Newborn New World - Part I




I am releasing the stories from "Newborn New World" in three parts with links to everyone's individual stories at the very end. I would love to thank every single one of the new moms and their families for being part of this project. Your stories are so incredibly important and should be told and remembered.


Originally this project started as a photo project where I would document new moms' experiences during Covid in LA. It later became much more than that. It became a place of connection for me to the outside world. It also gave new mom's and families a chance to share their pregnancy and birth stories. And the more I spoke about it, the more each new mom was interested in hearing other new mom's stories. So out of all this, Newborn New World, was birthed during the pandemic.


Please read and share. I am so proud of this project and of each and every single of one of these resilient families.


Cayle had just given birth, an unexpected C-section, on a day that the hospital was overrun with Covid cases. Her husband, Sam, was allowed to be there for the surgery that birthed their perfect child. And, then he had to leave. He would not be allowed back for many days.


With numerous patients to a single nurse, and an even bigger demand for medical attention throughout the hospital for those with Covid-19, it left this new mother alone and sometimes helpless. She had just gone through the surgery and could not even get up to use the restroom without help. She rang the button for the nurse to help her. No one came for over thirty minutes.


When someone finally showed up she begged them to release her early. She had her husband and mother at home. They would be more help than she had at the hospital.


These mothers who are giving birth during one of the more dire and potentially dangerous times we’ve known in decades are the face of strength and courage. But, our mothers of newborns are struggling. And, some are very alone.


As the focus on the virus cranes back and forth like a tennis match between those infected, those dying, the politicians, the rising and flattening curves, the new hot spots, the mask wearing and social distancing, our new mothers are getting lost. Have you seen them?


The answer is no. Because you’re not allowed to. It’s potentially dangerous to. So, our new parents are entering this moment in a harsh and miraculous way. They are inventing a new norm for such an extreme time. Raising a newborn during a worldwide lock-down pandemic.


We photographed and spoke to nine new mothers from different backgrounds and professions about their experience.


WELCOME TO THE NFL



Candace is a solo parent. She had the foresight to freeze eggs, and eventually create a frozen embryo that would one day become her child. She waited to meet the right man, the man she deserved, the man she would trust to become not just the love of her life, but the love of their child’s life. But, that man never materialized.


“For the last 20 years, I’ve been building my business while dating and searching for my future husband and love of my life. I haven’t met him yet and decided not to let that stop me from my lifelong dream of being a biological mother. I decided to become a solo mom and once I became pregnant, I couldn’t wait to meet my child.”


Candace is fierce, loving, independent, and wise. When it came to motherhood, she knew it would be a change, but she was not prepared for the lack of help when resources got cut short, and family cut off.


Candace referred to the experience after giving birth as baby Boot Camp. The nurses wanted to get her on her feet, even after a C-section, and to care for the baby like she would at home. She did her best.


The nurses openly expressed their concern about the Covid-19 crisis getting worse, unintentionally deepening the stress Candace was already under. This is not how child birth is supposed to be. Candace’s mother was allowed to see her. But, she was allowed only one person in the room. During her entire stay. She had to call her father and tell him he could not come.


“What should be a time of celebration with family and friends has been replaced with isolation and worry about exposure and our health and safety,” said Candace.


Candace and Jack are warriors. She said as much, and I believe it’s true. As a first time mother, Candace was unaware and unprepared for the moments and days after she gave birth. She had questions and there was no one there to answer them. Overworked nurses left newborn Jack with her and assumed she’d know what to do. Candace looked for instruction, or just hand holding, but her room lacked either.


“Before the pandemic, I was looking forward to my village of support. Becoming a mom at age forty-five allowed me many years of experience of being an Auntie to all my friends kids. Sadly, we haven’t been able to have any visitors, at least not in the ways I imagined.”


While Candace doesn’t have family and friends physically present they provide support from afar. Most importantly, Candace and Jack have each other to love and navigate these unfortunate and unusual times.


It’s a common theme amongst the new mothers that we met with: The feeling of added confusion and aloneness. Cayle, who had the unexpected C-section, explained that on top of not even getting physical help on something as small as a bathroom visit, she also struggled with the smallest things due to being overcome with exhaustion. It was hard enough to think straight much less take rapid instructions from the doctors or nurses and be able to remember or comprehend the way to undertake said instruction. She expected her mother or husband to be there, someone who could take notes and ask the questions she forgot to ask. Vital questions. Instead, she was left feeling very alone and vulnerable. She begged the nurses to let her leave the hospital early.


Once home, she had her husband Sam. And Sam had grandparents not far away, who just became great grandparents. It allowed for much needed connection outside of the hospital. They visit the grandparent’s home, show them their new joy, Stephanie, and also visit in the backyard at a safe distance, sometimes hanging their feet in the cool pool water or sitting in the grass amongst the fruit trees. - Part I

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PATRICIA PEÑA PHOTOGRAPHY

Los Angeles, CA

©2020 by Patricia Peña Photography.