Rethinking Relationships in Isolation: Support for new parents

Updated: May. 12, 2020 at 6:19 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - For six weeks, Charlotte couple Ashton and Ben Hagood have been figuring out how to be parents.

They are doing it on their own.

"You imagine having a house full of visitors, friends and family" Ashton says. "There really hasn't been any of that."

Because of COVID-19, the couple has been extremely cautious with their newborn CC. They spoke with WBTV reporter Amanda Foster from across their front yard, Tuesday.

“[It’s been] a lot of anxiety,” Ashton says. “Not knowing what we were in for to begin with, having a baby, and then realizing we weren’t going to be able to have the support we thought we were going to have.”

The first-time parents realized a month before the due-date, they were going to have to make major adjustments.

"It's been hard," Ashton says. "We've been on this journey for a couple years now, so we've imagined what it would be like when she finally got here. And we didn't find out the gender ahead of time, so I had this vision in my mind for years now, that [Ben would] go out to the waiting room and announce to our families, 'It's a boy,' or 'It's a girl,' and that obviously didn't happen. And it's kind of weird being in a hospital and announcing that to grandparents over FaceTime."

The couple has made the decision to leave home as little as possible.

"Other than the pediatrician, I haven't been anywhere, [CC] hasn't been anywhere," Ashton says. "I'm pretty jealous of [Ben's] grocery store runs, the few that he's had, I would give a lot right now to go to a grocery store."

Their caution includes keeping their own parents away, for the first six weeks.

"Obviously, it wasn't our fault," Ben says. "But sometimes, it feels like, why don't we just let them over? There's not really any rules, so we had to kind of contemplate, do we let them over? Should we not?"

"Yeah, I think that's been the toughest part is guilt," Ashton says. "Am I doing the right thing keeping them away as the grandparents, are we being too overprotective? Are we we not taking enough precautions? You feel a lot of guilt, but also a lot of confusion, of, just what are we supposed to do here?"

But the past weekend, they finally had face-to-face time with the grandmas.

"She'll be six weeks tomorrow, and we finally let our moms visit this past weekend," Ashton says. "But then, there's face masks involved. You know, she's still little to them, but I know how much she's grown in the past six weeks, and it breaks my heart that our moms didn't get to see her right when she was a newborn when she was so little, see all those firsts with her."

Dr. Lorene Temming, a medical director for Maternal and Fetal medicine at Atrium Health says the situations and decisions the Hagoods are experiencing are common.

"I talk to my patients about having one or two key people who are also practicing strict social distancing prior to birth being the ones who come in and help after delivery," Temming says. "That way, contact is limited as much as possible. Regarding grandparents, if the grandparents have chronic illnesses and are high risk themselves, I recommend that if possible they wait 14 days after discharge from the hospital before they come to visit.”

Dr. Sarah Verbiest is Director of the UNC Jordan Institute for Families.

"When you're getting ready to have a baby, there's always so much community that happens," she says. "You know, that baby shower where you're getting that wisdom and support and all those hugs. And we know that there are a lot of real losses with not having that early interaction with grandparents, you know, their family traditions, that aren't able to happen in the same way."

Mostly on their own, Ashton and Ben are thankful for the internet, for FaceTIme, and learning as they go.

"A lot of FaceTime," Ashton says. "But still not having other moms, who I imagine would be here helping me, giving me advice, it's been a lot to try to figure it out on our own...a lot of winging it, figuring out how to do this."

Now, they are wondering something new parents everywhere are wondering - when to allow more people to come meet their little one.

"No one knows what that signal is, when it's time to go back to normal," Ashton says. "Do we take her to a brewery when it opens? Do we go out to eat? Do we keep doing this until...I don't know what sign we're waiting for, or what the signal is."

Still, they are seeing the silver linings in their experience.

“There’s just a lot of physical, emotional things you’re going through, healing after having a baby, that it was kind of nice not having visitors, not having to keep the house clean, not to have to entertain or feed people,” Ashton says. “And to kind of just have that time, the three of us, to figure it out and bond...looking back now I see that as a positive.”

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