I Can’t Go Back to Normal

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I was scrolling through Facebook. I saw pictures of family vacations, date nights, parties. Then I saw one picture of a friend at the movies with her kids and the caption read: “Let’s keep things normal” and it honestly broke my heart. Things look so normal on social media, but my life doesn’t look like that.

I can’t go back to normal, but I’d like to.

My children have spent almost their entire lives in the midst of the pandemic.

We welcomed our second daughter early this year. Here we are introducing her to family on FaceTime.

My daughter was just barely one when this started. She wasn’t walking, or even sleeping through the night. We were just starting to get out of the fog of the first year. I couldn’t wait to take her on adventures and meet new friends on playdates.

Then the pandemic hit. Lockdown started. Shortly after, we found out we were expecting our second. We continued to be cautious because we didn’t know much and being pregnant is being at-risk.

I can’t go back to normal yet, but I’ve tried.

I signed up to receive the vaccine the very first day I was eligible, so I could pass antibodies to my tiny baby.

I poured my breastmilk into my toddler’s cup, hoping it would offer her some protection too.

Even so, little kids like mine can’t get vaccinated. They can’t stay six feet apart from others. They don’t do well with masks.

I see constant reminders of how not “normal” things are. Small things that sting my heart and tell me: This is not how it’s supposed to be.

My baby has never gone to the doctor without looking at masked faces. When she gets her shots at her wellness checks, I hold her close, but cannot kiss her. My own mask is in the way. This is not how it’s supposed to be.

When we’re playing on the playground, I sometimes find myself thinking “Are the kids getting too close?” This is not how it’s supposed to be.

I took my oldest daughter to a store the other day for the first time since she was a baby herself. She stood in the doorway, unsure of what to do. She roamed the aisles holding my hand, wide-eyed, not sure where to look. After a few minutes, she looked up at me, overwhelmed, and said “Mama, pick me up.” This is not how it’s supposed to be.

We’re planning our first trip on a plane since the pandemic began. Here we are “playing airplane” and practicing with a mask and a face shield with our toddler. We plan to do this a few minutes every few days to help her prepare for the plane ride.

I can’t go back to normal. I’ve never known a pre-pandemic world with kids.

Growing into motherhood during a pandemic is exhausting. It’s sad, and it’s incredibly lonely.

New experiences that should be fun are instead carefully calculated. Benefits and risks are weighed. I can’t help but ask myself, “Is this worth it?”

Our families live far away. I so badly want to reach out to a friend, to build our village, but I think “better not, not right now.”

I wobble between “things are okay” and “things are not okay.” Between “this feels safe,” and “this feels dangerous.”

I’m frustrated. I know there are tools out there to help us slow the spread, but for whatever reasons, they aren’t being used. I see unfortunate politicization of public health and a divide that feels like it will swallow us whole.

I just don’t want anyone else to get sick. I don’t want anyone else to die alone. I want to keep my kids safe and healthy.

Am I the only one feeling this way?

I can’t go back to normal. Normal isn’t there for me anymore.

I recently read this article from The Washington Post, which explained the feeling perfectly:

“Mothers are often asked, ‘When are you going back to work, back to your old jeans, back to this sense of normalcy?’ and they’re looking at you like you have two heads because that’s not what they’re experiencing […] there is no going back. And they’re experiencing grief about the loss of the old-world order of things. They’re in this liminal, in-between place, this not-yet-to-be place.”

There is no going back.

We’re not sure of what the future holds.

We’re in the “in-between place.”

As much as I grieve what I’ve lost, there are also many moments where I’m grateful. Motherhood isn’t quite what I imagined so far, but my daughters are truly bright, radiant lights in a world that feels so dark sometimes.

I’m happy I get to be here with them at home where we feel safe. I remind myself that my kids don’t know any better. They aren’t missing anything yet. Children are beautifully resilient.

I am also strong. I am moving slowly day-by-day, learning how to parent in this strange world. Learning how to mitigate risk. Taking care of each other. Hoping that others are doing the same.

So, the next time you’re scrolling on social media, remember the people you do not see.

Remember the precautions and careful planning someone might have taken for their vacation or date night. Remember, those that are vulnerable, still at home, waiting. And remember those, like me, still unsure of how to move forward.

Remember this isn’t over yet.

I can’t go back to normal, but I’m living my new normal. I’m here in the “in-between place.”

And I’m praying that things will get better soon.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Rachel,

    This article hits exactly what I’ve been going through. My daughter was born a few months before covid and I feel and hear you. The postpartum care, child care, and mental load of being a mom are hard and then add in the pandemic. We don’t have family and friends close by and it makes even lonelier at times. I’m working on a project and finding ways to have more tools to help moms and children. If possible, I would love to schedule a call with you to brainstorm and gain some insights. Thank you for your consideration 💛💛

  2. You are not alone. I had my second child in Feb 2020 right as the pandemic hit. I quit my (healthcare) job, we moved cities for my husbands job, and I have not gone back. I just had my third child this summer and it is difficult. It’s so difficult to not go back to doing what I love because I can’t imagine putting my tiny baby in daycare, hard to not schedule play dates and find new friends in a new city. Just all difficult. You are not alone, and I appreciate you sharing this article. I feel every part of it. Praying the same.

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