COVID-19 NSW: Northern beaches lockdown babies

One-year-old Jackson Cheng. Picture: Geoff Jones
One-year-old Jackson Cheng. Picture: Geoff Jones

ISOLATION from friends and family might have marred the first 12 months of Jackson Cheng, Luna Biancalana and Ethan Arthur's lives, but their parents say there's still been a lot of positives.

In their first 12 months of life, these one-year-olds have spent more than four months in lockdown, and have never lived a life without COVID restrictions.

It has been tough. Jackson's never met his father's side of the family who live in Brisbane and Perth, and all of Luna's family, except for her parents, live in Brazil so she hasn't met them either.

Mothers' groups have been held via video chat, and first birthdays were also held that way with friends and families in different local government areas and across the world.

Jackson (who is on this week's cover) was born on September 15, 2020, and he lives in Narraweena with his sister Caitlin, 4, and their parents Jessica Stolp and Kim Cheng.

The isolation and not being able to meet in person with her mothers' group and friends has been tough.

Jessica Stolp and Kim Cheng with their children Jackson, 1, and Caitlin, 4. Picture: Geoff Jones

Jessica Stolp and Kim Cheng with their children Jackson, 1, and Caitlin, 4. Picture: Geoff Jones

"The first four sessions were via Zoom, even though there was no lockdowns or cases around, that's how we all met," Ms Stolp said.

But, there have been positives, and quite a few of them.

"My husband's been working from home so he's been able to help out a lot and get used to becoming a family of four," she said. "Quality time as a family unit has been a big thing this time.

"Social media is great, we organise Zoom dance parties with my niece and video calls with my friends and mothers' group and family, it's the technology that we have these days that allows us to connect."

Jackson's first birthday last month was celebrated via a Zoom call.

"We organised cupcakes to be sent to Kim's family in Brisbane and Perth and also my family here. That was a bit of fun and we all watched Caitlin open up Jackson's presents," Ms Stolp said.

"I try and look on the bright side, it's not too bad here, there's a lot of people across the world who have it so much worse, it could be so much worse."

Covid fears for a year

Giuliana and Vini Biancalana with their children Bella, 7, and Luna, 1. Picture: Geoff Jones

Giuliana and Vini Biancalana with their children Bella, 7, and Luna, 1. Picture: Geoff Jones

For Narrabeen couple Giuliana and Vini Biancalana, parents of one-year-old Luna who was born on September 22, 2020, the COVID fears have been a little closer to home.

For much of the past 12 months, Mr Biancalana has been working at one of the COVID quarantine hotels, and the worry that he could contract the virus has been a constant concern for the young family.

"I was worried he might catch COVID, but the good thing is he was one of the first to get vaccinated," Mrs Biancalana said.

International border closures have also meant that Luna is yet to meet the relations to her Brazilian born parents.

"I still can't believe that she hasn't met them," Mrs Biancalana said. "The hardest thing is not seeing my family and not knowing when I'm going to see them again."

Lockdown and COVID restrictions during Luna's whole life have also led to Mrs Biancalana worrying about her young daughter.

Giuliana Biancalana and her daughter Luna, 1. Picture: Geoff Jones

Giuliana Biancalana and her daughter Luna, 1. Picture: Geoff Jones

"Because she was a COVID baby she doesn't have much of a social life. You see when she meets new people that she analyses them," she said.

"I really hope that she just has a normal life and gets to a Wiggles concert and has a swim, you know, just a normal life."

Despite the challenges, Mrs Biancalana said she's a positive person, and COVID has forced her to think differently about Luna and her older daughter Bella, 7.

"We appreciate the little things we wouldn't usually do, there's good things we can do at home," she said. "We had to learn to live a different life. We were very grateful to all be healthy and here."

More time together

Linhlan Arthur and her son Ethan, 1.

Linhlan Arthur and her son Ethan, 1.

Ethan Arthur was born at Northern Beaches Hospital on September 18, 2020, and while his father Ben Arthur works in Belrose the family lives in West Pymble.

His mother, Linhlan Arthur, is also a stepmum to Ben's two daughters Sally, 11 and Sophie, 9

Like many other parents, she admits the isolation from friends and family has been tough.

"One of the main things is contact with family and grandparents, and it's been tough because we can't go out and meet different groups of mums and other babies," Mrs Arthur said.

"When he sees strangers he cries straight away."

Ethan is yet to meet his father's family who live in the UK, but his mother's side of the family live on the northern beaches so he was able to see them a lot before lockdown.

Mrs Arthur said the positive out of lockdown is that they now spend more time together as a family.

"He's been able to work from home and spend more time with Ethan," she said. "Lockdown hasn't been too bad at all."

Beaches in a baby boom

BIRTHS have skyrocketed in the last year to 1700, with more than 2200 births expected in the coming year.

In order to better support the community, Northern Beaches Hospital partnered with Gidget Foundation Australia last year. Gidget exists to support the emotional wellbeing of expectant and new parents.

A hospital spokeswoman said it provides local mothers with access to experts in supporting families suffering emotional distress during pregnancy and early parenting. For more information, 1300 851 758.

Earlier this year, a water birth service was also launched in the hospital for privately insured mothers. The service was introduced after considerable demand from privately insured mothers to have the service available on the northern beaches.

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