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Interview with Elizabeth imageAn Interview with MADE SAFE’s Elizabeth

Preparing for motherhood isn’t always an easy journey, let alone planning for the arrival of a little one in the midst of a global health crisis. Many women are finding themselves treading water in a sea of unknowns beyond what is the common experience in the transition to motherhood. For MADE SAFE, this hits especially close to home as our team member, Elizabeth, found herself in this very position. Elizabeth kindly offered to share her experience in the hopes that it may encourage other mothers who may be walking a similar road right now.

We sat down with Elizabeth to discuss navigating pregnancy and preparing for motherhood in the midst of this difficult time. Follow along below as we talk about her experience and share everything from adjusting expectations while maintaining positivity to re-thinking the true baby essentials.

And, while we’re on the topic of Pregnancy, go here to sign up to receive access to our new Healthy Pregnancy Guide, which is a resource for anyone thinking about, trying to become, or already pregnant.

MADE SAFE: Elizabeth, your pregnancy started in “normal times,” yet things have been shaken up in the past few months. Would you be able to start off by giving us a little background from the beginning of your pregnancy journey up until now?
Elizabeth: We entered the experience of having a child with certain expectations of being in New York City that have since had to pivot due to COVID-19. We thought we’d have the baby in one of the major hospitals in the city, but in the third trimester, we quickly had to change our plan. As work-from-home orders began to roll out, our apartment building was no longer feeling safe, especially with one way in and one way out on a shared elevator. So, we made the difficult decision to head north of Boston to be nearer to family.

We had to leave all of our things behind in New York because we couldn’t carry it all with us. The bonus is that we’re learning that you really don’t need as much baby stuff as you might think to get by. That’s been a silver lining – as well as connecting with family and building community.

MADE SAFE: Let’s go back to your pregnancy pre-COVID-19. We know that product safety and sustainability is very important to you and your husband. Can you talk us through your approach?
Elizabeth: Being on the MADE SAFE team, we obviously wanted to be very thoughtful about all of the products we brought into our home. The balance has been investing in some products that meet stringent toxicity standards, while buying fewer products overall.

For example, we invested in a product that felt safe for the baby to be sleeping in. We chose a bassinet that doubles as a play-crib down the line. Since we were making the investment, we wanted to choose something that was both usable today and multi-purpose over a longer period of time.

In other areas, we really cut back. With clothing, we got hand-me-downs from friends and family and supplemented with a few new nontoxic items, but kept it to a minimum.

We used MADE SAFE as a guide. It’s a great time to support small businesses, and since so many brands with certified products are small businesses, we felt good about those purchases.

MADE SAFE: It sounds like in choosing products you were balancing safety and not over-buying. Can you tell us how you balanced those goals with accessibility during COVID-19?
Elizabeth: Living in New York, we were fortunate to have access to stores and make all product selections that were in line with our nontoxic living standards – from a mattress and a crib to rugs and personal care. We were able to find everything we needed in the city. Having to leave behind both the security of a known environment as well as all of the products we trusted to be safe was a really hard shift. Now, outside of Boston, we had to make compromises to get what we needed in times of limited options and store closures, but built community through the process.

We went to my parents asking what we really needed and we were able to find some things around their house. Fortunately, they had saved some of my baby things like a hospital blanket and some basic clothing. We also found hand-me-downs through friends and cousins. We feel so thankful because we know that not everyone going through this has the ability to re-use.

There has been limited availability of some items on Amazon. And some items that we researched and bought back in New York City, we were unable to get.

Diapers have been one of the biggest compromises. We had higher goals for ourselves and wanted to go with primarily cloth diapers. With product accessibility, we felt like we needed to compromise with a decent product that might not reach that original standard, but was still much better than conventional choices. It was a rush to find whatever was in stores and available right now!

Having somewhat of a minimalist mindset from the get-go has helped us focus on the things that truly matter. We considered the necessity of all the things we were told we “had” to have and the truth is, a lot of them are just not needed.

MADE SAFE: So what did you learn really is needed?
Elizabeth: For us, the true essentials were a laundry basket full of clothes, a safe place for the baby to sleep, diapers, and basic feeding tools.

