When Jennifer Kim gave birth to her third child last June, she knew right away it wouldn’t be like her previous postpartum experiences.
Instead of immediately inviting friends and family to help her with the newborn, Kim faced indoor gathering limits, social distancing rules and travel restrictions.
Feelings of isolation due to COVID-19 restrictions were nothing new – they began months before her daughter was born.
“Pregnancy and postpartum life during this pandemic is very different from my other two pregnancies,” she said.
“Not being able to take my partner to an appointment, not being able to share the pregnancy or baby with friends and family, or traveling to the hospital was really sad.”
The Halifax mom knows all too well the benefits of personal postpartum support. As part of her Master of Education project following the birth of her eldest son in 2016, she coordinated meetings for new moms to hear from speakers on topics ranging from baby massage to nutrition and dental health.
This time it was not possible.
“Facebook groups have become a major part of a lot of parenting, to varying degrees of experience with many moms trying to make the best of it,” she said.
These kinds of experiences are exactly what researchers at Dalhousie University are hoping to gain more insight into during this Granthshala pandemic.
After all, if a village is all it takes to raise a child, it can be a virtual one in this post-COVID-19 world.
Megan Aston, Sherry Lynn Price and Anna McLeod are co-principal investigators on a project called The Virtual Village: How do videoconferencing technologies impact postpartum education experiences during a pandemic?
The study, which received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant, is Currently Nova Scotia Recruiting Mothers, Fathers, Grandparents and Carers who are going through a pandemic with a newborn.
“What we’ve found — for decades, in fact — are mothers, parents, they all say that face-to-face is best. So getting together, seeing and seeing other people with kids of similar ages…more Just making that social interaction over and over is really, really important,” Aston said.
“But can we do it face-to-face via Zoom and FaceTime, not in person?”
To understand parents’ postpartum experiences, researchers participated in a study last year, just before the pandemic began. What they found was that some struggles, including difficulties with mental health, were exacerbated by feelings of isolation wrought by the newly emerging pandemic.
“But at the same time, we also noted that online was being taken in a different way. So a lot of positive things came out of that,” Aston said.
“And that’s what started to lead us to think, ‘Okay, let’s go and see what happens in the virtual world.
At face value, it’s easy to assume that while virtual meetings will have their limits, there are also situations where it can be easier for new parents to gather online.
“Some days you can’t make it to the coffee shop with your baby, but knowing that you can FaceTime someone and feel less isolated or you can do Zoom coffee sessions with other moms … it creates another opportunity,” Price said.
“We know it’s not the same and we know it has some drawbacks and can’t take the place individually. But is it better than nothing? And what should we have to make sure that Is it a safe, resourceful, evidence-based (experience)?”
The researchers hope to conduct their study and draw conclusions within a year. They say the information will be useful in shaping programs and support for new parents.
“In the past there have been online prenatal classes, online postpartum classes, but not with the scene that way,” Aston said.
“So absolutely, it needs to be implemented post-COVID in some way in the future.”
The researchers hope that not only will new parents benefit from this knowledge, but the larger community as well.
“Once this pandemic is over, I think we all realize that we can do a lot more and see a lot more people and maybe have meetings a little more efficiently than we always have.” There is,” Price said.
“So there’s a lot to be learned from this. I think the context (of this study) is postnatal, but I think the implications go beyond that.”
Using technology to live here
For the Kim family, which has expanded relatives in Asia, the use of technology and video conferencing is here to stay.
“We have used video conferencing options with my husband’s family overseas because we were unable to travel,” Kim explained.
“It’s not perfect, but it helps people see and speak at least in a face-to-face version.”
As the mother of three children, Kim is aware of what first-time parents are missing during this pandemic.
But she is also optimistic about the role of technology in the postpartum experience.
“I really feel that way for first time moms. They are missing some of the moments we connected with in the past, but as things start to calm down, there is still room for video calls,” she said. said.
“I think that’s one of the benefits of this new era. We figured out new ways to help each other and reach more people who couldn’t travel before for whatever reason.”