Jon and Micaela Kiser from Edmonds became first-time parents to a sweet little girl named Sigi at the very beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. While they couldn’t be more thankful for Sigi being healthy, and their time at home together, they are missing their loved ones big time.
Seattle Refined: Ok – let’s set the stage. It’s March 23, 2020, and the Governor just issued the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” Order. Where are you in your journey at that point?
Micaela Kiser: Our beautiful daughter, Sigi, was born exactly two weeks after the first COVID-19 case emerged in the United States. While life was seemingly normal during Sigi’s first month of life, things changed incredibly fast. With this came major anxiety, stress and panic as we did our best to keep our little family healthy and safe. Early on, we decided to quarantine and made the difficult decision to stop seeing our family and friends. As first-time parents, we truly did not anticipate how challenging this would be. Without a doubt, we are grieving the time away from our loved ones and the ability to share those magical first moments of Sigi’s life.
Take us forward from there. As expecting parents – what were you thinking/feeling? What kind of prep/worries did you have that you didn’t anticipate having?
Fear. We suddenly feared everything. Because Sigi was born during flu season, we were already being extra cautious, but nothing could have prepared us to begin our journey into parenthood during a pandemic. All of the sudden, we were not only concerned about our health but also employment security and access to food and basic necessities. We remember feeling a lot of anxiety over the unknown and the lack of guidance from national leadership.
Share with us what you’re willing to about the actual birth. What was your experience like?
Our birth experience was magical. The nurses and doctors at Swedish were absolutely incredible during our time at the hospital, and they truly deserve so much credit for the constant hard work and expertise. They are real-life superheroes. Because the first COVID-19 case in Washington emerged only a few weeks before Sigi was born, we did not have any visitor restrictions. My husband, Jon, was able to be in the room with me the whole time, and our families were able to visit once she was born. However, within days, everything rapidly changed: our first doctor’s appointments were canceled, and Jon was no longer allowed to join me. Navigating this was tough; I remember feeling so much panic as I took Sigi to her two-month appointment alone. With this said, I was so impressed by the safety precautions that were put in place to curve the possibilities of getting the virus during our visits. We can’t emphasize enough how thankful we are for the doctors and nurses that continue to show up to work every single day to keep our communities healthy and safe.
For those with newborns at home during isolation, can you tell us about what that’s been like – both good and bad?
We are extremely grateful for the uninterrupted time together as we begin this new chapter as a family of three. It has been a blessing for Jon to be able to work from our home and have the ability to be around Sigi during the day. He has been able to share some pretty special moments with Sigi and I that he would have otherwise missed. We have learned to truly lean into this experience to grow, not only as individuals but also as partners. Through every struggle, we have adapted to meet our needs while always prioritizing our daughter. I am proud of us for the ability to stay focused and strong during this time. Some days are really hard; some days are full of joy. Our best days are those during which we allocate some alone time for each other, as well as some dedicated family time. We sing and dance (mostly to Queen), and do the most ridiculous moves just to make Sigi smile. We share dinner every night, no matter how late or tired we are, and we get fresh air every day. Most importantly, we strive to always be present with our feelings even if that means sitting with fear, anger, happiness or sadness.
What have been your biggest joys during this time?
Being able to be at home with Sigi has been such a blessing for both Jon and me, it is incredible to see her change and not miss a moment. Living through such a strange and challenging time has helped us see the bright moments in the day to day. We celebrate anything and everything. It feels like as a society, we were just moving forward with no end in sight, but we have now been forced to really slow down. In turn, it has helped us grow certain relationships in different ways and adapt our approach to everyday life.
What are your biggest fears/worries during this time?
Where do we even begin? Most of our fear comes from the anxiety of the unknown. We have been in quarantine for four months, and it seems like we are in an endless cycle of accepting, adapting and appreciating. Some days, I truly feel like I am Ron Burgundy yelling, “I’m in a glass case of emotion!” (as I write this, Jon suggested I also quote “milk was a bad choice!”). Since the start of the pandemic, it seems like the information about what is safe and what isn’t has been convoluted and inconsistent, which makes social interaction really confusing and challenging. Planning for my return to work has been both frightening and frustrating. Due to limited space and high risk of exposure at child-care centers, we no longer have viable options for care. I often feel anxious and sad, knowing that I have spent a large part of my maternity leave worried about our future plans (in a situation that it’s impossible to plan for). A time that I imagined and looked forward to for so long has been shadowed by uncertainty and worry. As a public school employee, I feel immense pressure and guilt as I mitigate the struggle to choose between the love for my students and my job and the well being of my family. Both Jon and I are extremely concerned with the possibility of spreading the virus to our loved ones as my risk for exposure increases when I return to work.
When Sigi asks you about what it was like having her during the Pandemic of 2020, what are you going to tell her?
I think every generation has certain moments that define their adulthood in a significant way. This is no doubt, going to be our story. We will talk about the sacrifices that we made for our health and safety, as well as the lessons that we learned along the way. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us about humility and connection, and we will never cease to share this with our daughter as well as continue to remind ourselves of this.
Final Update: Where do things stand now? How is the entire family?
To be honest, we still remain very cautious and often feel very sad and frustrated. We really miss our families and friends but have been able to find creative and safe ways to see each other and have our loved ones be part of Sigi’s life. Our goal is to connect daily with our support system, whether it is through text messages, countless hours on FaceTime and Zoom or social-distanced backyard hangouts. The shared feelings of fear and grief have brought us closer to relationships that we truly value and cherish. I have been able to reconnect with family members from Argentina, and some amazing friendships have blossomed as we navigate being new parents during a pandemic together (shout out to the Mace family!)
For people whose loved ones are giving birth, pregnant, bringing a baby home, or pausing their fertility treatments/adpotion processes right now – what can you do to support from afar?
Reach out and listen. Listen to understand their fears and worries, ask questions and acknowledge their feelings. As first-time parents, we have often felt lonely, isolated and very disconnected, and the lack of normalcy and routine has certainly heightened those feelings. We are really appreciative whenever our loved ones reach out, even if it’s just for a quick check in to say hello. It reminds us that while we may not be able to be together physically, that our village is still there cheering us on in this journey.
And to other families reading this, going through something like this themselves – any words of encouragement, support or advice?
Hold yourself with kindness and tenderness. You are enough!