It’s hard to believe that I’m even writing the word, “pandemic.” That’s something I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be living through, and certainly not with a newborn (or two, in my case). Over the incessant cries of my sweet new babies the isolation is deafening. Just when I needed support the most, my safety nets were pulled from under me. I was left with no one to tag me out. It was when I turned to my fellow postpartum mamas that I realized we were all feeling the same way. We were alone, together.
I was fortunate to deliver before any Covid-19 related restrictions were in place. My spouse was able to be with me in the OR, our parents were able to meet their newest grandchildren when we arrived home, and I even attended the babies first two checkups without a masked face. Then life was turned upside down. Initially, if I’m being totally honest, a part of me was excited to have all social plans canceled. It even felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. Now we could simply focus on strengthening feedings and perfecting schedules. We could spend quality time adjusting to life as a family of seven.
Then I began to realize I was actually mourning quite a lot. My dad had only held our precious new babies once before the lockdown. Their baptisms were canceled. We weren’t able to show them off to friends. Yes, first world problems in comparison, but it was a bummer. In talking with four of my good friends, all who welcomed their own babies within weeks, some just days of mine I realized we shared a lot of the same feelings. Maybe you do too.
Two of my girlfriends, both first-time moms, spent years longing for a baby. In talking with them about how their postpartum experience was going I realized how heartbroken they were to not be able to share their new babies with the world. One friend who faced a rollercoaster adoption journey said, “we had waited so long and wanted to show him off, but couldn’t.” My other friend, who endured years of infertility and IVF said, “I would have really liked to see my mom friends. I spent a lot of time with my girlfriends when they had their new babies. I brought them food, I snuggled their babes, and I was really looking forward to feeling that companionship and support from my mom friends when it was finally my turn to have a baby.”
Another friend brought up some additional points, “…not being able to go see a lactation consultant, not having friends who are experienced mothers come over to keep me company and help out since my husband is still working,” she went on to say, “it has taken such an emotional toll on me/us not being able to introduce him to our family and friends, especially with him being our first.” I can relate to this, even though my two are not my first. I can see the sadness in my mother-in-law’s eyes. She wants to hold them before their newborn days slip away, and we’re completely helpless. All we can do is send pictures and videos and talk about the little milestones they are already reaching.
Beyond the grief of not being able to share our beautiful babies with the world there are the realities that we face day in and day out. Sleepless nights, endless feedings, burping, changing, soothing, rocking. Yes, most of us have a partner to share some of these responsibilities, but many spouses have to work both in and out of the home. This leaves the postpartum mom to sort through daily tasks, eyes burning from sleep deprivation and tears, with no outside support, and no end in sight. We can’t call up a loved one to sit with us or, better yet, sit with the baby while we rest or shower. Our trusted girlfriends can’t come by to swap birth stories over coffee while they take in our newest addition.
How desperately I would love to have a dinner out with my husband. I cherish all five of my kids more than I can properly put into words, but man do I need a change of scenery and to have a moment to just be with him. Beloved babysitters can’t come over, our favorite restaurants aren’t open. We’ve tried the ‘date nights’ in, but it isn’t the same. It all leaves me feeling just a bit, well, trapped.
I’ve found myself in a dark place from time to time. This isn’t how my postpartum was supposed to be. I feel like I’m being cheated out of moments I had dreamt of for my two sweet babies, who I fought pretty darn hard for, by the way. I’m grateful for the support we have received in the form of meals dropped off or ordered for us, gifts to keep our spirits high, and phone conversations that have kept me going on the difficult days. I’m also thankful my husband works for a company that has an impressive paternity leave and was able to work from home once his leave had come to an end. Frankly, I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have his physical presence each day, even if it’s only when he surfaces from his basement office in between calls.
Hopefully in sharing that other new moms are experiencing feelings of great loss in their postpartum experience, maybe a bit trapped, and overall helplessness in the wake of a global pandemic you, too, feel a little less alone. It is in times of great trial that mothers have continued to rise to the occasion. You will too.