Imbalancing Act: 'I'm Concerned About the World the Baby Is Going to Grow Up In'

Illustration for article titled Imbalancing Act: Im Concerned About the World the Baby Is Going to Grow Up In
Imbalancing ActImbalancing ActMothering during the covid-19 pandemic

Sonia, 37, is on maternity leave from her job as an emergency room physician in New Orleans, Louisiana, a state with the second-highest per-capita coronavirus infection rate in the country. She is caring for her two-month-old and preparing to return to work in a few weeks, just as the pandemic will likely overflow the ER. Her husband is also an ER doctor.

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We’re in the process of trying to hire a nanny. It’s obviously not the best time. I think we found someone who can help out, but I hope she doesn’t get offered another job in the meantime. One of the nannies we were really interested in was snatched up by the family she had been working for on a short-term basis. She was going to switch over to us, but because all the schools closed, that sucked up a lot of the nannies that were working as-needed and not full time.

We’re just going to have to figure it out. Worst case scenario, my husband and I can work opposite schedules to cover childcare. That would be the last resort. My mom was supposed to come from New York and help with the transition of me going back to work, but I don’t really feel comfortable with her traveling. She was thinking about driving down, but I don’t want my dad to be left by himself. I’m very worried about my parents’ health.

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My day-to-day actually hasn’t changed much, because being on maternity leave is a form of social isolation. You’re kind of limiting your visitors as it is and not letting people really touch the baby. I wasn’t going out that much, because with a newborn it’s hard to be out for very long. My days are pretty much social isolation at baseline, so that hasn’t changed, but my anxiety level has gone up.

In our city, people are extremely social and out and about. They’ve been slow to enforce guidelines. I just came from a park and there are tons of people out exercising and gathering in small groups. There are kids playing on the playground, which I think is pretty shocking. There are a lot of exercise groups. There are people walking side-by-side. It’s spreading pretty rapidly here. I don’t think people are taking it as seriously as they should be.

I’m worried about my husband going to work, and about myself going back to work. Both of us are at higher risk of getting sick, because we’re going to have higher exposure. He hasn’t had any confirmed cases yet at work, but he’s tested patients. We’re ramping up our response in the emergency room. We’ve had four deaths now in New Orleans just over the past week. We’re in a hotbed area. I was worried about ending maternity leave as it was and this has magnified it. If one of us gets sick, the other one will probably get sick. What does that mean for our child? We don’t have any family here for support.

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We know children have been less affected by it, so that is the one reassuring thing. My husband and I are pretty careful as it is—trying not to bring germs into the house, taking our scrubs off as soon as we get home. Now my husband is taking a shower as soon as he gets home. If one of us had symptoms, we would have to be on quarantine from our job. I would not be paid during that period; I don’t get paid for maternity leave as it is, because I don’t have benefits with my job. We already have one doctor at the hospital who is on quarantine now.

I’m concerned about the world the baby is going to grow up in. It’s concerning that his first few months of life are consumed by this pandemic. We don’t know how long it’s going to last and what this signifies going forward; this is probably just the beginning of many more disasters. It’s scary that this is his introduction to life. I hope for a better world for him.

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Maternity leave is hard in general, just because you’re changing your identity, your life is changing dramatically. One of the few joys of my maternity leave has been going to the local parenting center. They have a support group for new moms and, of course, that got canceled this week. I was hoping they would maybe just do a conference call. It’s really disappointing because I looked forward to it each week. I was like, “This is my sanity, I need it!” But I’ve gotten so many text messages from acquaintances of mine who are moms. It’s been really nice—people I haven’t talked to in a while have reached out and been like, “I’m thinking of you.”

Senior Staff Writer, Jezebel

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DISCUSSION

brickhardmeat
Brick HardMeat

My wife is a nurse in the Seattle-area. The hospitals are slammed. ER and ICU already overflowing. No N95 masks, low on everything else (basic surgical masks, gloves, etc).

She was in tears yesterday. We have a baby. My wife is an excellent nurse and loves her job but the baby is our priority. And she did not sign up for this. She is not a martyr. Frontline medical staff are being sent out into battle naked. It’s one thing to take a calculated risk with proper protective gear. It’s another to be completely abandoned by the government, by society, by the world. People are out BBQing and playing softball and shit. Trump is already whining about how fast can he get malls and hotels open. Just... no.

He promised us masks from the strategic reserve. We do not have them. He said he would use the Defense Production Act, then reversed that. His most ardent followers still think this is a hoax. Once COVID-19 burns out here, it’ll just start up again when these cousin-fucking fools from the hinterlands make their way to civilization and re-infect everything.

This is what’s happening right now:

  • L&D units are being converted to COVID-19 units. Hope you didn’t plan on having a baby. And if you are someplace having a baby, you’re doing it alone — not visitors, meaning no spouse or partner or doula or whatever. If you are having a baby and test positive for COVID-19 they will take the baby away immediately, you will not get to hold it.
  • Day Surgery units are being converted to COVID-19 units. Tough time to get appendicitis or need a kidney transplant or whatever. Get in the queue
  • Tents are being set up in parking lots and soccer fields. The tests are currently for testing but there will be patients out there soon enough. The ICUs and ERs are overflowing. The step down ICUs and telemetry units and observational unit are overflowing.
  • Nurses are starting to get sick. Who will step in once they are out of commission?

If they want to help the economy so bad, pay manufacturers to retrofit their production lines to churn out masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, ventilators, respirators. The country needs to mobilize. This is an all-hands-on-deck situation. If casualty estimates are to be believed we will easily exceed the death toll of WW2. That is the urgency and prioritization we need to bring to this, and it needs to start with supporting frontline medical staff.