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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”