my daughter Winnie was born on February 13, almost exactly one month before the world shut down for the coronavirus pandemic. little did we know, that having my mom bring Lucy to the hospital to meet her sister, would be “a thing of the past” just a few weeks later. little did we know, a month later, many women would have to wear masks while giving birth, and some would even have the difficult experience of giving birth without their partner present. leading up to Winnie’s birth, and in the immediate weeks afterwards, we had no idea the magnitude of how life would look so very differently than what we had planned or expected. I assumed the normal stuff – lack of sleep, breastmilk stains, challenges of juggling a toddler and newborn, etc. but how could I have known what the world would become by mid-March 2020. the feelings that I’ve had the last couple of months have been OVERWHELMED AND DISAPPOINTED. And the heaviness of GRIEF. I’m grieving the “what should have beens” and “what should have happened”. In the midst of all of those very strong and valid emotions, I’m trying to find slivers of infinite gratitude too. It’s so important to acknowledge that what you’re feeling is real and valid and THIS IS HARD. Being grateful doesn’t erase or ignore the hard parts of life, but allows you to see both the beautiful and the hard side-by-side.
I love this quote: “During times of stress and uncertainty, we are wise to rest in what is certain and and savor ordinary joys. It can seem wrong to seem grateful or joyful when so many people are suffering and scared. But it’s incredibly useful, practical even, to practice gratitude during tough times. A gratitude mindset supports or mental health and wellbeing. This is how we renew our energy to keep going.” – Dr Carli Kody
A quick note about being overwhelmed. Of course, I think we are all overwhelmed by what’s happening in the world and the information overload. But, if you’re anything like me, you might be overwhelmed by your emotions, especially the conflicting ones. It can often be easy to feel like what you’re going through isn’t “as bad” as other people’s experiences. I’ve often thought – at least I had Winnie before covid! At least my husband has a flexible job! At least XYZ, XYZ, XYZ. At first I didn’t allow myself to acknowledge that my own experience was traumatic even if it wasn’t “as bad” as someone else. In reality, my struggles during all of this are very real too, even if they don’t look like someone else’s experience. What is hard is different for all of us. It’s been incredibly important for me to acknowledge my OWN experience in all of this, and sit with those feelings. I’d encourage you to remember the same – what YOU are going through is hard and important to acknowledge and process, even if it looks different than someone else’s experience.
I shared my thoughts on disappointment in this post. My life with a new baby doesn’t look like I expected and that sucks. I was looking forward to soaking up Eric’s paternity leave with brunches and brewery visits. I was looking forward to family road trips and visiting my family for Easter and going to San Francisco in May. I was looking forward to my 83-year-old grandparents meeting newborn Winnie, their eleventh grandchild. I was looking forward to birthday parties and baby showers. I was looking forward to my sisters visiting me down here. I was looking forward to friends and more family getting to meet Winnie in her newborn days. Before Winnie was born, we talked about going back to Morocco this spring and doing another international family vacation in the fall and we won’t be traveling internationally this year at all. Disappointment has been the big overarching feeling – I’m just bummed about everything I expected to happen that didn’t/won’t happen and that’s been really hard for me. 💔
It’s been helpful for me to acknowledge grief during the pandemic. There’s a lot of loss and that loss looks different for everyone. There is a collective loss – we are all losing something – but a very, individual, personal one, too. I personally fall in the “mama with new baby” category below, and one huge thing I’m (still) grieving is what I expected life to look like. It’s helpful to know that grief can have a purpose. The four “tasks” of grief are below, and it’s been helpful for me to really reflect on all of them and how I’m grieving during these times.
- accepting the reality of the loss
- feeling the emotions – sadness, anger, fear, loneliness
- finding a way to connect to what or who was lost
- adjusting to a new normal
Lastly, I’ve tried to remind myself THIS IS HARD, AND I CAN DO HARD THINGS. That isn’t supposed to be a “rah-rah, everything is great” mantra, but instead an acknowledgement that what we are experiencing collectively and individually is so, so, so hard. And while none of us have lived through a global pandemic before, we have done hard things before. Remember – what’s hard for me might not be hard for you. But try to think back on different moments or chapters of your life that were particularly challenging. I’ve had quite a few — and now I’m on the other side. Reminding myself that THIS TIME IS HARD, but I’ve done hard things before, and I will do this ‘hard thing’ right now. And come out stronger from it.
