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'We were completely isolated': How new moms are coping during the pandemic

One mom's birth experience led her to create "Corona Mamas," a resource for other women navigating parenthood in the midst of a global pandemic.

Erin King-Mullins is a colorectal surgeon in Atlanta. She’s also a new mom who gave birth in February, shortly before the country shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. King-Mullins took part in a recent chat with TODAY’s Sheinelle Jones about how she and other moms are coping during the pandemic. Here she explains how she was inspired to create "Corona Mamas," a resource to help moms navigate these times.

I went in for an induction and three days later ended up with an urgent cesarean section because things weren’t progressing. There was a risk to my daughter. Her heart rate went down a few times. It was exhausting. Recovery immediately after was fine. Everything was on track for a three-to-four day hospital stay afterwards, but the night before the morning I was scheduled to go home, they checked my blood pressure and it was through the roof. So they’re rushing me to another unit and they were putting me on these drips to prevent stroke and seizures and I was in hospital for few more days. I was diagnosed with postpartum preeclampsia. I ended up going home on blood pressure medicine — I’d never had any issues with blood pressure in my life.

Erin King-Mullins with her stepdaughters and her newborn daughter, McKenzie.
Erin King-Mullins with her stepdaughters and her newborn daughter, McKenzie. Courtesy Erin King-Mullins

About three weeks after my daughter was born, shelter in place started. We had all these visitation plans and support in place, and then everything quickly took a turn. We were completely isolated. It was just this real feeling of isolation with fear and anxiety cycling through that. I was like, I can't be the only one feeling this way. I was online looking around for advice and tips and tricks and just didn't really find what I was looking for.

My first idea was to just create a social media account. But what I was seeing on social media wasn’t just about new moms — it was all moms. Now moms are working from home and they’re having to home-school, so all moms have had to become Corona Mamas. They've had to reinvent themselves. I thought maybe we need a bigger platform, so I created the website.

After starting Corona Mamas, I found out that what I experienced actually has a term — it’s called birth trauma. And more and more women are experiencing birth trauma now especially during the pandemic. Some women are delivering without their loved ones. Or while wearing a mask. In New York there was a period they weren’t even letting partners in the delivery room. So going through that experience also brought me to Corona Mamas, as I was trying to look for information about that.

Being a doctor forces me to take more of a deep dive when I’m reading things and be mindful of when I put something in a blog post. By no means is the site dedicated to giving medical advice, but I feel my being a physician does give it a little more credibility. I’m not going to share something that’s completely false or unfounded.

King-Mullins' daughter McKenzie was born in February, before her city of Atlanta issued a shelter-in-place order.
King-Mullins' daughter McKenzie was born in February, before her city of Atlanta issued a shelter-in-place order. Courtesy Erin King-Mullins

Corona Mamas is designed to be a safe space for women going through the current social climate surrounding the pandemic — as well as the social unrest that we are experiencing today. Starting with the coronavirus, there were a lot of things revealed in regards to racial disparity. (Editor's note: Minorities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Black or African-American people who get the virus are more than twice as likely to die than white people who get the virus, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) That then revealed a lot of the disparities with Black people and health care generally — they’re at higher risk of hypertension, diabetes and so much more.

I was already seeing how Black lives were affected by the virus. But then, with the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and the Black Lives Matter movement, everything got pushed to the forefront with racism being a kind of public health issue.

We all have to talk to our children about people who are different. The whole conversation about how to parent in this climate of social justice and how to make sure we’re raising the best children we can is also one of the goals of Corona Mamas.

The advice I have for moms today? Self-care is key. And part of self-care is just recognizing when you need help and not being afraid to ask for it. I realized I’m not the only one who feels the way I feel. I’m not going through this alone. So that's the biggest advice — seek like-minded or experienced people to help you through.

As told to Rheana Murray. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Follow Corona Mamas on Twitter here.