JaLisa Fredrick (left), a mental health therapist and mother of a three year old, and expectant mother Brittany White, a nuclear medicine technologist, (right) heading to work to serve others. (Courtesy photos)

by Brittany Holst —

The “safer at home” orders mandated by Mayor Jim Strickland, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee have some mothers in “essential job” categories continuing to work while trying to maintain safe practices for themselves and their families.

While some of us are able to work remotely, decreasing potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus, there are mothers and expectant mothers, who, because of their job category, are unable to work from home.

So, for this column I set out to get the perspective of mothers out there on the frontline that are continuing to physically go to work and interact with people.

The backdrop, of course, are the COVID-19 virus numbers and, so far, they are shifting dizzyingly upwards.

As of Saturday afternoon, the Tennessee Department of Health reported 3,321 coronavirus cases in the state and 43 deaths.

The number of reported virus cases in Memphis and Shelby County has been steadily rising since the first case was reported here on March 8. As of Sunday morning, Shelby County Health Department officials said there had been 754 reported COVID-19 cases in Memphis-Shelby County and 11 deaths.

Brittany White prior to the pandemic and it’s life-altering consequences. (Courtesy photo)

Brittany White, who is expecting her first child, is a nuclear medicine technologist working in a branch of radiology. She is bracing for a local surge.

“This pandemic has truly thrown a wrench in our workflow. We have to cancel most of our outpatient procedures, cut hours and also help out more where help is needed.”

The medical field is constantly changing to adapt to new potentials that arise from COVID-19.

“Every day the protocol changes, not only in our department and how we care for patients, but for everyone all over the hospital, especially those who are in contact with patients and are hands-on for hours.”

Things could get worse before they get better, White said.

“Over the next couple of weeks, we are expecting a surge of patients to come in to all of the hospitals in Memphis and surrounding areas with the increase of cases,” she said.

Given that expectation, hospitals are having to come up with expansion plans to accommodate the increase in medical care.

“Now this pandemic does frighten me a little bit since everyday there is a new sign or symptom that comes about that we had no clue of,” said White. “I’m super afraid of being infected and passing it along to my unborn child and family. But I have a duty to serve and take care of those that can’t take care of themselves and I take my service to heart.”

JaLisa Fredrick, a mental health therapist, hard at work reviewing patient data. (Courtesy photo)

Mental health therapist JaLisa Fredrick, who works in the adolescent unit of a local behavioral health facility, is the mother of a three year old, Jayce.

“I am in constant worry about Jayce’s and my exposure to the virus due to my daily work with multiple people, ages 5 to 105, from all over Mississippi and Tennessee,” she said.

Precautionary measures include Fredrick sanitizing her cell phone several times a day and making sure she and Jayce wash their hands on a regular basis. They even take their shoes off before entering their home.

Like many children, Jayce has been wanting to go outside to play.

“It has been difficult trying to explain to a three year old why we cannot go to our neighborhood park in spite of the sunshine and warm weather.”

Nightly, they pray together, as many of us do, that “this tragedy meets triumph soon so we can all get back to normality.”

Amber Coble is a registered nurse at a local surgery center and the mother of a child with autism. Coble is temporarily furloughed and does not work as many hours as she used to because fewer surgeries are being approved because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the risk of contracting the virus.

“At this moment as a healthcare provider, you are either on the frontline dealing with the sickness or not working much at all,” she said.

Coble recently was notified by the Germantown Municipal School District that schools will remain closed through April 24.

“All children need a routine, but with a child who is on the autism spectrum, routine and structure are critical,” she said.

“We are blessed that he is currently able to receive Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, as these therapists are considered essential employees. The service provides the structure he needs to maintain progress.

“At home, we practice learning skills, utilizing materials purchased from Amazon and online resources recommended by his teacher.”

Mothers and expectant mothers are putting themselves at risk to serve others, while trying to protect themselves and those close to them. Times are challenging and emotions can run high trying to balance it all.

As the iMom columnist for The New Tri-State Defender, I say “thank you” to every one of you working in healthcare, food, public service, supply chain management industries and all others deemed “essential.”

 (Brittany Jackson was part of the first corps of iTeen reporters for The New Tri-State Defender. Now as Brittany Holst, her iMom column is a periodic look at motherhood through millennial eyes.)