A Letter to Myself, A Mother During COVID-19
Whether you’re pregnant, still in the baby haze, or raising a small child, life during COVID-19 is not easy for a mother at any stage. The day-to-day details may look different, but the exhaustion, fear, frustration, and profound gratitude are universal.
Life feels pretty surreal, huh? People keep referring to the “new normal,” but nothing has felt normal for a really long time. Since getting pregnant over a year ago, every month has felt further away from life as you knew it.
Whether you’re pregnant, still in the baby haze, or raising a small child or children, life during COVID-19 is not easy for a mother at any stage. The day-to-day details may look different, but the exhaustion, fear, frustration, and profound gratitude are universal. You see that all around you. From your neighbor with a toddler who runs up and down the street twice a day, an acquaintance taking her birth preparation classes online, and one of your best friends who is somehow finding the time to work a full time job, homeschool a kindergartener, and still plan interesting activities every day.
It seems as quickly as you were let out of the newborn cage, you were forced back inside. There is no old life to mourn because you haven’t had an old life in so long. In some ways that’s been helpful; there’s no looking back, only what’s directly in front of you and not much beyond. You can imagine how much harder this would be if you had children who were older; all of you trapped in a house grieving your independence.
No matter how old your child is, there just isn’t bandwidth for introspection. It’s a bit overcrowded sharing the physical and mental space with your child, partner, and work deadlines. There is no downtime. No room for self care beyond the occasional bath after the bedtime stories. Every nook and cranny of time and space needs to be maximized to accommodate the sheer volume of work, childcare, and endless cleaning.
Every day feels exactly like the day before. Closing the curtains three times a day for naps and bedtime you think, “Wasn’t I just here? Didn’t I just open these?” The amount that needs to get done in a day is exhausting. In a previous life you would frequently lament, “I am so tired.” But, now you know the truth. You were never really tired. It was just something you said to fill a pause in conversation. It was something you thought you felt. Now you know what tired truly feels like.
You would love to be bored enough to make your own bread.
You would even settle for enough time or mental energy to be properly anxious about the state of the world. You only have enough to give to the tiny microcosm that exists within the walls of your home. To shoulder one more iota of worry would break you. It’s already asking too much of yourself to worry about what would happen if G-d forbid you or your partner get sick. Who would care for the baby? What if you were hospitalized and not allowed to see your child? What if the baby gets sick and you can’t be there to hold him? And those aren’t even the worst case scenarios that run through your mind.
When your son was born, you didn’t fall madly in love like Instagram said you would. How could you? You didn’t even know this new person. But, you did feel an immeasurable urge to care for and protect him. As your love has grown, so has the intensity to keep him safe. The fear grinds you down.
The repetitiveness is grueling. Most of the world has been isolating for two months, but you’ve been doing it since last September, holed up on the couch in a closed circuit of breastfeeding, diapers, soothing, and napping with the occasional outing to a coffee shop. You’re equally well-prepared and well-worn of this exercise.
It’s hard not to feel resentful of the experiences being robbed of you, exploring new places with your child or accepting strangers’ squeals of delight over your pregnant belly. It feels silly to be depressed about not being able to push your baby around in his stroller at the zoo, having lunch with friends, or going away on a weekend trip when there are millions of people suffering. But, it’s valid. It’s OK to mourn the time you won’t get back and the experiences you’ll never have with them small. They’ll never be this age ever again.
And yet, in what you’re losing, you also see what you’re gaining. This time is not all frustrating, scary and stressful. In fact, it’s kind of nice. Life is simple. It’s quiet. It’s spring. You walk around the block twice a day and notice new flower buds on bushes, and regrowth on trees. You are learning the names of your neighbors and their dogs.
The routine is no longer a constraint, but rather a steady guide. You no longer have to feel badly about being tethered to the house, a slave to the nap schedule. There is no choice, and you aren’t missing anything.
How lucky are our children that they get to spend so much time with their parents? We’re learning how to parent together. Family time is every day, not just the weekends. How fortunate we are as parents to watch them grow, noticing and celebrating daily developments. For how many more milestones will we get to be so absolutely present and together as a family?
Every day you wake up grateful for work, grateful for everyone’s health. Every day is surreal. You have to remind yourself that you’re living a prophecy come true in more than one way. You’re somehow functioning on unprecedented lockdown during a scary open ended pandemic, and somehow… you’re also a mother. Both are wild. Both are unbelievable. Both will make you stronger.
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