The Pandemic Mom
Claiming joy and manoeuvring motherhood in changing, challenging times
Motherhood and pregnancy can come with many highs and lows. Add a pandemic to the mix, and what should ultimately be a joyous occasion can be filled with stress and anxiety about the unknown.
Moms have had to adapt to the changing times in an accelerated manner that no class, book, or app could have ever prepared them for.
Simultaneous cooking, cleaning, homeschooling, and working have become their new normal.
The Sunday Gleaner spoke with mothers to get their take on how they have manoeuvred motherhood and bringing new life to the world in these trying times.
Their stories are all different but have a common thread and look at life and growth in a pandemic.
With three-year-old twin girls Marley and Maleia keeping her busy, mom Anjule McLean found out she was pregnant with her third child, Sebastian, in the depths of the pandemic in September 2020.
“I’m living on the edge,” she jokes.
The CEO of Ljekarna Ltd is juggling her growing family and professional responsibilities as best as she can, with the help of a strong support system, for which she is grateful.
Her girls are now adjusting to school online. However, when they watch programmes filmed pre-COVID, they do take notice of children who are interacting with each other in person versus online.
About the future socialisation of her children, McLean says, “I have just been taking things day by day but understand there might be a generation where this (the pandemic) could adversely affect them. With concern, she adds, “The socialisation that is required, especially for three-year-olds, is going to be affected, and we know we need to prepare for that.”
She finds some level of solace knowing her family has done the best it can considering the circumstances. “This is the hand that we have been dealt, so we have done everything we can to ensure that the girls are safe and OK.”
What brings her the most joy as a mom? “I love that I’m able to guide lives - to be able to mould black children who will be confident and make strides in this world.”
She’s loving the twins at this stage. Their wild imagination and the stories they tell continuously put a smile on her face, and with the new baby about to arrive, she just can’t wait to meet him.
[At the time of this interview, McLean was quarantining while waiting to deliver. We are happy to announce that Sebastian was safely brought into the world on Wednesday, May 5, 2021.]
Finding a rhythm in this new way of life is the name of the game for new mom Ayesha Dawes-Allen.
Her ‘miracle child’, Skylar, was born in October 2020, and while she is everything the doting mother could ask for, she couldn’t have foreseen having to raise her baby in a pandemic.
Dawes-Allen was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and had a tumour by her pituitary gland called a prolactinoma. With both those things combined, it was difficult for her to conceive, but she did.
Being a woman of faith, Dawes-Allen says she received several prophecies that her daughter was coming but wasn’t sure when.
She confirmed her pregnancy in February 2020, and by March 14, stopped going to the office.
“Because things were so unknown, I knew I didn’t want to expose her to anything,” she says as she looks at Skylar. “I treasure her, and because I knew she was such a gift, I didn’t want to jeopardise that.”
Her pregnancy, while smooth health-wise, didn’t allow for any socialisation and the physical support that she was used to. Her husband couldn’t stay with her overnight at the hospital due to the curfew, and family and friends weren’t allowed to visit.
Those things aside, while cuddling her daughter in her arms, she says, “Being a mom to her, and watching her become who she is, developing likes and seeing her personality is everything.”
She wants her daughter to have a childhood like she did, but is cognisant that the world and how things were done before have changed. She has hope that interactions like “playing with neighbours” won’t change forever.
On her first Mother’s Day, she is looking forward to spending it with her greatest gift. “I look at her and say, ‘God, thank you’.” Realising that Skylar has fallen asleep in her arms, she adds, “When I look at her, it’s the closest to God I’ve ever been before.”
Psychologist and educator Doneisha Burke’s pregnancy and last trimester with daughter Liv, born in April 2020, was nothing like her previous pregnancy with five-year-old son Leo.
Fresh on the heels of a worldwide lockdown, the pandemic was still in its early days, and a lot was still unknown. And it was not knowing what to expect that added insult to injury.
“Because regulations were changing quickly, there was trepidation about so many things that no one could prepare for,” says Burke.
The family and extra hands she thought would have been around weren’t able to be there because of protocols, but through it all, Burke knew she would figure it out the way so many other mothers had to.
With five-year-old Leo in an online school, she is thankful that he had a year of face-to-face school before the pandemic hit. “He understands what is required in a school setting, so that made it easier for him to transition into home-schooling. A good framework, coupled with his personality, makes things easier for me.”
As Liv busies herself, Burke was asked what she loves most about being a mom. She answers: “I like the surprises of my children. Each is an individual and their own person. It’s eye-opening to see them grow and hear the things they say.”
Moving forward, she wants her children to be mindful of their own health, and in doing so, understand that they are here to help take care of others. Yet, she wonders how the pandemic will affect the interactional engagement of children the world over but knows that only time will tell.
Excited for the birth of her second child, Sadie, Britney Williams had to quickly switch gears when the pandemic hit. While off the island, the borders closed, and she had to stay put. Which meant that many of her plans, including a gender reveal and baby shower with her tight-knit family, would not happen. She is, however, grateful that her partner, Nikolas, and now four-year-old son Storm were with her.
