will be a bright light during a dark time, and most likely the last baby in our entire family.

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Final Update: Where do things stand now? How is the entire family?
I'm nearly six months along and getting excited to meet this baby of ours! We aren't going to find out the gender until we have the baby, and our entire circle is eager to know. We wanted just one thing to be 'fun' and be a surprise after all the work we put in. We've been having a blast brainstorming names and dreaming about who this baby will be. June snuggles my belly often and tells the baby how much she loves them already. Right now we are enjoying the solo time with June before another baby comes along. All the ultrasounds have shown a healthy baby and we are so thankful.

For people whose loved ones are giving birth, pregnant, bringing a baby home, or on fertility journeys right now - what can you do to support from afar?
The best thing you can do to acknowledge someone working to grow their family is support their boundaries. We know that when we have the baby we are hunkering down and not allowing visitors until we feel comfortable. And only fully vaccinated visitors at that. We anticipate some push back, but know protecting our new baby will be our top priority. Send texts to check in, send meals, leave diapers at the door. Just respect the wishes of the family and shower them with love. Having a new baby is already stressful enough, add a pandemic to the mix and forget about it!

And to other families reading this, going through something like this themselves - any words of encourage, support or advice?
You're not alone. If you're currently undergoing fertility treatment, choose one to two friends you can go to about this topic that will just listen. Give them a heads up that they're your people, and just go to them. I had these girlfriends and they helped carry me even when they didn't realize it. You know who you are - I'm forever grateful for our friendship. Also, don't be afraid to piss people off. This is your pregnancy and your baby, so set your boundaries and be firm, regardless of what anyone feels or thinks. If you're not comfortable with visitors, make it clear and don't budge. Above all else, enjoy this time and have fun! Being a parent is the greatest blessing in life.

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