I am interested in learning about the personal narratives of first-time birthing parents during COVID, including both the childbirth experience and the expansive postpartum experience. There is currently an overwhelming amount of social research being conducted about the impact of COVID on fundamental aspects of life and society such as education, work, technology, the economy, family, and even childbirth and parenting. However, the majority of this research is quantitative. This leaves a strong need for qualitative and human-centered research to illuminate the daily lived experiences of people, not just the statistics that represent them. Regardless of COVID, becoming a parent for the first time is a tremendous moment of change and transformation which requires support.
I hope that this work can contribute to our collective societal understanding of what expecting parents and mothers need to feel supported in general, and especially during a time of crisis. I also hope to gather insights about what practices during COVID have been effective and what practices we can carry forth with us in a post-COVID world to continue to support first-time parents and families in an effort to address social disparities and inequalities.
About the Researcher
This project serves as my pilot ethnographic fieldwork, a requirement of my professional training as I pursue my PhD in Anthropology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Before becoming a student of anthropology, I was an early childhood classroom teacher. It is in this role that I developed an interest in the family unit and how families are supported. My interest in the perinatal experience developed as I myself became pregnant with my first child and prepared to give birth in NYC during COVID. I gave birth to my son on April 6th, 2020 at a hospital in Washington Heights, at the height of the pandemic. As a mother I was scared and as an anthropologist, I was fascinated. I recently published an account of this experience in City & Society, the journal of the Society for Urban, National, and Transnational/Global Anthropology.
How to Participate
If you are a first-time birthing parent in NYC, I invite you to participate in this project! Participation can take many forms and can be one-time or ongoing. Some approaches that we could use to document your unfolding story include: virtual journaling, informal interviews, and peer-to-peer focus groups. Your privacy will be maintained unless you desire otherwise. Current participants have noted that joining in a collective effort to reflect on and document their perinatal journey during COVID has been supportive, insightful, and healing.
I would like to thank Dr. Grey Gundaker for serving as my Academic Advisor and for her guidance and encouragement to continue this project. I would also like to acknowledge Sally Placksin for serving as Project Advisor and thank her for providing her wisdom, counsel, and experience on the topics of new motherhood and public storytelling.
Along the way, I have had the good fortune of speaking with several doulas, birth workers, educators, and scholars to further understand my concerns. I appreciate their time and encourage you to learn about their work.
• Francesca Marini, Desert and Sea Doula
• Vickie Fernandez Wint, Nurtured Beginnings
• Denise Bold, Bold Doula
• Kristy Zardrozny, Expecting NYC
• Elly Taylor, Becoming Us®
• Dr. Aurélie Athan, Matrescence.com