So, you're having (or have had) a baby during the pandemic. Congratulations!!
Having given birth on March 13th, the exact day the NBA said we needed to get serious about COVID-19, I thought I'd take some time to provide a bit of a new mom pandemic survival guide.
The good news? You (we) will get through this.
The difficult news? It will not be what you expected. Becoming a new mom rarely reflects societal expectations, and with a whole new road map to society you may be feeling especially disoriented (I am).
So here are some tips on what to expect and some strategies for getting through new mom'ing in this new normal.
1) Be ready for sudden policy changes at your place of birth.
Parenthood is often about letting go of plans and expectations. For many of us that letting go starts during pregnancy and delivery. Health teams across Canada have been moving quickly to respond to changing information these past few months. Often policies are made swiftly and communication may lag. In my experience I had planned for my older son to cut the cord at the birth centre, yet we discovered that just three hours before while I was in active labour (and not checking email) the centre had been forced to deny visitors. I wasn't ready for that. I'm not sure how I could have been ready for that. But, try to get in a flexible head space if you can.
2) Plan to change diapers and do feedings in the car.
If you're out for a ride with baby it is more likely that there will not be a place to stop indoors. If this is a stressful proposition for you ask a support to run your errands for you, or take steps to make the experience more of an adventure than a nightmare. pack an extra top for yourself in case the 'in the lap' diaper change gets out of hand (out of diaper). Have some calming music at the ready if you feel overwhelmed. Park the car in a place that you deem to be safe.
3) Connect with other new parents.
It's critical to have community around right now. A community that you can laugh and cry with at the absurdity of things like I am mentioning in number 2. I recommend finding parenting friends through your network. Ask friends you know if they know others who will or have given birth recently and get an introduction. There are also many mom support groups staying active online such as Mommy Connections. Check them out and see if they work for you!
4) Talk about your needs with people you trust.
This may be a time when you feel even less keen to talk about any struggles you're having as a new parent. It is difficult in the best of times to tell others that not all things about having a baby are roses. Right now you may be doing some self talk about how your struggles are nothing compared to Vicki who got laid off or Verna whose grandma is in a long-term care home with an outbreak. But you are going through a gigantic moment in your life. One that also needs to be acknowledged and deeply supported. When you open up about your struggles, your loved ones may feel more welcome to do the same. Your well-being is critical for the well-being of your baby as well. If you've had a rough day, call out. If you're nervous about visits ask friends and family to drop off things you need at the door or ask a friend to throw a virtual baby shower or sip and see party. Chances are they're asking themselves how they could help you, don't be afraid to ask!
I had a good cry last week with a friend. It took months for me to form the words and say out loud that despite giving birth to a beautiful baby boy, I am also grieving. I am grieving the loss of community around my new baby and I am grieving not being able to have professional newborn pictures of him. If you are feeling loss take a pause to talk about it and connect with others. You are not alone and it is not selfish to grieve during this time.
6) Show your baby the world, and show the world your baby.
Get out as much as you can (safely). Get on video calls, even if it's just for five minutes to introduce your beautiful baby. For the first three months my son has only ever met people through video, and he has only been held by the three adults in our house. This is kind of heartbreaking (see 5). BUT last week at a distanced driveway hang a friend took a good few minutes to really gaze at my son. He told me how beautiful and heatlhy he looks. We discussed who in the family he takes after. We joked about his explosive poops. My mental well-being absolutely soared after that brief exchange. It is 'mother's pride' and I didn't realize it was something I was missing so badly. Despite loving all of the extra time our small bubble has had with my son, it is important for the wider community to coo and coddle (from afar).
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of ways to survive the pandemic as a new mom. But it's a start. What would your tips be for new moms during this time?
Photo by Rahul Pandit from Burst