University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
$5,000 Scholarship and Hearst Medallion
Sara Thompson, 29, of Miami, Fla and her husband, Rodney Thompson, 30, had their daughter, Eliana during the COVID-19 pandemic. Two-years prior to that, Sara and Rodney moved to Raleigh, N.C., for Sara’s new job. Sara was laid off from her job as a database programmer in April 2020, contributing to the 14.8% U.S. unemployment rate that month. When Sara found out she was pregnant in July 2020, her husband could not accompany her to doctor’s appointments. To make matters worse, Eliana was diagnosed with Intrauterine growth restriction (IGR) and Sara was forced to deliver by C-section at 8-months. Sara remains unemployed and spends her time working toward her degree in Information Technology online while raising her 3.5 month old daughter from home, joining millions of American mothers who are faced with balancing work and raising their children during a global pandemic.
Sara mulitasks by pumping out her breast milk while observing her daughter participate in her daily “tummy time”. Sara pumps up to five times a day. Eliana cannot latch to her mother, partly due to her small size when she was born, so Sara must pump out her milk to feed her daughter. “Tummy time” helps babies strengthen their back and lift their heads. Sara shows her daughter children’s books to encourage her to lift her head and look at the pictures.
One of the first things Sara does in the morning is sanitize her daughter’s bottles. Her daughter is fed 10 bottles a day. "She's getting heavy. I think I'm going to have one arm with muscles," said Sara.
Sara and her daughter do not leave the house much during the week. With balancing school and raising an infant, Sara does not have a lot of free time. With or without the pandemic, moms around the country are faced with isolation while balancing the responsibilities of motherhood, school and work-life.
Sara walks her dog, Jessica while taking her daughter outside for a stroll around the neighborhood a few times a day. Eliana typically falls asleep while on the walk. Other than this walk, Sara and Eliana stay inside.
When Eliana was born, "it used to take her over an hour to finishe 1oz of food...by the time she was done it was time to feed her again," said Sara. Eliana was born a month early and had to stay in the NICU overnight before coming home.
Sara studies at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University online. When her daughter is asleep, she tries to catch up on as much work as possible before her daughter wakes up. " I thought for sure my grades would slip when I had her, but they didn't", she said.
Eliana stares at her reflection as she is becoming more aware of her surroundings. Sara places her on this mat while she works. "I used to never want to put her down because she looked too cute," said Sara.
Sara takes her baby monitor with her baby is asleep and not with her. Eliana will wake up spontaneously, often interuppting school work or the process of cooking a meal.
Rodney works for Wake County as a landscaper and leaves as early as 7 a.m. and returns around 4:30 p.m. "Mom's are important. They are the most important part of it. When I get home, I give her a break," he said.