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It takes a village to raise a child

Like many first-time parents, Katharine Harris and her partner Derek Hill were nervous as their due date approached in late 2019.

“As this was our first child, we didn’t know what to expect. Movies and TV were really the only exposure we had to labour and delivery, and those depictions are definitely not realistic!” says Katharine.

So when they arrived at Mount Sinai Hospital’s labour and delivery floor, Katharine was “excited but also nervous.” Despite her uncertainty, Katharine soon felt comforted by the care.

“Everyone at Sinai made me feel like I mattered to them. I felt like a person they cared about, not just a person they cared for,” she recalls.

Katharine was particularly impressed by the caring nurses. She remembers one particular nurse, Anna, with special fondness: “She took such good care of me. When her shift ended and the baby wasn’t born yet, I almost cried.”

Before leaving Katharine’s side, Anna hugged her, wished her well, and promised she’d come visit Katharine and her new baby on the recovery floor.

“I wasn’t sure if that was just something she said to reassure me,” says Katharine. But 12 hours later, Anna made good on her promise, visiting with baby Oliver and hugging Katharine warmly.

“Even though she couldn’t be with me for my son’s birth, I credit her with how positive I felt about the whole thing,” says Katharine. “The relationship I had with her is extremely important to me.”

When Katharine, Derek and baby Ollie arrived home from the hospital, some of the first cases of COVID-19 were appearing in China. After just a few short, exhausting months, Katharine and Derek were faced with something they’d never anticipated the reality of caring for a tiny baby during lockdown.

“When the shutdown started, it had really only been a couple of weeks since I’d felt brave enough to leave the house in the winter with a newborn,” says Katharine.

“The saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is completely true, but we’ve been locked down and so we’ve had no village. It’s really, really hard,” she says.

Despite the stress, Katharine and Derek are grateful: “Labour and birth is such an important experience, and the care I received at Sinai Health made me feel so supported and valued, like my experience mattered to everyone helping me. I only wish every labouring person experienced that.”


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