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(Image: The Rice Family)

Welcoming a Baby During a Pandemic: The Rice 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.

Rich and Jessica Rice of Maple Valley became the proud new parents to baby Owen on May 27th, 2020. The couple love to be active with their dog Molly, and their passions include food, wine and relaxing in general. When there isn’t a pandemic, Rich trains, teaches and competes in Brazilian Jiujitsu and you can find Jessica at her local yoga studio or working on her start-up CBD company, Mad Ritual.

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?
Jessica Rice: I was seven months pregnant when the stay at home order was issued. My mom had just been in town from New Mexico to help us get the house ready, shop and just be here for general support. A few days later I had my 33 week checkup at Swedish Midwifery in Issaquah. I nervously asked our midwife at the appointment what the plan was and she said, and I quote “Girl, I don’t even know what’s happening tomorrow, they’re changing the rules every day” Definitely not what you want to hear when you’re a first time mom and seven months pregnant.

Take us forward from there. What were you thinking/feeling? What kind of prep/worries did you have that you didn’t anticipate having?
My husband and I are definitely easygoing people, but not having a plan for the baby or birth was extremely unsettling to us. We made a very personal decision to transfer care and have our baby at home. The thought of my husband not being there for the birth and being in complete lockdown in a maternity ward just didn’t sit right with me. The energy of the hospital was chaotic and stressful, I didn’t want to bring our baby into that environment. We were referred by some friends to an incredible midwife who took me under her wing at seven months pregnant and together we came up with a plan that was right for our family.

Share with us what you’re willing to about the actual birth. What was your experience like?
Because we chose to have a home birth, we weren’t subject to hospital rules. However, we did keep it intimate - just Rich, myself, our midwife and her assistant. I couldn’t have asked for a better birth experience, I got to move around intuitively, walk outside, cuddle with my dog and be in the comfort of our home - the virus couldn’t have been further from my mind, I was able to completely focus on bringing our son into the world. It was perfect for us.

For those with newborns at home during isolation, can you tell us about what that’s been like - both good and bad?
In a way I am grateful for the stay at home order because I can't help but feel like the entire world stopped just so we could have this precious time at home getting to know our new baby. That being said, after the first month I started to go a little crazy. Under the counsel of our midwife, we decided to start seeing close friends and family. It was a hard decision to break quarantine but I don’t regret it one bit. Interacting with family, being hugged and getting help with the baby was absolutely crucial to my postpartum recovery and I believe it kept us mentally healthy during this really challenging time.

What have been your biggest joys during this time?
For me, every day has felt like a gift, having endless time to watch our baby grow has been the most spiritual experience of my life. I am not sure I could say that if I knew there was a bustling world outside. I think I’d be in a big hurry to get back to work, my husband wouldn’t be home as much, etc. This time has really allowed us to stay grounded in the present moment.

What are your biggest fears/worries during this time?
I worry about the impact this pandemic has had on our collective mental health.

When your child asks you about what it was like having him/her during the Pandemic of 2020, what are you going to tell them?
WE WILL NOT SPEAK OF 2020! Just kidding. We’re going to tell Owen that the whole world stopped just for him and our time at home together as a new family was absolutely priceless.

Final Update: Where do things stand now? How is the entire family?
Not much has changed in our situation since the birth, my husband is still working from home, I’m slowly coming back onto the scene at my company and Owen is happy and thriving.

For people whose loved ones are giving birth, pregnant, bringing a baby home, or pausing their fertility treatment or adoption proceedings right now - what can you do to support from afar?
Find a care provider that you vibe with, establish a plan that works for your family and try your best to unplug from the internet every now and again.

And to other families reading this, going through something like this themselves - any words of encourage, support or advice?
Take a deep breath and know in your heart it’s all going to be OK.