'We don't get this time back': For new mom, pandemic has brought both joy and deep sadness

Jorie Bernhardt and her daughter
Jorie Bernhardt gave birth to her first child in early April, just a couple weeks after the state issued its first COVID-19 shutdown order. The pandemic has upended so much of what she looked forward to about being a new mom. But she’s gotten by with the help of a group of six other new Minnesota moms who connected online through a support group called "the Hive."
Courtesy of Jorie Bernhardt

There's an old Yiddish proverb: Make a plan, God laughs.

That pretty much sums up Jorie Bernhardt's 2020. She gave birth in early April to her first child, a daughter, shortly after the first COVID-related restrictions went into effect.

Very little about her daughter’s birth itself went according to plan: Her doula couldn’t be there. The hospital had visitor restrictions in place. She felt alone and afraid.

And since then, all those milestones and rituals — all the ways she'd hoped to introduce her baby to her community — have changed.

"Being Jewish, one of the traditions that we were going to uphold, and that I just had planned in my head, was this beautiful baby naming ceremony, where we'd open our house to the community and to our family and to our friends,” she said.

“And that's all I wanted, was to have the community come and welcome the birth of my child, and to hear her name and to celebrate this life."

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She tried to be grateful they could at least do it on Zoom, which allowed people who live far away to join them.

“But I was still so sad," she said. Sad about the small connections she had hoped for, like baby yoga or music classes, or simply friends and family being able to stop by to meet the new baby.

And she felt sad that important, larger community events — like introducing her daughter to the congregation at her synagogue — had changed, been postponed or canceled altogether.

"When Rosh Hashanah came, Jewish New Year, it's our holiest of holy days ... and that is a big moment in a synagogue to welcome all of the babies, all of the new births that have happened in that year,” Bernhardt said. “I was so excited for that. And to not be able to do that is hard."

She’s tried hard to focus on the abundant positives of this year. Her daughter is healthy. So is she. And while most of her family is scattered around the U.S. and Canada, her in-laws moved to St. Paul a few months before the baby was born, so they've become part of the same COVID-19 pod.

And Bernhardt's mom was finally able to visit, and meet her first grandchild, after three weeks of isolating and being tested for COVID-19.

"I'm so grateful that we were able to do that,” Bernhardt said. “But it's still so hard. Because we don't get this time back.”

Although the experience of her daughter’s first few months hasn’t been anything like what she’d anticipated, and though the pandemic has brought with it isolation and dashed plans, it has also given Bernhardt an unexpected gift at this monumental time in her life: “the Hive.”

When she first became pregnant, she had connected with a group of other expectant mothers online. Now, she chats with a group of those women — now new moms, all based in Minnesota — on Facebook, every day. They call themselves the Hive.

Collage of pictures of new moms and their children.
At a time when new and expectant mothers are disconnected from their friends and family, their usual support systems, an online support group that calls itself "the Hive" has filled the void for Jorie Bernhardt, through their pregnancies and the first several months of motherhood.
Courtesy of Jorie Bernhardt

And at a time when they've all been disconnected from their friends and families and their usual support systems, the Hive has helped to filled the void, through their pregnancies and the first several months of motherhood.

"We were the support network for each other, and the cheerleaders,” Bernhardt said, “because we couldn't have anybody in our homes. We couldn't have anybody coming to help us to make food, do laundry, to hold our child. And the nights were long, the days were long.”

Now, they help lift each other up when someone’s having a bad week — with a gift card, or a bouquet of flowers, or a package of brownies left on a doorstep.

She's only ever met a couple of the other women in person — one for a backyard haircut, and the other through a window, when she came to Bernhardt’s house to pick up a loaf of bread she had baked.

But they're all looking forward to a time when they can safely meet the babies whose milestones and sleepless nights they've helped each other navigate.

In the meantime, Bernhardt is making a scrapbook for her daughter, about their journey through 2020. Because when she's old enough, she wants to help her understand her place in the world — and what it was like the year she came into it.

Looking back, looking ahead: As 2020 comes to a close, several MPR News reporters have been checking back in with people they met earlier in the pandemic — about how their lives have changed, and about what they're hopeful for in the new year.

COVID-19 in Minnesota

Data in these graphs are based on the Minnesota Department of Health's cumulative totals released at 11 a.m. daily. You can find more detailed statistics on COVID-19 at the Health Department website.

The coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets, coughs and sneezes, similar to the way the flu can spread.