Katie Brann never could’ve predicted what her first 10 months of motherhood would look like.

The coronavirus pandemic had yet to surface in the United States when she found out she was pregnant with her daughter, Charlotte, in October 2019. On Sunday, the 27-year-old Brann, of Sidney, celebrates her first Mother’s Day as a mom in a changed world.

“I’ve only ever been a mom during a pandemic, so this is my normal,” she said.

Brann and her husband, Zach, welcomed Charlotte Brann to the world on July 16, 2020.

Brann is among the many mothers across the globe set to celebrate their first Mother’s Day. It’s the culmination and continuation raising their first children during the coronavirus pandemic, a time where the normal and traditional ideas of socialization and play became uniquely complicated.

Katie Brann sits in the nursery with her infant, Charlotte, for a portrait Tuesday in Sidney. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Dr. Lara Walsh, a pediatrician with MaineGeneral at Winthrop Pediatric and Adolescents Medicine and Kennebec Pediatrics, credited parents and their babies born during the pandemic for their resilience.

“The pandemic will be part of their story and their family’s story for years to come,” Walsh said. “It is hard to remember we are living in historical times, but we are.”

While the children born in the last year likely will remember very little, if any, of the pandemic, their mothers experienced a time to raise a child like no other.

A DREAM COME TRUE

To his mother, Jaxon Withee symbolizes hope.

“There were many nights that I would just pray and pray and pray that we’d get pregnant or have a family of our own some day,” said his mother, Lindsey Withee. “We just never gave up.”

Lindsey Withee holds her newborn son Jaxson at their home in Oakland on Wednesday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Withee, 36, and her husband, Josh, always wanted a family in their Oakland home. She was in the delivery room when one of her nieces was born and always envisioned herself having children. After getting married in 2015, the Withees tried to get pregnant for four years but with no luck. In 2019, she ultimately went through in vitro fertilization and had success after a year.

On June 16, 2020, Jaxon Withee was born via cesarean section.

“To have a kid during a pandemic, it’s something I wasn’t anticipating or wanting, but it all worked out and everything was healthy,” Lindsey Withee said.

Lindsey Withee holds her infant son, Jaxson, at their home Wednesday in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

A Jobs for Maine’s Graduates central region manager overseeing 13 area schools, Withee is currently working while Jaxon is in daycare. A Newport native, Withee always envisioned a large gathering and a revolving door of visitors at the hospital. COVID-19 nixed it.

“It was kind of sad, but also kind of nice where it was just the three of us where we started our new family,” Withee said.

As Withee watches Jaxon grow, she wants her son to make a difference and treat others well.

“At the end of the day, I just want him to be a good person and be nice to everybody in this crazy world,” Withee said. “I want him to be the person to make positive changes in the world.”

FROM THE PANDEMIC’S FRONT LINES

As a critical care nurse in the emergency department of MaineGeneral in Augusta, Jessica Gregoire has been at the pandemic’s forefront.

But Chloe Gregoire brings her daily doses of happiness.

“It’s not how I pictured my first year as a mom to go, but she’s made it so much better,” Jessica Gregoire said.

Jessica Gregoire and her 11-month-old daughter Chloe are seen Wednesday in their Manchester home. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Chloe Gregoire was born May 28, 2020, and came to Jessica and Tookie Gregoire’s Manchester home. There’ve been challenges with two full-time working parents, Tookie is a recruiter for the Army National Guard, and Jessica returned to working nights in August.

Tookie, Chloe and Jessica Gregoire’s holiday card. Photo courtesy of Jessica Gregoire

“We’re still trying to stay distanced from family, because I’m on the front lines I deal with all the time,” said Jessica Gregoire, a Clinton native. “I also am cautious with bringing friends and family in because I don’t want to expose them.”

At the end of the month, Chloe Gregoire turns 1. Her mother says the old adage about you don’t realize how fast time goes by until you have kids is “completely true.”

“I can’t believe it’s been a year,” Jessica Gregoire said.

