To protect tender new relationships for infant and parents, start by simply listening
Re “I’m pregnant, and I’m terrified” by Anica Butler (Opinion, March 21): When it became clear that our lives would all be upended indefinitely, my first thought, as an infant-parent mental health specialist, went to families due to deliver babies in the coming days, weeks, and months. While an abundance of information about the virus itself appeared online immediately, I wondered about protecting these tender new relationships.
In my work with parents and newborns, I have seen the impact of a change to the birth plan, such as an unanticipated cesarean section. I hear parents express feelings of loss and inadequacy. I’ve seen these worries ease with time and space to listen to their stories while observing their baby’s earliest communications. How can we as a community reduce the impact of stress, fear, and social distancing on pregnant women and their partners at this unusual and uncertain time, when all birth plans, to some degree, have gone awry?
Bringing a new life into the world is always messy and disorganizing. New relationships emerge moment by moment. Now things seem particularly messy. There are no easy answers. Simply listening to new parents and babies can preserve moments of connection and joy. Such moments, strung together over time, build a sense of hope.
Dr. Claudia M. Gold
The writer is a pediatrician and a faculty member in the University of Massachusetts Boston Infant-Parent Mental Health Program.
No easy answers — only a message of hope
I appreciate Anica Butler’s courage, both in getting pregnant and in sharing her fears and concerns for the future (“I’m pregnant, and I’m terrified”). I thank her sincerely for that. As she acknowledges, and as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms, there are no easy answers, and I will not try to offer any glib comments. I apologize if my response carries any of that tone; it is not my intention. I want to say only one thing: She and her husband have made a great act of trust in the universe (or in God, or whatever their belief system may be). For their sakes, the baby’s, and yes, even humanity’s, please don’t stop trusting now.