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SCOT BELLAVIA: What to Expect When You’re Expecting in a Pandemic

If you’re really in tune with your family planning schedule, conceive the baby four or five months before the first case of what becomes an international pandemic breaks on the other side of the world. It may seem like the worst time to have a baby, but, trust me, it’s actually the perfect time.

Closer to the due date, stay in communication with your OBGYN about the daily changing hospital policies. The unknown can be a stressor, but if the due date is within the first two months after the arrival of the virus in your home country, the father should be able to be present with the mother. As with non-pandemic mothers, scrap your dream delivery plan.

Resources, like laughing gas or protective supplies, may be limited at the hospital. Staff will be minimized and visitors will be all but nixed. Even within 13 hours of labor, hospital policies will change. Your nurses will walk out of your room wearing only the required face mask and return with progressively robust protection, like a face shield and gloves.

Pack in advance of your arrival. If the father is allowed in with the mother, he will probably not be allowed to leave the hospital until it’s time to take the baby home. Bring plenty of snacks and money for the dad to eat at the cafeteria. If you anticipate an extended stay, bring books to pass the time.

Maybe the plan was for the grandmother to be in the delivery room with the parents. Maybe you anticipated having visitors file through your hospital room to see the baby as early as possible. With healthy babies, you can expect to stay at the hospital until the baby is only 1-2 days old.

Visitors should content themselves to wait until then to meet the youngest family member. You’ll thank me later; spend that time together as father, mother, and one of the world’s youngest people. Especially in a pandemic, you’ll get lots of attention by hospital staff and won’t have to share watching your baby do the things people watch only a newborn do, like breathe or squirm.

In saving yourself from exposure to the virus, you’ll have 24 hours a day to be with your baby, to figure out breastfeeding or baby milk formula feeding, changing diapers, cooking, and cleaning.

If you have the choice and financial ability, opt to work from home or take off work temporarily. If you are furloughed, and especially if federal unemployment checks work out in your favor, embrace the time off work. In saving yourself from exposure to the virus, you’ll have 24 hours a day to be with your baby, to figure out feeding, changing diapers, cooking, and cleaning.

Not having to wake up for work, the lack of sleep will be a bit more bearable. You can sleep when the baby does. When students today do research for school, they say, “I don’t know how people did this before Google.” Keeping a child alive during a pandemic, I say, “I don’t know how dads do this and return to work after 2 weeks.”

Note: None of the above is intended as a mockery of others’ experiences. We recognize we had an undeservedly positive experience during pregnancy, delivery, and the months after throughout this pandemic. We haven’t experienced job loss, pay reduction, and have even had an easy baby to take care of, though we have nothing to compare him to. This is also written from a new father’s perspective in the United States. Nothing about our experience is universal so there no guarantees your experience will be the same.

Scot Bellavia

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