Quarantining has presented new challenges to all of us. Students distance-learning and adults working from home are among the most common of transitions experienced during the coronavirus pandemic. However, it may be parents who face the greatest challenges, especially new parents.
The experiences of those bringing a child into the world for the first time during the chaos of 2020 are eye-opening. Take, for example that of Artisha Knight-Milon, a longtime resident of Minneapolis and a local singer, songwriter, podcaster (Music Melanin Millennials), and member of the Grammy-award-winning group Sounds of Blackness.
This year, Knight-Milon and her husband Sherome Milon welcomed their first child, Amari, into the world. The process and transition of welcoming a new baby was much different for them than it would have been a year ago before COVID struck.
“Pregnancy on its own is kind of isolating,” said Knight-Milon. “It was like me and her for months, and I felt like with quarantine it just kept us in the house even more.”
Pregnancy brings about limitations of its own, but pregnancy during quarantine proved to be a double-whammy when it came to participating in activities. “Not only are you pregnant, but now we’re going to close the rest of the world down,” Knight-Milon remarked.
“On the medical appointment side, for it being my first time, it was pushing me over the edge a little bit.” Even seemingly simple things like medical visits became arduous to deal with.
For instance, Knight-Milon had made plans to deliver at a certain hospital. “I remember a specific phone call… Now I’m in tears because they were telling me I had to deliver at a hospital in St. Paul and not Abbot where my mind was set.
“I knew the hospital, I knew what I was doing, I knew where I was going, and they called me [about the change] like a week before I delivered,” she explained recalling her frustration.
These kinds of abrupt changes were not few and far between and are a direct outcome of the ever-changing realities and stipulations of quarantine. “I planned a water birth. I couldn’t do that because they didn’t now the ins and outs of how [COVID-19] spreads,” said Knight-Milon.
Similar challenges followed Knight-Milon all the way to her day of delivery. “[In] the delivery room, I had to take a COVID test because I had a fever.”
While her fever was unrelated to COVID-19, it still required extra procedures that made her delivery much more complicated. Another drastic change that she encountered was limitation on who could be with her during the delivery. “I never imagined—me being the baby of the family and being the last to have kids—I never thought I would give birth without my mom being there,” she lamented. “There’s nothing like your mom, a woman who went through this, to be in there with you.”
But Knight-Milon said the upside of her unpredictable and unplanned situation is that it gave her an opportunity to lean on her husband Sherome even more.
Sherome, a first-time father who is an educator for Minneapolis Public Schools and a grad student, talked about the bright side of parenting during this complex time. “Being a quarantine dad is great,” he said.
“Being able to wake up in the morning and see [Amari], I have not missed anything. Her first crawling, her little teeth coming in… I’ve been able to be a part of all of it,” he said proudly.
For expecting mothers, especially during quarantine, Knight-Milon offers a bit of advice: “Somebody connected me with a place called Everyday Miracles. They have all of the parenting and labor classes and just a bunch of other [resources],” she said.
“[You can] connect with other moms, know you’re not by yourself even if it feels like it. If you have a partner, include them in as much of the experience as you can.”
Shaniah Smith is the office and education coordinator at Every Miracles as well as a doula. Doulas provide a continuous source of comfort, encouragement and support, both emotional and physical, during labor.
Smith’s coping advice: “Be patient with yourself. Having a baby and being pregnant is already a challenge, and then adding the pandemic on top of it makes it even more difficult.”
She also urges mothers to lean into methods of virtual connection. “Everyday Miracles provides car seats, breast pumps, doulas, and then we have classes. The doula work obviously has changed a lot with hospital limitations and birthing limitations,” said Smith.
In March, Everyday Miracles began providing their classes in a virtual platform. “Now that people are getting comfortable with doing classes virtually, [they’re] starting to go really well,” said Smith.
For more information on Everyday Miracles, go to www.everyday-miracles.org.