As with most of us, 2020 has been a year of major transition for Any’e Carson, ECHO Program Coordinator within the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health ECHO Center. Late last year, life changed for Carson when she found out she was expecting a baby girl who would arrive in May 2020.
While navigating pregnancy and mom life for the first time has been a challenge, Carson has found ways to thrive in her new normal. When she returned to work following her maternity leave, she helped her team launch a new virtual program that provides training to health professionals treating COVID-19, all while learning the ins and outs of motherhood and adjusting to life during a pandemic.
We sat down with Carson to hear her story and learn just how she’s managing it all.
Pregnant During a Pandemic
“Once the first case was confirmed in Marion County, I began to worry about what would happen to my baby if I contracted COVID-19,” Carson said. “There wasn’t much information out about [its impact on] pregnant women at the time.”
Fortunately, soon after the first coronavirus case was reported in Indiana, Carson would have the opportunity to work from home.
“By the first or second week in March, IU campuses closed and we were advised to work remotely. I was happy to be at home. I knew I could continue all of my responsibilities, so I didn’t have an issue with it.”
While the pandemic didn’t severely alter Carson’s work life, it did affect her pregnancy plans quite a bit.
“I didn’t have a baby shower, and with it being my first pregnancy, not having a baby shower was disappointing,” Carson said. “I also didn’t do professional pregnancy photos or have newborn photos.”
With the challenges, however, Carson said her mom has been such a big support. She helped Carson take maternity photos, as well as organize her registry and electronic thank you notes.
“My baby ended up very blessed and I’m grateful for the gifts she received.”
Postpartum During a Pandemic
The ECHO Center was still operating remotely when Carson’s maternity leave ended, allowing her to stay home longer with her daughter and transition at her own pace.
“I did not want to put my daughter in child care, and at the time I was returning to work, many daycares were still closed or had an even longer waitlist,” Carson said. “The transition back to work was a little rough…like I would mess up something or forget systems I had in place to do my job, but after the second full week back, I felt more in a groove.”
Today, Carson is still working from home while caring for her daughter, Avianna, who is now five months old. And she believes her new-mom schedule pairs well with her work schedule.
“I’m an early bird, so it’s easier for me to get to work around 7am because all I have to do is get out of the bed. I try to keep the same routines and deadlines as I had in the office.”
In response to the pandemic, Carson helped her team launch a new ECHO dedicated to COVID-19, an effort that required longer hours than usual.
“I did find work hours longer when I was helping to launch the COVID-19 ECHO. Now that the program is on a regular schedule, I work behind the scenes organizing content speakers and recruiting patient cases for the group to discuss.”
In her role, Carson executes multiple initiatives for the ECHO Center’s teleECHO programs, which offer virtual collaborative learning for primary care providers treating patients who identify as LGBTQ+, as well as those with conditions such as Hepatitis C (HCV), HIV, cancer, pain management, and COVID-19.
“In any given week, I’m building relationships among our participants, arranging content for upcoming sessions, and reporting program metrics. Other ECHOs I coordinate are the HIV ECHO and Cancer ECHO program, which launches year two in October.”
Peace During a Pandemic
How she manages it all? Carson credits her support system, and encourages other new moms to not only do the same, but also figure out ways to maintain that system.
“I have such a strong support system and am grateful to talk with my mom and friends about challenges,” she said. “I downloaded an app called Peanut where I could connect with women at different stages in life, and that helped me see that I wasn’t the only one anxious about the pandemic. There’s also Facebook groups where moms have a space to vent to one another.”
Carson makes an effort to prioritize self-care, another practice she strongly suggests for new moms. She enjoys exercising, cooking new foods, watching her favorite shows, and having DIY spa days.
“I recently launched a blog and am working on a podcast – so that has been my recent hobby. I also enjoy date nights like game night, painting, and movie night with my husband.”
Above all, Carson believes it is most important for new moms to follow the public health precautions that have been given.
“Ultimately, follow precautions and take care of your health. I still avoid crowds and still do grocery-pickup. And when your baby is born, stand your ground about people following precautions that would like to see the baby.”
Carson said there are still family members who have not seen her daughter because of COVID-19.
“For women who are pregnant or trying to conceive, always remember to take your prenatal vitamins. Particularly for Black women, please seek prenatal care as soon as you can and with a medical team you are comfortable with.”
Carson is settling in to her new normal and finding ways to enjoy the changes along the way, like her daughter’s budding personality.
“She’s entering a phase where she is expressive and silly. I love how happy she gets when she sees me after waking up.”
To learn more about programs offered by the ECHO Center at Fairbanks, visit our website.