You just recently had a child, possibly your very first, and everything thing is new and unknown. From how to manage time for yourself, to your unpredictable and shifting moods, to feeding your child with your own boobs, you’re navigating many unknowns. You have no idea what is “normal.” You’re constantly worrying and questioning what you’re doing and what’s happening, and you just hope you’re doing an okay job.
…Now let’s introduce a global pandemic. You prepared for baby blues and sleepless nights, and frequent visits to the pediatrician in the early weeks. You did not prepare for face masks, gloves, limiting family in the delivery room, being tested for a virus so you can deliver your baby, canceling new baby related celebrations, the list goes on.
It’s incredibly difficult at this point to identify if what you’re experiencing is typical postpartum moods and adjustment and what is due to the health crisis. Not to mention, there’s a chance the self care and support you had arranged for yourself and your family has just been obliterated by the social/physical distancing mandate. Things once planned include: Family and friend visitation to meet the new baby, your own medical care such as your six week OB appointment and anything else you hoped to accomplish during you maternity leave.
Normalcy And Grief
It’s okay to question what’s normal right now. You would be questioning this regardless. It’s understandable if you’re worried and wondering how you plan to take care of you now that your original plan can no longer exist. So first, you need to grieve. You need to cry and be sad for what you were expecting this time to look like and feel like vs what it actually is. You are allowed to feel the grief and sadness, whether it’s over a canceled sip and see, or your mother or best friend not being able to be by your side in the hospital, etc. You are allowed to feel this.
Your first few weeks at home may be looking different: the in-home support you thought you would have may not be able to happen. You and your partner need to talk about your plan B. How long can your partner extend their parental leave to make up for the missing support? If you are home while your partner is work from home, what kind of schedule can the two of you create to help break up your day so the bulk of parenting isn’t completely on you, so you can rest and recover? How can the two of you team up and take turns getting the gift of sleep? Is there one of you who is a more sensitive sleeper? Perhaps one of you is more of a night owl? These are the logistics that will need preparation and ongoing reviewing and tweaking.
It is also completely understandable if you and your partner are discussing if a primary outside family member can safely enter your postpartum quarantine bubble. Perhaps you have a healthy parent or sister who has been self-quarantining properly, and the three of you are considering your own modified group quarantine to allow more support in your home during this time. This is up to you. We are not in a black and white situation in the time of COVID. Nothing about parenting and postpartum is ever black and white. Consult with your OBGYN about your worries and that you’re considering the safest way to allow a family member in your quarantine bubble. Most likely this isn’t the first time your Doctor is hearing this, and will have a few thoughts and ideas for you to consider to help you make your own decision.
The Gifts Of This Crazy Time We Are In:
Everything is virtual at this time. There are plenty of online support groups for new moms and dads, and support for families during COVID. You were already going to need to hunker down with having a newborn anyway. Yes, it’s not perfect; there are many losses you will experience due to the quarantine, but this is kind of good timing. COVID is also an automatic boundary in a way. COVID is your very legitimate excuse, preventing too many visits from too many people, for long amounts of time. You were already going to miss out on a lot of social opportunities with having a newborn anyway, now you’re not alone. Everyone is sitting at home missing out. Your baby has no idea what is going on. Your baby is going to eat, sleep, and poop wherever they are regardless. As long as you can feel as comfortable and safe as possible in this major shift, then your baby will be comfortable and safe too.
Things You Can Do For Yourself During This Time
Organize your supports now. In the time of COVID it’s time to get scrappy and creative. Arrange for zoom check ins with friends and family, if possible have your partner organize this so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Arrange for a few appts via online: Talk to a postpartum therapist as a way to monitor your well-being and this way you are ensuring yourself a heathy outlet for what you are going through, sign up for a zoom meditation and breathing workshop. Make a list ahead of time of self-care ideas that you can easily apply throughout the day: hydrate, go a for a walk, take a bath or hot shower, connect with friends online, etc. Outside of virtual help, consider having visitors without breaking social distancing guidelines. Picture this: Baby is down for a nap, and your mother/neighbor/sibling (who has been quarantining at 100%) comes by for a visit outside. Maybe you take a seat inside your home and the two of you enjoy a lunch together that was brought they brought with them, while you have protection and a barrier of a screen door, Or the two of you meet for a brief get together outside with 6-8ft and masks on, just so you get a little break from the monotony of caring for a newborn. Please remember, absolutely only do this if you and those around you are completely comfortable with this idea. Feel free to run it by your OBGYN if that helps you. If you’re not ready, it’s completely understandable and okay. Social distancing doesn’t have to stop friends and family from checking in on you daily, or from having groceries or meals dropped off for you. You can even arrange for a daily FaceTime visit with your go-to person, Create a fun routine around it- maybe they send lunch your way so the 2 of you can eat lunch together ran catch up virtually, or maybe every morning for your baby naps while you drink coffee break, you and you go-to person have a check. COVID does not get to stop connection. COVID does not get to stop you receiving and asking for help as a new mom in need of help.
You were already going through a monumental change in your life, and then the universe decided to double down and throw COVID in the mix too. This is incredibly unfortunate timing. You were likely robbed of part of your birth and postpartum experience. You are allowed to own that and feel it. Don’t make excuses for your feelings, don’t try and dismiss them by saying “oh but bigger things are going on and I’m just being selfish.” Allow yourself this. It also helps to talk to other women in the same situation. It will help you feel less crazy and less alone. This will absolutely pass. But for now your strength and resilience is being tested like it’s never been tested. What will come out from all of this chaos is one strong, bad ass mother. This is scary, but you and your baby will be okay.
Please don’t go through this alone. Help is available. Reach out.