What is like to become a new father during Covid-19? William Gray is finding out. His wife, Erin Wilcox, is due with the couple’s first baby toward the end of April. He, like Wilcox, has become more concerned about the impacts of the COVID-19 spread, particularly considering Wilcox has asthma. (Related: Q&A with expectant mom Erin Wilcox)
Seattle’s Child: How did you feel when you discovered you were pregnant? What were your hopes and dreams?
William Gray: Being 38 years old, I had known for decades that I wanted to be a father.
I felt a sense of wonder, something akin to, “Wait, it actually happened?!” Of course I was overjoyed. And immediately, deeply in love with our new family member.
My hope was simply to have a healthy pregnancy and baby, for everything to go as smoothly as possible.
Seattle’s Child: How did the growing awareness (of the Covid-19 outbreak) impact you? Did becoming a new father during Covid-19 intimidate you?
William Gray: Honestly, I wasn’t initially too worried. Having remembered relatively recent scares involving H1N1 and SARS, I didn’t think there was much chance that the virus would have a huge impact on our lives. Definitely, my long-term worries center around the health of my family. I am keenly aware that a baby is vulnerable to infections while their immune system is developing during the first months of life, even without something like Covid-19 to worry about.
Seattle’s Child: Has your family lost work due to the virus?
William Gray: I am privileged to be in a graduate program and therefore not too worried about the steadiness of my income or health insurance. However, as my wife is currently the main breadwinner in our household, there is still the potential that changes in her work status could have a direct impact on our family financially.
Seattle’s Child: Are you concerned about your family being exposed to Covid-19 in the hospital setting?
William Gray: If it turns out that we have to be transferred to a hospital, this is definitely a concern of mine, yes.
Seattle’s Child: What is your postpartum plan?
William Gray: This is a great unknown, to be sure. My parents may still come; it partly depends on the airlines, and partly on how they’re feeling about the risks involved (both of them are over 70 years of age). Similarly, my wife’s parents are in the high-risk category, age-wise. We could end up having anywhere between zero and four of our baby’s grandparents around to help. We’ll have to see. If none are able to make it, we’ll have to make do.
Seattle’s Child: Were you able to take an in-person childbirth class? Do you feel fully prepared for labor and the postpartum period?
William Gray: We were not, other than some excellent in-person instruction from our doula prior to Washington enacting a “stay-at-home” order. We were signed up for multiple classes, but most have been canceled. I was fortunate to be able to attend a “Conscious Fathering” class over Zoom, which was not ideal, but certainly better than nothing. I feel more or less prepared for labor, knowing that our doula and midwives will be there. However, postpartum is another story. We’ll do our best.
Seattle’s Child: Have any silver linings come from your experience of being a new father during Covid-19? Any positives?
William Gray: The closure of work sites has enabled me more time to prepare for the arrival of our little one. My commute had been up to 2 1/2 hours a day. In addition to all of that saved time, I am now able to take a break and tend to things at home when I need to, and come back to my computer afterward. This has been especially important since, as part of our baby preparations, we are also in the process of closing on a home.
Cheryl Murfin, CD, is a longtime writer, a certified doula and mother of two grownup humans, including a King County Public Health nurse. She owns Nesting Instincts Seattle.