I am nine months postpartum and nearly one whole year into a pandemic as a new mother to a beautiful baby girl.
Of all the things I’ve learned, the most important lesson is that we can and will acclimate in the face of unpredictable times.
In the wise words of Glennon Doyle, “We can do hard things.” We’ve been doing them all along, and we will continue to do them. When I doubt this, I remind myself of the three things I learned while becoming a mom during the onset of a lethal pandemic.
1. Cherish the small and intimate moments with my nuclear family.
Our baby girl was born in April of 2020, the beginning of the first COVID spike. Nothing went the way I imagined. My husband was not allowed to attend any of my final trimester ultrasounds. Visitors were not allowed at the hospital. We were devastated by the thought of not sharing this special day with loved ones close by.
It was especially hard when the hospital staff rushed my baby and husband to the NICU after my C-section. I had no one with me during that time. (This is when a visitor pass would have been clutch!). In the end, my daughter and my husband returned to our recovery room safe and sound and I was finally able to hold my baby girl for the first time. Having those quiet moments together as a family of three, without distraction, were priceless.
I will say, I missed my mother terribly during those long hours. If one thing is for certain, I’ll never be too old to need TLC from my very own momma. Facetiming her while crying hysterically from the recovery room (alone!) just wasn’t quite what we both had envisioned – sorry, Mom.
However, my husband and I are so grateful for those first few days of privacy and “quietness” as we went through all the “firsts” that new parents experience in that recovery room. Those are tender, exhausting, vulnerable, sweet moments that I’m so thankful we experienced together without feeling rushed or anxious. To the new moms and dads that navigate all of the lactation consults, feedings, audiology tests, vital checks, trips to the bathroom, the crying baby, and all the rest, while joyfully welcoming family and friends into their room; you are rockstars!
2. The support from your village is priceless, even when it’s from afar or through technology.
Having a meal provided by a loved one is quite possibly one of the greatest comforts you can experience during a time of emotional and physical exhaustion. This may sound dramatic, but the level of exhaustion we experienced in those first two months of parenthood was unreal. Having meals provided by caring friends and family was truly a saving grace for us. It allowed us to soak in every moment of newborn sweetness – and rest when we could get it – without worrying about feeding ourselves.
A very thoughtful friend set us up on www.mealtrain.com. This free meal train website made it incredibly easy for people to contribute in the way they felt most comfortable. There are options to provide home-cooked meals, take out, delivery, gift cards, etc. Another friend from afar sent us a meal from Spoonful of Comfort. I loved everything about this special delivery so much that I’ve since given it to several friends with “COVID babies.”
If you are searching for a way to offer an expecting family support, I highly recommend offering to set up a meal train for them. The whole family will be forever grateful!
3. Trust your instincts, Momma, and take your time.
As a first-time mother, I worried if the “maternal instinct” would kick in for me. I was scared and overwhelmed by the “limitations” COVID had placed on our pregnancy and birth experience, and I wondered if my instincts would rise to the occasion. To my surprise, the motherly instinct is very real, and despite all the COVID weirdness and uncertainty, I knew from the moment I met our baby girl, I was right where I needed to be.
I learned to be patient with myself, with our new baby, and my husband. I realized it was special and important to appreciate this uninterrupted time at home. Because everything was in lockdown for the better part of the summer, I was able to relax and savor the entire newborn phase.
In a pre-COVID world, I would have pushed us to get out for long lunches and “mommy and me” errands. I would have pressured myself to do all the things to “make the most” of my maternity leave. Instead, I did the opposite. I lost count of how many days – actually weeks – I went without driving a car or leaving our neighborhood. I relished daily strolls and her naps in the baby carrier. I’m proud to say I soaked up every second of my maternity leave.
I ultimately realized that the “limitations” I had feared all along actually gave me the freedom to do exactly what I needed to do for myself and my family.