‘IT’S A SAVING GRACE’

Just over a year into living in pandemic times, Molly Woodward became a mother.

On March 25, Jameson Pierce was born. The 29-year-old and her husband, Richard Pierce, welcomed their first child into their Oakland home sans in-person fanfare due to the pandemic. However, as COVID-19 inoculations become more widely distributed, Woodward looks forward to taking Jameson more out in public. He’s yet to meet much of the community his mother is part of.

Molly Woodward holds her baby Jameson at their home in Oakland on Tuesday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“There’s all these questions in your mind, but then the vaccine rolls out and to me, it’s a saving grace,” Woodward said. “If we didn’t have a vaccine, I would be held up in my house until we did.”

A Burlington native and director of business development at New Dimensions Federal Credit Union, Woodward is returning to work the first week of June and will be fully vaccinated by then.

She can’t wait to introduce her son to her community.

“I know it’s not really going to make a difference to him, but it’s a special time I really want to share with everybody,” Woodward said.

WATCHING ENZO GROW 

When the pandemic altered the world last March, Kayla Savinelli was seven months pregnant. She felt a variety of emotions at the beginning of the pandemic’s outset including boredom, loneliness, stress and nerves.

Kayla Savinelli and her son, Enzo, who was born May 30, 2020. Photo courtesy of Kayla Savinelli

“It was almost scary because we didn’t know at that time how (COVID-19) affected babies or women who were pregnant,” Savinelli said. “I wasn’t leaving the house. … I was out of a job and by myself. It was really tough.”

On May 30, 2020, Enzo Savinelli was born at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. The Savinellis have a large family, none of whom were in the delivery room due to the pandemic. The Detroit residents later shared the news with their family virtually.

A Bradley native, the 30-year-old Savinelli and her son quickly discovered some favorite activities. Music and noises are a favorite, with a toy singing to him in English and Spanish or soundtracks of “Little Baby Bum,” “CoComelon” and “Little Einsteins.”

Enzo is teething, so he loves ice cream. As a baby with Italian roots, his favorite flavor is, of course, Cannoli from Ben & Jerry’s.

As Enzo nears his first birthday, Kayla Savinelli’s message to her son is to maintain patience even in the most trying times.

“I wish more people got that because if you are more patient with everything in your life, then it is way less stressful,” Kayla Savinelli said.

EXPANDING THE BUBBLE

All in all, Brann doesn’t think the pandemic has changed her family’s experience too much. Sure, her daughter’s bubble is small. At first, Charlotte mostly saw a group of 10-15 people including close family and caretakers. It has since expanded.

Charlotte has not met many other kids. All she knows of going out in public is masks and physical distancing.

“I do worry about the experience of your world being a pandemic and your world is so small, but obviously I think kids are resilient,” Katie Brann said. “It is what it is and she’ll be fine. These 2020 babies, who knows how it’s going to affect them in the long run?”

Then known as Katie Bernatchez, the Belgrade native starred in field hockey at Messalonskee High School and later at Boston University. A financial advisor at Waterville-based Gold Pond Wealth Management, Brann took three months off last summer. She’s been back to working full-time since mid-October.

Katie Brann in the nursery with her infant, Charlotte, for a portrait Tuesday in Sidney. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“For most working moms, I think this year has been so brutal,” Brann said. “I’ve been really fortunate to have a lot of people helping me balance the two things.”

As the Branns have become more comfortable with taking Charlotte out in public, they plan on enrolling her in daycare soon. There are also new experiences like going out to dinner, shopping or anything else anyone who lived before the pandemic knows as “pre-pandemic times.”

“We’re having to learn a whole new set of parenting skills now that we can take her out,” Brann said.

Charlotte enjoys boat rides and going for walks with her mother.

On her first Mother’s Day, Katie Brann’s advice for her daughter can be used for a lifetime.

“Just don’t be afraid to use your voice,” Brann said. “It’s important to be a good listener, but it’s also important to stand up for what you believe in and speak your mind when it’s necessary.”


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