to the mamas with new babies, are pregnant, or trying to start or grow their families during a pandemic
to mamas with new babies:
the first few weeks and months of postpartum have a lot of highs and lows anyway, without the added layers of covid-19. your body, no matter HOW you gave birth, went through a traumatic experience to bring your baby into the world, and needs time to heal. even without a global pandemic, your mind is going a million miles per hour worried about every little thing that your new baby is doing. add on the anxiety of worrying about what will happen if you, or even worse – your infant – gets the virus…it’s just A LOT. motherhood is so much less isolating when you are surrounded by others, and while it’s possible virtually, it’s not quite the same. regular activities you may have planned on, like mama + me yoga classes or taking your baby and ‘big kid’ to the library or museum or meeting up with friends, are no more (or look VERY different). things you may have anticipated happening – meal trains and that first time your grandparents meet your baby and friends dropping by with surprise gifts for your little one – might not have happened. grieve that the experience looks differently than you imagined. one of the very saddest things is seeing this child you love with your entire being grow so quickly and not having your family and friends get to experience him/her in person. you have this tiny, perfect baby and even if people do get to meet him/her, it’s likely through a glass window or with a mask on or with your mind always replaying the same questions “is this safe?! are we making the right decision?!” there is a lot of disappointment in this phase not looking like you planned or expected and it’s important to grieve those missed experiences.
I’m sorry your postpartum experience and the sweet, fleeting days with your newborn don’t look the way you expected. it’s okay to be disappointed and it’s okay to be overwhelmed. you are not alone. 💛 I hope that when you look at your new baby you’re reminded of all the light and goodness in the world, despite the hard and scary stuff, too.
to pregnant mamas and those giving birth soon:
I’ve been thinking a lot about you. covid-19 is overwhelming and anxiety-inducing for just about everyone, but there are already so many unknowns in pregnancy and I’m sure that this adds to the mental and emotional chaos. finding out you are pregnant, and especially those first few weeks, can be super anxiety-filled, and, a global pandemic on top of that is a lot to process. information and ‘rules’ seem to be changing all the time so the conflicting new information is A LOT. all of the experiences you likely expected to have during this time – a baby moon, maternity photos, prenatal massages, a baby shower, showing off your adorable growing bump – won’t or didn’t happen, at least not the way you initially planned or wanted. you are having to do a lot, if not all, of your prenatal appointments by yourself. a time that is supposed to be celebrated and surrounded by your partner/family/friends might feel extra isolating, which adds to the worry and sadness. and, what you envisioned your birth to be might look different. many hospitals make you take a covid test before giving birth, require masks even during labor, don’t allow you to have additional visitors or photographers, etc. – this is likely very different than what you pictured your labor experience to look like.
I’m sorry your pregnancy doesn’t look the way you expected. it’s okay to be disappointed and it’s okay to be overwhelmed. you are not alone. 💛 I hope that the growing baby in your belly reminds you of all the hope in a dark, scary world. I hope that you know that your birth experience is just one piece of a much larger life story for both you and your baby.
to the mamas trying to start or grow their families:
there are many people, friends of mine included, who are longing to start or expand their family and the timing with the pandemic altered their plans. your journey to having a baby has already been complicated and stressful and bumpy, and the pandemic is adding to that in so many ways. I know that seeing other people’s pregnancy announcements just adds to the pain and unfairness of it all. when you’ve been hoping and praying and trying to have a baby for months and then your fertility clinic closes for an unknown period of time — that is worth grieving. when you’ve been hoping and praying and waiting for a child and your adoption plans get put on hold — that is worth grieving. when you’ve been hoping and praying and trying to have a baby for months and tests are getting delayed and procedures are getting pushed and everything is taking longer than you want — that is worth grieving. when you have a miscarriage during the pandemic. 💔 there is absolutely NO ideal time to have a miscarriage – but having one in the middle of a pandemic…having to get COVID tested before your D+C, having to go to surgery alone, not being able to see friends afterwards, the medical bills that still pile in like everything is “normal” — that is next level immensely traumatic and absolutely worth grieving.
I’m sorry your journey to start or grow your family has been put on hold and I’m sorry for your loss. I’m sorry you are experiencing so much heartbreak and pain during an already very difficult time I’m sorry if you feel stuck in an uncomfortable period of waiting. it’s okay to be disappointed and it’s okay to be overwhelmed. you are not alone. 💛 I hope that you feel surrounded by love, support, and encouragement while you are in the waiting.