“We just feel like we’re drowning”: How parents with newborns are coping with social isolation

“We just feel like we’re drowning”: How parents with newborns are coping with social isolation

Parenting an infant is hard enough under normal circumstances. It’s even more of a challenge for new parents in the Covid era, who are struggling to cope without visits and support from family, friends and other new parents. Here’s how eight parents are adjusting to the new realities of parenting during a pandemic.

Shalon Webber-Heffernan, 35, PhD candidate, with two-month-old Marlow
“The gravity of the coronavirus didn’t hit me at first. My partner was in the U.K. when we first started hearing about it, and my mother was visiting me and my newborn daughter for the night. My husband came home early, and that was the last time my mom has seen baby Marlow. After that, I became overwhelmed with anxiety. Not being able to share my beautiful daughter has been the hardest part for me. She hasn’t met her grandparents, her sister (who lives on Maui) or her aunt and uncle. Being stuck at home has been extremely challenging for me, especially with a newborn. I would normally be attending mom groups and be out and about with the baby. Now I’m spending lots of time in our backyard, planting a garden, cooking food with my husband, moving my body, meditating, doing video chats with friends and family and sweet hangs with our amazing daughter.”


Photo by Lemons and Ants Studio

Carmen So, 28, banking business associate, and Adrian So, 30, personal trainer, with five-month-old Darian and Sumo the dog

Carmen: “Darian was born on November 16. We had been getting a lot of support from our family, especially my mom. She had been so helpful when Darian was first born and came by a lot to teach us how to properly take care of him. Post-Covid, our routines changed because we can’t travel to see family on weekends and we haven’t seen any of our friends since the beginning of the quarantine. But we try to do video calls, FaceTime and Zoom. At the same time we have to keep it limited because we don’t want Darian to have too much screen time. My mom is still supporting remotely and giving us advice about Darian as he continues to grow.”

Adrian: “Three more months of isolation will be difficult, but we have to adjust and find new routines. Since I’m at home, I can help out with Darian more and Carmen can catch up on sleep. The silver lining in all of this is that I get to be with Darian and share all his early milestones that I might have have missed if I was at work. We’re glad we have the company of our baby and dog during this time, or else Carmen and I would likely be driving each other bonkers.”


Christine Ogley, 37, social worker, with five-month-old Valerie
“A few weeks ago, we learned that two of my daughter’s skull plates had fused; she had to have a surprise surgery on March 17, right around the time the Covid threat became serious. Prior to the storm, we were beginning to develop a routine that included baby and mom groups. I was starting to meet other moms, which helped to keep me sane and alleviate the isolation I felt. Now all our groups are cancelled and I can’t see those moms or my family or friends. I’m treading water. I’m managing, but it’s not easy. At times, I feel very alone. I’m sad for all the things that my baby and I are missing out on, but I try not to focus on them. I make as many video calls as you can with a teething baby. I text a lot and send people photos. I read comics when she’s sleeping. My daughter is healing well from her operation, and the doctors at SickKids have let me send photos and connect virtually whenever possible. We started solids early because it gives me something to look forward to each day. I spend way too much time on my phone, but these are strange times, and I think my baby will benefit more from a healthy mom than less screen time.”


Photo by Lemons and Ants Studio

Kaitlyn Leeb, 31, actor, and Ted Leeb, 35, equity trader, with three-year-old Avery and three-month-old Presley

Ted: “Pre-Covid, we relied heavily on both our parents and our nanny to help look after our two girls. But then we decided the risk was too large for everyone, so we stopped all of the visits. Our parents and nanny grew very attached to Avery and our newborn, and it’s been hard for them to not be able to hold and play with them during this isolation period. There are challenges of working from home—having everyone in close quarters and being in constant discussion all day—but spending so much time with my wife and two kids has been a true blessing during an otherwise scary time.”

Kaitlyn: “Our baby is getting to the age where she wants to be carried all the time, so Ted and I take a divide-and-conquer approach. One of us holds, entertains, changes or bathes Presley while the other plays a game or helps Avery work on pre-K activities. Avery has really taken to her Barbies, playing make-believe with them. It’s only natural because she hasn’t seen her friends in over a month.”

Sophia Karda, 34, brand manager and Amardeep Sehmi, 37, real estate agent, with four-month-old Ava

Sophia: “Ava was born in December, so we had already been getting a lot of help from our families with grocery shopping, meal prep, laundry and cleaning up. We haven’t seen our families in person since social distancing was announced. We were initially getting overwhelmed, and the household tasks were taking a toll on both of us. So we just decided that if laundry didn’t get done one day or if Ava’s toys weren’t put away, it was okay. We needed to do this to keep each other sane. Going for a walk can be difficult because the nice weather brings a lot of people out of their houses, making it a challenge to practice physical distancing while trying to push a stroller. If too many people are out, we shorten our walk. Getting fresh air isn’t easy anymore. It’s become very stressful, and a big part of that is because we have a baby and are even more serious about taking the necessary precautions to keep ourselves safe. My husband wears a mask and gloves when he goes to the grocery store, and we’re disinfecting each item before bringing it to the kitchen.”

Photo by Lemons and Ants Studio

Aaron Au, 37, internal auditor, and Jennifer Au, 34, tax accountant, with four-year-old Hayden and two-month-old Haylee

Jennifer: “Prior to Covid, I was focused on caring for my newborn and recovering from childbirth. Now, I’m feeding my baby every two hours while trying to find ways to home-school and entertain my four-year-old. I’m sleep-deprived but I’m trying my best to keep up. At first, I used online educational resources that my mommy friends shared, but it was overwhelming and I gave up after a week. Now I just focus on achieving one teaching goal and having outside time daily with my son rather than following a timed daily schedule. He’s using the iPad a lot more than I would have liked. But social isolation has been a blessing in disguise, because it gave our son much more time to bond with his new baby sister. We recognize that other families, especially front-line workers, must be having an even more stressful time right now.”

Elizabeth Garkowski, 35, stay-at-home parent, with two-year-old twins Grace and Olivia, and six-month-old Hannah
“We had lots of help before this pandemic hit. The twins were in daycare for four half-days a week—it’s specialized for children with different abilities and incorporates physio, OT and speech for Grace, who has Down Syndrome. Our parents were often around to support us and help with the kids whenever we needed them. We relied on that support and used that time to get things done around the house, to work, to run errands. Post-Covid, we’ve become full-time caretakers, entertainment staff, educators, therapists, all while trying to keep up our regular tasks like cooking, cleaning and working. Grace’s daycare and her therapists are doing everything they can to help us virtually, but we just feel like we’re drowning. There is lots of screen time happening—more than I ever thought I would allow for the girls—and my husband and I have to trade off to even get simple things done like showering or making a meal. It’s chaos. Right now we are just trying to survive one day at a time while trying to do best by our kids. Making sure they are safe and happy is our number-one priority.”


Jun Kahng, 41, graphic designer, with five-month-old Eleanor
“I have asthma and an infant at home, so I’ve been worried to leave the house since Covid struck. Thankfully, I can do all my work from home. I’ll help out with Eleanor’s morning routine and make my wife, Julia, breakfast while the baby naps. Then I head into my office and work. During my breaks, I help Julia out, whether it’s bringing up a bottle for Eleanor, changing her diaper or burping her after she’s been fed. But Julia takes care of Eleanor for the majority of the time while I do the cooking, cleaning and the helping. She’s Maverick and I’m Goose. My wife and I don’t want our daughter to lose her relationship with her grandparents, so we’re talking with them on FaceTime more regularly. Staying at home has been an opportunity for me to slow things down and to take some time for myself.”