MADE SAFE: What have been the silver linings, in terms of choosing nontoxic products right now?
Elizabeth: We’ve actually found that it is possible to make decisions that align with our values on a tight budget. It’s possible to choose products that are both nontoxic and affordable.

MADE SAFE: You mentioned that this process has helped you connect to friends and build community. How?
Elizabeth: I’ve found that in sharing my story with friends and family, we’ve received so much support — more than we could have hoped for. It’s brought us closer to family and friends – so many people have gone the extra mile for us!

Friends, family, and people we didn’t even know well came out of the woodwork to help us out. A neighbor connected me to my new doctor in Boston, family rallied to provide us with necessary clothing, and I leaned on friends for support. I feel both thankful and fortunate to have this support system, as I know it is not a given for everyone.

One thing I learned was not to be afraid to say you’re having a hard time or that you need help navigating. You don’t know what help you’ll find until you ask.

MADE SAFE: What did the process look like for seeking new health care providers mid-pregnancy and under these very unique circumstances?
Elizabeth: Moving care providers was challenging for multiple reasons – from a personal perspective and from the perspective of what feels safe right now with hospitals under a lot of stress. It was hard to know where to go.

I have numerous friends that are pregnant or were recently pregnant – 8 actually! – and everyone has approached their experience somewhat differently. I have had friends who have had home births and friends who have gone to traditional hospitals.

We wanted to make sure we were approaching this in a way that was mindful of the situation hospitals are facing. Hospitals are going through a lot right now and they’re in a really hard position. It has made me very appreciative of the times you can easily and safely go to the doctor when you’re feeling sick.

We’ve found a lot of great doctors who are willing and able to provide a good health care experience – and for that we’re so thankful.

MADE SAFE: What has been the most difficult part?
Elizabeth: One thing that has been difficult has been the transition. Uprooting our life in a very important period of time has made me really respect women everywhere who have to go through this in much worse situations. It’s provided me a very small glimpse into the unique challenge facing anybody who’s truly moving from place-to-place, thinking about starting a family or facing serious hardships – it’s a really hard endeavor. You’re lucky if you have all your resources and I know that so many women around the world often don’t. For me, it’s been something to reflect on.

MADE SAFE: Where did you turn to for resources or advice?
Elizabeth: All of the information about pregnancy and COVID-19 is happening real-time, so I’m doing a lot of research about what’s happening locally in the hospitals along with research on a larger scale. I’ve been reading up on the COVID and pregnancy recommendations being made by the CDC and other similar resources.

In addition to this, reading other people’s stories through social media has been a big help to me. Hearing about other people’s positive birth experiences in the midst of everything has been encouraging. Social media has offered me more of a sense of community than I expected.

The combination of these two has helped me to determine the risks, but also level that with stories of people who are doing well in the midst of it. Hearing stories directly from other women who have walked a similar road to me brings a lot of balance because exclusively reading the news every day could make you think the world is crumbling.

MADE SAFE: Pregnant or not, it can feel a bit like the world is crumbling right now. How do you stay positive?
Elizabeth: I look for the bright spots. What are the positive stories? Who are the people doing good? There are so many people out there willing to go above and beyond.

MADE SAFE: What advice would you give to expecting parents during COVID-19?
Elizabeth: For me, what has been really important is finding a way to stay level-headed. Two of the biggest things I have been doing are reading positive birth stories and preparing myself mentally through yoga and meditation. I’ve been trying to do one meditation a day that focuses on something positive.

I’ve also really been enjoying hypnobirthing (by the Positive Birth Company), which focuses on how to relax your body. It’s helped me develop and practice a mantra so that I can relax in the moment now, but also prepare for when I’m in the hospital. This awesome resource is written for people giving birth in normal times, but I’m finding it all the more relevant now to bring calm and help reduce anxiety.

For the hospital, I’m going to bring a few things with me that make me feel comfortable such as some pregnancy-safe essential oils, a blanket that my husband’s mom made for the baby, and some really comfortable pajamas.

Finally, I would say that this experience has made me realize that people are more willing to help than I had imagined. I also think this is a time when it’s important not to let a fear of burdening others keep you from asking for help when you need it. We all need help right now in one way or another.

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