The coronavirus pandemic has challenged us to leave our comfort zones, our bad habits, and anything trivial behind, pushing us to grow in so many ways. Collectively, we have all experienced an overriding sense of loss on multiple levels this past year and many of us have had to recalibrate our top priorities. With the birth of my first child last April, I was by no means immune to feelings of isolation, fear, and anxiety that the current climate brought upon us.
Entering a new chapter of life (during a pandemic)
When I was at the end of my third trimester in March 2020, it seemed like the world was coming to an end. My husband would listen to me rant and rave at the television every night demanding that the newscasters report on pregnancy during the pandemic. There was very little information on the subject back then. Frustrated, tired, and a ball of nerves, I awaited in panic and fear for the birth of our son who entered this world in early April.
The day that he was born was both the most beautiful and the scariest day of my life. It was smack dab in the middle of lockdown, that terribly isolating time in our collective memory. As I labored away for hours in a hospital bed, feelings of worry and sadness overcame me. I realized that there would be no celebration following my son’s arrival, no photos with the grandparents, no pomp and circumstance.
The maternity ward was almost completely cleared out when we arrived. There, we waited out my son’s first few days and my recovery from the emergency C-section. It was just before Easter, yet no one seemed to be around. Surely other women were having babies, weren’t they? The uncertainty and fear of the unknown were overwhelming.
Once rested enough to head home and start the long postpartum journey, my husband and I left the deserted maternity ward with our newborn son in tow. After a suite of FaceTime’s and Zoom calls to introduce baby to our nearest and dearest friends and family, the months of social isolation began to take their toll. It just wasn’t the same being new parents without the support of the proverbial “village.” I thought of our canceled baby shower. The missed opportunity for visits and family gatherings. The photo ops with loved ones that never came to fruition. All the “firsts” that we celebrated by ourselves without the presence of family and friends. It was a hard pill to swallow, but it was our reality and we had to make the most of it regardless of the circumstances.
And then the unthinkable happened.
My husband, who was fortunately back to work at the time, came down with COVID-19 at the end of June although we did not receive his test results until early July. We then began the long process of quarantining in our own home, in separate bedrooms, for a month, but this time with a now three-month-old.
Without a doubt, this was the hardest month of my adult life.
Quarantined to the nursery with my little one and our dog while my husband stayed in the bedroom, I would leave his meals outside the door and collect the dirty dishes after each feeding. The days were long. The separation was unbearable. Tired, defeated, and still recovering from my unexpected surgery, I came to realize that I could not count on help from the outside world to do this work. The strength to persevere had to come from within.
These are some of the lessons I learned from becoming a pandemic parent. They may apply to you during different stages of motherhood so take what you need now and come back as needed!
Lessons from becoming a pandemic parent
- Know that you’re going to be ok, you are enough, and you are worthy. Perfect is an ideal that doesn’t exist.
- Let go of circumstances beyond your control. Don’t sweat the small stuff. As cliché as it sounds, it’s true.
- Allow yourself time to grieve. Grief is a natural part of the process.
- Give children credit. They can recognize familiar faces, even those wearing masks.
- Have confidence in your abilities and your own strength.
- Be hopeful that one day we will be able to visit people and travel uninhibitedly.
- Trust that you are doing the right thing
- Understand that you know what is best for your child
- Show yourself some grace. We’ve all made mistakes and that’s ok.
- Practice patience. The pandemic will eventually come to an end one day.
- Nurture calm and fortitude.
- Respect others who parent differently. We wear masks but if y’all don’t want to, that’s cool. How about we Zoom?
- Expect the unexpected.
- Celebrate the small victories and daily miracles. You might have to look hard for them, but they’re there.
- Choose wisely. Shower, sleep, or eat while the baby sleeps is great advice.
- Believe that this too shall pass.
- Remember that nobody can care for your child better than you. Mama knows best!
- Go with your gut. Feelings are there for a reason.
- Give thanks for the blessings you have each and every day.
- Make time for yourself, even if it’s just a shower. You’ll feel better, promise!
- Create moments of joy.
- Keep up the good work, mama! You’re stronger than you’ll ever know.