As if postpartum isn't hard enough already, we had to go and get pregnant in the middle of a pandemic. No one could have ever imagined we would be in this position for what it would take to grow and deliver a baby, but women ALL over the world were faced with the intricacies and challenges of getting pregnant, having a baby and the aftermath of all of that, in the middle of a global pandemic.
The virus is out of control, we aren't clear on how you catch it, it's impact on newborns and it seems every day the standards are different. Researchers are finding an increase in anxiety and depression and it can be challenging to navigate the "4th trimester," during a time when there are so many unknowns, but whether you have a plan or not, navigate you must.
As I am three weeks into postpartum with my 3rd child, I am coming face to face with just how taxing this experience can be especially when how we function day to day is directly opposite of how one would spend their time after having a baby. Social distancing and quarantine has made it difficult for friends and family to step in in traditional ways, and many of us haven't hugged the most important people in our lives in over a year.
During a time where support is key, we are learning how to survive in our new normals and that can come with a ton of grief and disappointment.
I don't know that I was even fully prepared for what this time would feel like. Because I am not new to this, I figured that I would be okay, but I hadn't considered just how isolating and lonely this time could be without the things I had come to know to happen after giving birth.
There's an emotional burden that the pandemic has brought on and things would normally be full of celebration and excitement have been a major let down.
No gender reveal parties. No baby showers. No sip and sees. Unless you have a pod in place, you are mostly alone and that is NOT how you are supposed to come into motherhood.
As I am walking out my my own postpartum season, I have jotted down a few things that have been helpful in making sure I am taking good care of myself in the midst of loving on everyone else and wanted to share them in case another mama might need these reminders on her journey.
All easy & simple ways to protect yourself as you walk out your pandemic pregnancy and postpartum period.
1. FEEL YOUR FEELINGS.
There are so many BIG feelings to navigate after giving birth AND then you add walking through postpartum during the pandemic and it can be a bigger than we can handle. Sometimes you feel the "feels before you even have time to process what it is that are actually thinking about. So feel your feelings until you can name them. When you can give them a name, sit down and talk it out with someone who will listen.
Initially, I felt sadness, but it wasn't until I leaned into what I was feeling that I was able to say I was disappointed by the lack of excitement around my baby that COVID brought on. It felt like the excitement lasted as long as it took push her out and then it was over. There was no celebrations, no stopping by to meet the baby, no pomp and circumstance. Those feelings led to loneliness and I just needed to be able to say them out loud.
" I am sad and coming face to face with the reality that this is my last baby and I feel like I am grieving."
" I feel like I am overlooking a child because I am exhausted and consumed with giving the new baby what they need and I don't want to fail as a mother in their eyes in this season."
Once I was able to name the "feeling," I was able to address whether what I was feeling was real or by circumstance, and then put a plan in a place to combat the feeling or to address the truth about them.
Ways to lean into your feelings:
- talking them out with someone you know, trust and love & who loves you in return
- brain dumping (writing everything you feel on a paper until you get to something that hits)
2. SWITCH UP YOUR ENVIRONMENT.
Because we are in a pandemic, it can be tough to move about as we are use to and every day starts to feel the same as the one before. I live in Washington state and almost everything is closed down and restaurants are takeout/delivery only, there are no recreational centers open and the weather is awful, so I am really feeling the difference with this new baby ( 3 weeks postpartum) and what has felt like Groundhog's Day the last 11 month. Isolation is at an all time high. If you are like me and cannot get out the way that you have in the past, create a space or time in your routine to switch up your environment a couple times a day. The change of scenery will make you feel less "stuck," offer a break in the day from the monotony routine and hopefully will
Ways to switch up your environment: - get outside for a walk for at least 30 minutes a day
- create a NEW space that feels peaceful, beautiful and uplifts & motivates your spirit ( a nook for work, a nursery, a corner in your house to meditate)
- can't switch up a room? buy new pillows or a new bed set, switch up the scent and what you are smelling in your environment
- hang out near a window with a candle
- change around the decor in a space that you love with images that are peaceful or inspiriting
Have a place in you home or a social-distancing location outside where you can retreat and find renewal in the midst of all the changes happening in your life.
3. CREATE A NEW VERSION OF COMMUNITY.
You can't see your people and that can be really tough, but you can create a new way to connect with them. Don't underestimate the power of "help," and accept it in every way possible. You are not an island and you do not have to do it all. Accept the dishes/ laundry help. Let people take your other children and spend time with them. Utilize the beauty of technology. Make the simple things special.
Ways to create community:
- Create a postpartum plan prior to deliver that addresses overwhelm/ loneliness - create a pod of people who can come and see you
- Try to get dressed and shower daily so that you feel ready and able to connect and touch in with people (for the unexpected pop ups in real life or virtually)
- Lean into the interruptions and take the pressure off
- FaceTime friends - and schedule the video chats and calls like you would coffee dates and movie nights
- Make simple things special ( make meal time fun, or shower time about self care rituals, or establish a relaxing night time ritual)
- Connect virtually with new moms online and start a community to support and exchange stories
4. CHECK IN WITH YOURSELF.
Take the time to stop and pause, in the midst of all of the changes, and do a temperature check of your own physical body, emotional/ spiritual and mental health. As women, we go and go and go and we "get used to" functioning in janky situations JUST so we can get it all done, but now is not the time to be a superhero. This pandemic comes with its own very heavy baggage and moving through that and dealing with a new baby brings its own challenges. So take the time to stop and honestly check in with yourself. Once you figure out how you are feeling, put a plan in action that addresses those feelings.
Ask questions like:
"How can I accept help for myself today?"
"What is it that I am really feeling right now and what are those feelings attached to?"
"What can I get done today that will make me feel accomplished?"
and remember to eat and sleep. So much of what we are feeling can be solved with a little bit of food, hydration and a good nights sleep.
It's also important to note: know the difference and the signs of "feeling down," "baby blues" and "depression" and if you find yourself struggling. If sadness or baby blues doesn't improve after two weeks, find a trusted friend, medical provider and seek help.
5. LEAN IN & ENJOY IT.
Let's face it, babies grow FAST. As inconvenient as this pandemic has been, it has definitely shined a light on what is most important and as hard as it might be to slow down and live with such uncertainty, how we spend our time matters, and using it to snuggle and sniff a baby is a pretty sweet deal.
Staying still and doing nothing can feel lazy, but what an opportunity to get to know your new little one? The newborn phase goes so fast and before you know it you're planning a 1st birthday celebration. So take this sacred time, lean in and take the time to get to know your baby and let what's happening "out there" take care of itself.
Ways to "lean in" during postpartum:
- journal every single day of the first year
- take a picture/ video a day for a short film/ scrapbook for your baby
- do everything slowly
- welcome interruptions
- if you have multiple children, take the time to have intentional moments with each of them every day (so helpful to fight mom guilt especially when your children all have different needs)
Life will take care of itself. It generally always does. Release yourself of the responsibility to make something happen during this time and just enjoy what is happening in front of you.
It is such a strange time to be going through something as impactful as a postpartum period during this pandemic, but it's also such a blessing and a gift - to have the joy of bringing a baby into the world during this time and honestly, the perfect distraction and motivation to maintain peace and harmony.
There is so much happening and so many people are experiencing so much during this time. Be sure to check in on your pregnant and recently delivered friends, your single friends, your friends going through divorce or separation, your friends experiencing illness or supporting a family member walking through sickness and those who have lost ones they love. We are all are feeling a bit of loss in one way or another and community is what need.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, do share it with them and if you have ideas, tips or tricks that helped you through your postpartum phase, throw them in the comments.
with courage and wisdom, for his glory,