Pandemic Amplifies Struggles for New Parents

Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all adapting to what our new “normal” life looks like. I am seeing this in my own life and in the experiences of my patients. For new parents, this is amplified in ways that many of us cannot fathom.

Just imagine bringing your first child into the world as a single mother. To keep your newborn baby safe, you are not able to share your bundle of joy with family and friends for fear of exposure to COVID. Beyond the emotional isolation, fulfilling basic needs, like going to the grocery store, is a challenge for fear of exposing both yourself and your infant to the virus.

Amber, a young mother of two, found herself isolated, alone and without any support. Amber and Josh welcomed their second child this summer and in August, Josh was deployed with the National Guard. This was not the first time Josh had been deployed, but it was the most challenging for Amber. The added stress of COVID-19 had her feeling isolated and more alone than ever. Separated from Josh, her family and friends, Amber was stripped of her usual support system and was unable to overcome the biological and emotional symptoms of postpartum depression.

Thankfully, Amber found the Yolo Crisis Nursery. Amber came to us exhausted, with despair visible on her face, not having slept in over a week. With her family thousands of miles away and friends unable to help due to the pandemic, Amber and her two children were all alone. The nursery welcomed Amber, her newborn daughter, and 4-year-old son with wraparound arms.

Our trauma-trained staff lovingly cared for the children while one of our caseworkers met with Amber to get her help and establish a treatment plan for her postpartum depression. Through our initial screening process, Amber’s 4-year-old son was identified as being on the autism spectrum. After his diagnosis, one of our caseworkers connected Amber to necessary services including Alta California Regional Center and an Individualized Education Plan. Meanwhile, the nursery cared for both children in our daycare and preschool while Amber received the necessary medical and counseling services to help her battle postpartum depression.

The Yolo Crisis Nursery is an essential resource for our community and a place of hope for families in crisis. I am proud to serve on the Yolo Crisis Nursery Board of Directors. As one of only four crisis nurseries in California, the Yolo Crisis Nursery is an essential early intervention child-abuse-prevention program. We serve families with children ages birth to 5 years and offer trauma-informed childcare, including crisis and respite care. Equally important are our wraparound services to assist families to resolve the crises that brought them to our door. Our services are voluntary and provided free of charge to our client families.

Unfortunately, history informs us that as stress increases — like during a pandemic — all too often, neglect and abuse also increase. Now more than ever, it is important that we recognize and guide those in our community, like Amber, who may need extra assistance to get the help they need.

Amber is not alone. Last year, 13% of new mothers reported experiencing postpartum depression in California. At the nursery and in my work as a physician, we have seen an increase in postpartum depression cases since COVID-19 caused the shelter-in-place order in March. This trend will likely continue because so many families are experiencing extreme stress, a risk factor for postpartum depression. Sadly, the populations most susceptible to postpartum depression are some of the hardest hit by the pandemic — racial and ethnic minorities, Medicaid-eligible low-income families, and those with lower levels of educational attainment. Those populations all report more cases of postpartum depression symptoms compared to non-Hispanic white women.

If you believe that all children deserve to grow up in a safe, loving, and stable home and would like to help young families like Amber’s, I invite you to join us at the Yolo Crisis Nursery. We are always looking for people who are willing to lend their time and talent to join us.  To learn more or to make a gift, please visit our website at www.yolocrisisnursery.org. We would love the opportunity to get to know you.

— By Joan Smith-Maclean, Yolo Crisis Nursery Board Member. This article originally appeared in the Davis Enterprise on Sunday, September 27, 2020