When Katie Hitchcock gave birth to her daughter Posie in January, she never imagined her first Mother’s Day like this.
Hitchcock envisioned celebrating the holiday with her own mother by her side, but due to the coronavirus, that isn’t possible. “My mom works in the health care field, so because of the current situation, she can’t come visit for Mother’s Day. It’s such a bummer because my baby girl has changed so much since my mom last saw her in February, but we are extremely thankful that everyone in our family is happy and healthy,” she said.
As the mother to five-week-old Brooklyn, Stephanie Robusto of Rochester, New York, also had to rethink her original plans for Mother’s Day. Robusto typically spends the holiday cooking a traditional brunch at home for her own mother and sisters. Instead, Robusto will spend this Mother’s Day at an outdoor picnic with relatives, but with each family group sitting ten feet away from one another and wearing masks. While her parents will be at the picnic, they won’t be able to hold their new granddaughter.
Dr. Niloo Dardashti, a New York City-based psychologist, said quarantine is only increasing the anxiety new mothers already face after giving birth. “Every mother has their own after-birth feelings and new moms are already more at risk for feeling isolated,” Dardashti said. “These emotions are only heightened near Mother’s Day, as first-time moms had these expectations of what could have been their first Mother’s Day.”
Dr. Dardashti said this week could be especially stressful for new mothers who had anticipated spending the holiday with family. “Adult children have parents who are in their 60s, 70s and 80s, and feel it’s risky and challenging to share this experience with their own mother and with their baby,” she said.
Robusto said raising a newborn during quarantine has been a challenge. “I struggled the first month with coming to terms with being isolated from my family – feeling like moments were being stolen from us and having to depend exclusively on my husband for all aspects of my mental and emotional health,” she said.
Mothers like Hitchcock and Robusto are learning to navigate this new normal of parenting without the luxury of outside assistance. Hitchcock’s advice to first-time mothers is to be kind to yourself and ask for help whenever you can. She said she encourages her fellow mothers to lean on others, even if only virtually.
Despite the pandemic, Hitchcock, who lives in Panama City, Florida, is determined to make her first Mother’s Day a memorable one. She’s looking forward to a home-cooked breakfast with lots of bacon, followed by an afternoon lounging at the beach and FaceTiming family members. By taking these precautions and maintaining a healthy distance from loved ones, Hitchcock believes it will make her next visit with family even sweeter.
Dr. Dardashti also stressed the importance of having an online network of close family and friends during this pandemic. “Have as much FaceTime with family members as possible and remember this too shall pass. My advice is to ‘really go for it.’ Call that person you haven’t spoken to in a while and ask for help,” she said.
The psychologist also advised new mothers to engage in virtual meet-ups with other mothers to share their feelings and experiences, rather than internalize them.
Robusto, like Hitchcock, said she has found alternative ways to get human interaction, from having friends drop off care packages at the end of her driveway to watching baby Brooklyn meet her grandparents through a glass door for the first time.
“I’m so grateful for the technology that allows us to connect, and to ‘travel’ the country every day to visit with in-laws who had to cancel their trips to meet Brooklyn,” says Robusto. “We are also able to touch base with my parents, down the road, who haven’t been able to hold her yet.”
While these experiences are a far cry from the coffee chats with friends and baby playdates she had imagined during her pregnancy, Robusto is keeping positive by focusing on the long-term future when her parents and extended family can finally hold her daughter for the first time.