Having a baby is a tender, beautiful and challenging time of a person’s life. Add a global pandemic to the picture and the hard parts become harder. Typical pregnancy nerves are heightened, labor and delivery has a new set of rules, and postpartum resources and rituals are forced to look much different. New moms are feeling a real sense of loss with how the Coronavirus has changed this special chapter.
Before giving birth in April, I had a mental breakdown after my 36 week appointment. Why is this happening now? How will I survive postpartum without all the resources? Will this black cloud always overshadow what is supposed to be a precious time for my family? Knowing stress was not good for me or baby, I forced myself to recalibrate my mindset and shared about it here. How can I acknowledge and accept my very real fears but not allow them take over? Zooming in on what I could control, rather than all of the unknowns during these uneasy times was my golden ticket. This shift in thinking ended up giving me a beautiful and empowering birth experience that I thought wouldn’t be possible.
Fast forward to postpartum and the same cycle repeated. During moments of extreme exhaustion and hormonal imbalance, I cursed this pandemic for what it robbed me of in the early months with our new baby. It may sound dramatic, but at the time it is so real. “If it weren’t for Covid, then ____,” became a normal sentence frame for me. I’d have more support from family and friends, I wouldn’t have such bad anxiety, I would feel more like myself, our family would be adjusting better. You name it, I blamed it. While at the time it feels good to vent, this game really just lunged me further into feelings of stress, fatigue and instability.
My husband taped the blog post I wrote from that time along with some motherhood affirmations around the house and it was the gentle reminder I needed. My mental state was not serving me or my family well. Another shift in mindset was needed, this time for postpartum in a pandemic. I had to ask myself a similar question again: How can I acknowledge and validate the very real downsides while also finding the good?
When I look for the positives in what feels like a really negative situation, I am careful to not replace one with the other. The downsides need to be validated before anything else, otherwise it’s easy to convince myself my feelings are silly and end up in a self-judgment spiral. By holding space for the emotion, I am able to acknowledge where it comes from and accept its realness to me. It is then disarmed just enough to process and eventually arrive at a steadier outlook on the topic, sometimes even finding something positive. Below I’m sharing the silver linings I found being postpartum in a pandemic, while first giving validation to the hard parts. I’ve also added a positive affirmation to reference and repeat when feelings of stress, sadness or loss about these topics return.
Downside: I don’t have in-person help when I need it the most.
Validation: Postpartum is hard enough, and doing it without outside help is even more challenging. It is so stressful to feel overwhelmed and not feel like there is an easy way to lighten the load.
Silver Lining + Affirmation: I have learned to ask for different kinds of help and advocate for myself when I am struggling. The absence of in-person help has given me a unique opportunity to see strength in myself I did not know was there. I have proven to myself that I am capable of much more than I realized. I appreciate my newfound strength and I am proud of myself for being so adaptable, resilient and patient.
Downside: On top of trying to adapt to my new lifestyle and identity as a mother, I feel the stress of the world with people dying, businesses closing, families hurting. Hearing all the sad and negative news everyday feels so heavy.
Validation: It is normal to feel like this is too much to handle. Big adjustments inside your home matched with sadness and uncertainty outside your home is a lot to process at once. You are not alone in feeling this weight.
Silver Lining + Affirmation: Through this stressful time I have learned to create boundaries for myself that I wouldn’t have created otherwise. I now understand how much social media and news is healthy for me and know how to monitor my exposure and use. I am in control of what I take in. I am proud of myself for prioritizing my mental health and setting limits that ultimately help me be the best mommy to my babies.
Downside: My family and friends have not gotten to meet or even hold Baby.
Validation: This is painful. A new baby is a cherished and beautiful time that brings family and friends together. The virus has robbed us of those picture perfect moments that I’ve dreamt up in my head.
Silver Lining + Affirmation: Not having visitors during this time has been kind of nice. It has given our family special and memorable time to really focus on each other and adapt to our new family unit. When our family and friends do meet Baby, it will be even more special. That emotional, cherished moment can and still will happen. I am thankful for the reminder to not take precious moments for granted.
Downside: My postpartum mental health is worse than it would have been if we were not living in a pandemic.
Validation: This pandemic adds new layers of stress and anxiety to a mother’s mental health. It is okay to feel angry or resentful about this. You are wise to recognize that it’s taking a toll on you.
Silver Lining + Affirmation: This experience has helped me be more aware of my state of mind and has helped me communicate my needs (to myself and others) better. I am setting an example for my children by being so in tune with my mental health. Taking care of myself is not only important, but necessary.
Downside: I can’t go to mommy + baby classes or see my friends with new babies. I feel lonely without in person community. Virtual only resources cannot give me everything I need.
Validation: This is a real loss for you as a social person who thrives on connection. It is normal to feel alone and sad about this.
Silver Lining + Affirmation: I am more connected and bonded to baby and my immediate family than ever before, perhaps more than I would have been if the pandemic wasn’t happening. While I have felt real loneliness, I have also felt real gratitude for these quieter, special times. I’ve gotten to know myself and my family in a different way. I appreciate what I’ve learned about myself and my family during this time. I am thankful for the opportunity to connect so deeply with each other.