10 p.m.

Parenting in a pandemic


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The moon is full in the northeast corner of the city and, as another day winds down, six-week-old Henry Sulkers is nowhere near ready for bed.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/05/2020 (1122 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The moon is full in the northeast corner of the city and, as another day winds down, six-week-old Henry Sulkers is nowhere near ready for bed.

“Yep, this is what we usually do at this time of day,” says first-time mother Dawn McDonald as she cradles her tiny newborn.

Her baby, a bright-eyed “night owl” with a perfectly round bald head, arrived March 23 after a planned caesarean section. The coronavirus had just been declared a pandemic; no visitors were allowed during their two-day stay at the recently opened HSC Women’s Hospital.

Dawn McDonald and her six-week-old son, Henry Sulkers, in their home in Winnipeg on Wednesday. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Since then, Henry spends his days breastfeeding, wetting his diaper and sleeping. Oh, and he’s managed to squeeze in a FaceTime call or two with his first-time grandparents in the western Manitoba community of Strathclair.

McDonald says she is enjoying maternity leave from her hectic job as a resource teacher in the River East Transcona School Division and is adapting to a quiet routine inside her modest North Kildonan bungalow.

Six-week-old Henry Sulkers hangs out on the couch with his parents, Chris Sulkers and Dawn McDonald, in their home in Winnipeg on Wednesday evening. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

“I get up, feed him, change him and lie on the couch a lot,” says the gregarious McDonald, who is cautious, but not frightened by COVID-19.

For her and husband Chris Sulkers, an electrician at Seven Oaks General Hospital, the coronavirus and the consequential social distancing measures have meant a new, unforeseen way of raising a newborn.

For one, the couple recently turned to an online website to purchase a scale needed to weigh Henry at his routine two-week visit with the pediatrician, which was done over the phone.

The in-home public-health nurse followup, which is intended to assess a mother’s needs and offer advice on feeding, safety and early childhood development, was also carried out over the phone.

Nevertheless, the relaxed couple has since learned to rely on technology and the advice of friends in the health-care industry to ensure their baby stays healthy.

“And we use FaceTime,” says McDonald, adding a visit from a health-care worker was something she sorely missed.

“It would have been nice to have someone come in to double-check my C-section incision,” she says. “Or to have someone come in to make sure he wasn’t getting jaundiced.”

Dawn McDonald, right, says she is enjoying maternity leave from her job as a resource teacher and is adapting to a quiet routine. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

For now, it’s nearing Henry’s bedtime, and McDonald shuffles to the nursery where the pink, cooing infant is changed into a soft, white sleeper.

“We try to put him down at 11 p.m. so he’ll sleep for a stretch,” says McDonald, who is looking forward to a new day when she and her young family — including Bruce, the rambunctious two-year-old Labrador-shepherd cross — can meet with friends and family.

“I don’t do a lot,” she says. “I’m really cautious; it’s easier to stay home and not risk anything. So it will be nice to get around and be a little less worried that he will catch something.”

— Leesa Dahl

Dawn McDonald gets Henry into his pyjamas. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)
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