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It’s 5 a.m. and my eyes squint as I look down to see a text from my best friend.
“That’s totally normal. He’s doing great. You’re doing great. You’ve got this!”
While her words comfort me momentarily, I can’t help but think nothing feels normal right now. I’m a new mom. My entire world changed the moment this little man was placed on my chest three months ago.
I remember the simple act of leaving the hospital parking lot was enough to cause some anxiety. Did we put him in the car seat properly? Did we buckle him in tight enough? Did we buckle him in too tight and now he can’t breathe? IS HE BREATHING?! Being a new mom is amazing, terrifying and overwhelming all at the same time. While you’ve spent the last nine months (sometimes much longer) picturing becoming a mom, nothing can truly prepare you for it.
Enter a global pandemic.
In the early days of quarantine, my inner dialogue went something like:
OK, this isn’t ideal but it’s going to be fine.
Swaddling this spider monkey of a baby will be the death of me.
I can’t believe this is really happening.
What’s going on with the curve today and when was the last time the baby pooped?
So, to recap: everything is closed, you can get fined for going to the park and all people are off limits.
Deep breath.You’re fine. The baby is fine. Everything is fine. Stop Googling “How to socialize a baby when you aren’t allowed to socialize with anyone.”
I AM NOT FINE. NOTHING IS FINE. WHAT GODFORSAKEN DAY IS IT? WHERE IS THE WINE?!?
Being a new mom is hard. Being a new mom in the midst of a pandemic is f—king H-A-R-D. In the blink of an eye, a time that was supposed to be filled with first experiences, visits from friends and memories made with family has been consumed by daily death counts, physical distancing and quarantine. Anxiety, anger, fear and sadness are emotions that I’ve felt on a regular basis since the novel coronavirus changed everything about my maternity leave.
Worrying about whether my baby pooped soon felt like a minor concern when the new reality was that every person who walked by or breathed near my baby was now a potential virus-carrying threat. Not only was I more stressed about my baby’s safety, but my outside support system had disappeared.
Friends who dropped by for coffee, spent the night when I was alone, taught me how to swaddle so tightly that he couldn’t escape or sat with me while I cried about feeling like I was completely in over my head, were now banned from entering my house. I repeat: no longer allowed inside my house. It felt like a cruel joke. My social connections were abruptly cut-off during a time when I wanted and needed them the most.
To make matters worse, this ban included family. Grandparents now had to stay six metres away. No more baby cuddles. No more one-on-one time with him while I ran errands. No more visits to their house. I can’t help but think, this is not how it’s supposed to be.
While living without connections to your friends and family is difficult, I’m left with the worst fears and sadness whenever I think about the year that could have been. All of the experiences that my baby will miss out on because of the pandemic. He won’t have a chance to hear the noise of a busy coffee shop or take in the sights of a grocery store. He won’t be able to spend time with my friend’s kids or meet new babies in yoga class. He can’t hang out in a park on a sunny day or stroll through the mall on a rainy one. He won’t learn to smile at strangers or get comfortable being held by someone other than his parents. There is an entire world waiting for him to explore and the most exciting part of his day is hanging out upstairs instead of downstairs during awake time.
Can you hear my new mom postpartum sobs through the screen?
Yet despite the pandemic fears and tears, my mindset has shifted in in the past few weeks. Because even in the midst of a crisis, there are lessons to be learned. Whether it’s because I no longer care about wearing the same sweatshirt for days or because there is literally nowhere we need to be, I’ve learned that sometimes you have to slow down to enjoy the simple moments.
Quarantine has forced life to become simple. Instead of rushing to feed him, change him, pack the diaper bag, buckle him into the car seat while he screams and get out the door in time to make a mom and baby yoga class, I’m spending my mornings on the carpet, sipping coffee and watching in amazement as my three month old tries to talk to us. I can say “us” because my partner is working from home, which means more time spent with the baby that he otherwise wouldn’t have had.
He’s been here to see the first roll, first smile and first attempts at talking. He’s been able to go for afternoon hikes and long car rides when the baby refuses to nap in the crib. I’ve realized that while my little guy might not be able to take in the sights of anywhere other than our house, the quality time he’s been able to spend with both of his parents is priceless. That’s how I’m choosing to view life in quarantine.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned becoming a mom during a pandemic is that you can struggle and still be strong. Has it been hard not having my friends around? Yes. Does it make me sad to think that our parents are missing out on time with this baby? Of course. Does it suck that we’re not allowed to leave the house? One thousand per cent. But I’m doing it. Even when it’s hard. Even when I don’t think I can make it another day. Even when the stress, anxiety and fear creep back in. I keep doing it, because I’ve realized that me “doing it” is all my baby needs. My love, my cuddles, my kisses and my time, is everything and more to him.
This crazy world that we’re living in will eventually return to normal. Friends will visit, grandparents will hug their grandchildren and in time I’ll be able to sit in a coffee shop and watch as my baby takes in all of the sights and sounds of the world that he didn’t know existed. And I will absolutely LOVE it.
Until that day comes, I’ve promised to be patient with myself when I’m having a rough day, pour myself a glass of wine at the end of the really difficult days and be proud of myself the rest of the damn time. Because motherhood during a pandemic is f—king H-A-R-D, but I’m doing it! It’s not the way I pictured the first year of life as a new mom, but I’ve learned that when life throws a curveball, I’m strong enough to handle it. And that lesson will serve me, my baby and my family far longer than this pandemic will last.
So, on this strange Mother’s Day, a first for many, forget about the stress of the virus, physical distancing, homeschooling or all of the things you think your kids are missing out on and just celebrate the amazing pandemic surviving mama that you are! And remember that you’re all those tiny humans need right now.