PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Having a baby is a whole new world to navigate for any new parent, but caring for a newborn during the coronavirus pandemic takes it to a new level.
Kate and Eric Pasquarelli welcomed baby Kevin on March 2. It's the first child for the couple. Eric is a photojournalist at WPTV.
They were overjoyed to share his arrival. Kate says, "I can't imagine life without him now."
When Kevin was born, coronavirus and the thought of an extended quarantine at home with a newborn was not really on their minds. In fact, both sets of grandparents visited them in the hospital.
"When we left, the nurses talked about not traveling or having anyone who recently traveled come to our house but it was not something that I thought would turn into what it is now by any means," Kate says.
The beginning of Kevin's life seemed typical for a newborn.
But all of that quickly changed as coronavirus cases spread, businesses closed and the state issued stay at home orders.
Kate says, "my parents were here to help out, and Eric’s were also, we had a couple of visitors, it seems like what normal newborns are exposed to and then about 1 1/2-2 weeks in everything started to go under lockdown."
It's certainly not what the Pasquarellis expected for the first months of their son's life.
Kate says, "for the most part we've just been in the house. We go for little walks, we go to the backyard but he hasn't really been many places yet. He hasn't met many people."
Boca Raton Psychiatrist Dr. Samantha Saltz says parents should stay in tune with their emotions during this unprecedented time.
She says, "the first thing is we really need to be cognizant of the fact that having a newborn is stressful in and of itself and one of the risk factors for postpartum depression as opposed to postpartum blues is the fact that we have social isolation and lack of social support." She adds, "COVID-19 has forced us to have social isolation and a lack of social support so for a new mom who is trying to attach to an infant, this can be really really challenging and actually put them at risk for a postpartum depression.”
She says it is important for moms to keep up with skin to skin contact with their baby, designate times for rest when possible and keep in touch with loved ones through technology.
She says, "So if we can have FaceTime conversations, if we can engage in zoom meetings with our friends and family, and even have structured time for that so mom has something to look forward to instead of random phone calls throughout the middle of the day, that’s really critical."
Dr. Saltz, known as Dr. Sam in her practice, says as a parent there are tough choices you have to make. She says, "your number one responsibility as a parent, more so than anything, is to protect your child and unfortunately in a pandemic we have that same responsibility to a different degree than we normally do. So we want to be safe, we want to follow the guidelines and even if other people may not be receptive to you saying 'it's really not okay for you to see the newborn,' ultimately your job is to protect your child and keep your child safe."
She adds, "remember that you’re not alone, remember that people are here to help you, there are mental health experts who deal specifically with postpartum depression and and postpartum blues who can help you navigate these situations. Reach out to them and if you are starting to get some warning signs of postpartum depression- if you are crying more than usual, if you are getting angry, if you are withdrawing from loved ones, or if you are feeling numb or worried about possibly hurting the baby or if you are feeling guilty that you are not spending enough time with the baby, use those as warning signs to reach out for help."
As far as looking to the future, Dr. Saltz says, "getting through one day with your newborn child and having some attachment with your newborn child is critical, instead of focusing on the future, lets focus on the now because the truth of the matter is there is a lot of uncertainty about where COVID is going to be a week from now, a month from now, even 6 months from now so let’s take it on a day by day basis."
The Pasquarellis had to scale back their visits with family and now 7-week-old Kevin which is a tough situation for all involved. "Eric’s parents are close by and they have been able to come by and do drive by’s where I come out front with Kevin and we talk to them but I know it's killing my mother in law to not be able to hold him and give him a bottle," Kate says.
They look forward to when they can give him a biggest sense of normalcy, and introduce him to more of the people who are so special to his life. Kate says, "I am looking forward to having company and have people see him and visit him and share all of our excitement. I’d love to be able to just take him places and get him out and about and get him exposed to different areas."