By: Patricia Andre-Edgar
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Becoming a new parent during a pandemic is a unique experience many families are facing. Becoming pregnant during a pandemic can be downright nerve-wracking during a time already riddled with uncertainty and newness. The weeks are full of surprises, changes, and questions. For one couple that entered both these life stages during a global epidemic, they have been navigating these challenges with a network of support they have found through their PEPS Groups.
Two weeks into quarantine in early 2020, Catherine discovered that she was pregnant with her first child. With a stay-at-home order in place, Catherine was restricted to verifying her pregnancy with a doctor from home. “We’ll see you in nine weeks!” the doctor stated over the phone. That was it. The pregnancy journey — during a pandemic — had begun.
The following months were filled with solo visits to the doctor and periods of anxiety. There were also moments of disappointment. For months, Catherine and her partner, Stephen, didn’t see anyone else. With nowhere to go and few faces to see, no one got to see that she was pregnant.
Catherine had been practicing yoga at a studio during the same time each week for many years, often observing a pregnancy yoga class take place in the room next door. She had imagined herself attending that class one day. And with county-wide closures of spaces and in-person gatherings no longer happening, that possibility — along with so many others — was no longer an option.
Stephen had grown up in the Seattle area, but Catherine had moved to Seattle from Texas, and neither of them had many friends with babies. Feeling isolated and recognizing that they would need support as new parents, Catherine and Stephen began to look for ways to connect with other families.
As it happened, Stephen had volunteered as a PEPS Board Member a decade earlier. During that time, Stephen was a young, single father and had been looking for organizations to volunteer with where he might also find support for himself and his toddler. He joined the PEPS Board and brought his 1-year-old son along to the meeting each month. While he had not participated in a PEPS Group himself, he could see the programs’ value to families. As a board member, Stephen had immersed himself in strategic planning for the organization, finding ways to support new parents and helping with fundraising. “…[My] dream was that someday, somehow, I might be able to participate in PEPS myself.” With the arrival of his second child twenty years later, Stephen recognized that this could be that chance, and he and Catherine signed up to join an online two-parent PEPS Newborn Group.
Around that same time, PEPS was introducing a virtual pilot series for expectant parents, Connecting the Expecting. Stephen and Catherine were able to join this developing program, with a unique curriculum designed specifically to support and connect expectant parents.
Catherine shared, “…I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have had the rest of that pregnancy without the expectant parents group with PEPS. You know, it was so powerful to be there, with other people that were pregnant during a pandemic, trying to figure this out together…it was just so powerful having the experience of having the other families that were going through the same thing. There’s no pregnancy-during-pandemic handbook. We had the topics, but every week we showed up with what was really going on in our lives and how powerful that was…There was a really special, powerful bond that happened in our group that we didn’t really expect.”
With their expectant parents pilot series, Catherine also found that because the families were meeting online, PEPS had brought participating families together based less on their neighborhood and more on the expected arrival time of their baby. As such, their group of parents encompassed families from a more expansive geographical range of King County. This translated into an opportunity to get to know a more diverse range of folks in both culture and upbringing and the chance to hear and consider an array of perspectives. “That’s where the PEPS expectant parent group really stepped in because as soon as we started that in the Fall, it was the first time I felt like we really weren’t alone. And it was the first time I felt like there’s a lot of people that we could talk about our experience and what we were dealing with each day,” Catherine shared.
Participating in a virtual meeting requires access to technology and Wi-Fi, which cannot be assumed to be widely available. PEPS recognizes that barriers to such access exist and have worked with a local telecom partner to provide free hotspots to families. For more details, pls contact us.
View additional offers for reduced internet plans and free Wi-Fi hotspots.
Finding support and building a community with the other expectant parents they’d met, they jumped into their second virtual PEPS Group soon after the arrival of their daughter, Juniper Thea. This time, they were part of a group for parents of newborns, attended by the birth parent and partner.
Participating in their second group through Zoom, they admitted that it hadn’t been easy to join another series of online video meetings — and yet, it made all the difference for their family. “Being able to learn from each other has been incredible. Especially with COVID, it’s a very different experience, and nobody else has gone through this before — and we’re going through it together,” said Catherine.
As they navigated the experience of caring for a newborn baby, Catherine and Stephen were coming across different puzzles to solve. There were the physical and emotional changes, alongside a world of challenges they’d never experienced before. They found gathering weekly with a cohort of parents, even online, was life-changing.
Catherine and Stephen also experienced some unanticipated benefits of meeting with other parents online; evenings felt more relaxed at home; gone was the frantic gathering of the twenty things to throw into the diaper bag before leaving the house; there was no commute; and as their baby’s bedtime began to settle into a more regular cadence, the rush to get home ‘in time’ had evaporated.
For them, being part of a community of new parents was a profound experience. Catherine shared, “It’s really powerful to have a community of people that are all going through the exact same thing at the exact same time…[I] can’t imagine not having had PEPS.”
- For additional parenting support, visit:
- Adjusting to Parenthood — a free virtual drop-in group for mothers offering additional support for the emotional changes and challenges of adapting to parenthood
- Families of Color Seattle (FOCS) — a local organization offering virtual parent groups for families with newborns, waddlers, and multi-age affinity groups for families of color
- Perinatal Support Washington — local organization offering perinatal mood or anxiety disorders support