“I was terrified because they didn’t and still don’t have much research about the coronavirus and how it affects pregnant women.” Reliving the experience, she continues, “It was not the nicest of times to be pregnant.”
On September 21, 2020, Sadie was born after doctors suggested inducing labour, and after receiving a negative COVID test before coming in to deliver. “It was intense,” she recalls while remembering that she also had to push while wearing a mask.
Her partner was the only one who could be there with her, whereas with her first delivery, her family was allowed. “I’m just happy I had someone there because due to the virus, many women didn’t have that.”
Admiring the strength of women, Williams says, “I think we are amazing creatures and do it all.”
Concerning being a mom, Williams says: “It’s the most fulfilling experience of my life. I have done a lot of things, but without a doubt, being a mom is the thing that I am most proud of. It’s a love I’ve never experienced before in my life.”
The skilled cook works from home through her family business and considers herself lucky to have the ability to do so, but is uneasy about young children, including Storm’s socialisation and education, while not being able to have access face-to-face school. “Yes, Zoom is available, but it is not the same.”
She admits that she has her days but is determined to keep her family going through this pandemic. “I have to,” she said.
When she reflects on the past year, Amanda Vaz-Crooks said, “It’s definitely a different way of life, and not a way of life I ever thought any of us would experience.” However, in the thick of it, all Vaz-Crooks delivered baby Chelsea on April 9, 2020, almost a month to the day that Jamaica confirmed its first COVID-19 case.
As a PR professional, schedules and plans are her thing. She had prepared for her big, blended family to be present when she delivered, but the coronavirus would not allow it.
Her husband Marc, who she counts as great support, was the only person given some access. “It wasn’t until my sister made a montage of Chelsea’s first year did I think [about] how intense things were.” Contemplating the time, she continues, “I tried not to think about it before because if I did, I would be sad, and I had to focus on my baby.”
More than a year later, we are still in the pandemic, and the fears haven’t been alleviated.
Vaz-Crooks is candid, saying that even though she believes she took the proper precautions, she would have worn a hazmat suit if possible and followed protocols, she, like so many others, contracted the COVID-19 virus.
While being asymptomatic, she almost collapsed on hearing the news. “My first concern was my daughter.”
Having to isolate from Chelsea was hard, but she is adamant about taking the protocols seriously. She is hoping for a brighter future soon, with potential play dates for her daughter when things get back to some level of normalcy.
“Looking back on her first year on life, most of the people she is in pictures with who are family are wearing masks - a heartbreaking thought. That isn’t anything I wanted for my child.”
Finding a silver lining, she says one of the positives of the pandemic is that “I have been able to be at home with her and see everything that happens. I’ve seen every milestone, and just watching her grow and knowing she is mine is everything.”
At seven months’ pregnant, Stephanie Nembhard saw a headline on the news that Europe would be closing its borders and quickly booked a flight to head back to Germany to be with her partner, Jamaican footballer Leon Bailey.
“I thought about the new family we were creating and didn’t want to risk Leon not being part of this memorable and life-shifting occasion,” she said.
While in flight, the borders closed, and once she landed, immigration officials wouldn’t grant her entry into the country and threatened to put her on the next flight back to the US.
Exasperated from a long flight, the thought of not being with her partner for the birth of her baby brought her to tears.
After sitting there for hours, she was finally allowed to leave the airport, but after a routine check-up weeks later, was admitted to the hospital due to complications with the pregnancy.
She was stuck in the hospital for almost three weeks without her partner as due to protocols, Bailey wasn’t allowed to visit.
They eventually devised a plan to see each other through a window in the hospital; however, thinking back, Nembhard says: “It was a really hard time. Mentally, I did not know if I was going to make it.”
Her delivery day arrived on June 14, 2020, and due to protocols, Bailey was still not allowed in the room. “I begged,” she says, and finally, around six minutes before delivering, they let him in to see his child be born.
Seeing her son Leo for the first time, she says that she was in shock. “Even to this day, I can’t believe I am a mother.”
All the struggles, stress, and strain she endured went out of the window. “I was just happy I had a healthy baby.”
The connection with her son brings her much elation. Baby Leo is growing very quickly, and she feels blessed to be able to see it.
With Germany yet again under lockdown, she expects to celebrate her first Mother’s Day at home. “Just when we thought things were getting better, things have gotten worse,” she adds. However, one thing is certain: she is just thrilled to be a mom.
She worries that her baby might not have adequate social skills as due to the pandemic, he is not used to being around other people, but she also thinks about how other mothers are doing.
“Moms need support during this time. I don’t think people understand how difficult it is adjusting to this new normal as a mother.”
While she does not believe she had post-partum depression, she advises that people check in on the mental health of mothers in their lives. “It’s a rough time for many, much less moms. It’s not normal.”