Amma Parenting Helps Quell New Parent Fears During Pandemic
Being an expectant parent adds a whole extra layer of worry to this already unsettled and unprecedented time.
Kristine Merta, co-owner of Amma Parenting—a nine-location, Edina-based pregnancy and infant education center and the largest provider of childbirth classes in the Twin Cities—knows this as well as anyone.
“Unlike other industries that have seen a slowdown in production or demand, the babies being born today were planned pre-pandemic, and babies will continue to be born,” Merta says. “We feel a huge sense of responsibility to deliver our classes and support to mothers at a vulnerable time.”
Amma Parenting has been providing education and support to expecting parents and new mothers for over 13 years, and serves thousands of families every year. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the center has shifted its classes to live, virtual, interactive classes, Merta says. “We want to continue to provide the education and connection so urgently needed during this time.”
While Amma initially saw an 80 percent drop in business at the start of the pandemic, its numbers are on the mend as people are growing more comfortable with online platforms.
TCB: How has your work been disrupted by coronavirus?
Merta | All of our classes have traditionally been offered in an in-person classroom setting. We quickly had to pivot to virtual interactive classes. This entailed adapting the curriculum and materials to present online and training instructors on using the virtual platform. Our website has been updated weekly—and sometimes daily—as new guidelines have been announced. Pre-pandemic Amma held classes in nine locations across the metro. Because of the social distance mandate, we are only using our main center in Edina as a home base.
Q: Have you lost work because of coronavirus?
A | Initially, there was an 80 perent drop in business. It took us a few weeks to pivot to virtual classes. We had several classes scheduled during that time that needed to be cancelled. Also, some of our classes, like Infant CPR, are not as conducive to a virtual platform. We have had to delay these classes until we can go back to an in-person setting.
Q: How did clients respond to the news of the pandemic?
A | We have a unique window into what’s happening locally and the resources available to expecting mothers and new parents—who are already in a stage of upheaval in their lives as their priorities are shifting and they’re dealing with the emotions and sleep deprivation that are hallmarks of new parenthood. The pandemic compounds all of these dynamics and adds several new layers:
- We have seen a heightened desire to connect, and people have requested interactive, virtual classes rather than filmed courses.
- Being home with a newborn can be a very isolating time for new mothers. The shelter-in-place mandate makes that even more challenging and the feeling of isolation more acute.
- Postpartum depression and anxiety were already on the rise prior to the pandemic. New worries about delivering a baby during this time can trigger those feelings to a new level.
- Spouses and partners may not be allowed in the delivery room during the pandemic. Months of preparation and envisioning the shared experience may potentially be replaced by disappointment and fear of baring the delivery process alone.
Q. Anything you’re able to do right now to compensate for lost work or create new streams of revenue?
A | By going to a virtual platform, we have been able to keep most of our instructors on a similar schedule. The virtual platform has also removed the geographic constraint we had with in-person classes and allowed us to market Amma Parenting classes in other markets. We’ve started with the upper Midwest (Chicago, Milwaukee, and Des Moines) and will expand from there.
Q. Do you anticipate work going back to business-as-usual after the pandemic?
A | We will go back to offering in-person classes in Minnesota, but will also continue with the live, virtual offerings as well. We have been able to pilot a program we were already considering in a very forgiving environment!
Q. Any bright spots in the crisis?
A | We are hearing heartwarming stories of perseverance from our clients. They often cite the community and bond they have developed with other moms they met at Amma as being a lifesaver. One mother said she went from having baby showers and picking nursery colors as top-of-mind to checking in with her New Mama group daily to trade stories and offer each other encouragement. Another mom was preparing to deliver with her husband and doula by her side, but after the new restrictions were mandated, she was petrified to deliver alone. She cites the support of her network of other new moms as pivotal in navigating the emotional challenge and feelings of isolation.
Q. Best advice for being stuck at home—either how to work productively or just not lose your sanity?
A | Having a routine really helps. Creating a to-do checklist every day can give a sense of completion. Also, weaving in social interaction as much as possible–even a wave to fellow walkers or a conversation with neighbors goes a long way.
Unlike other industries that have seen a slowdown in production or demand, the babies being born today were planned pre-pandemic and babies will continue to be born. We feel a huge sense of responsibility to deliver our classes and support to mothers at a vulnerable time.