Becoming a mother has truly been one of the greatest joys in my life, but I would be dishonest if I said the first few months weren’t challenging. There have been moments when I look at my baby with the utmost joy and literally feel like I could cry because my love for her is so intense. Then there are days when I’ve felt like I have no idea what I am doing and cry tears of frustration. While my experience as a new mama has been positive overall, the first few months were an emotional and physical roller coaster.
And then there was COVID.
COVID-19 started to make its impact on our family when baby girl was about three months old. I was JUST beginning to feel like I was developing a routine and figuring things out. I was finally starting to feel close to full physical recovery from childbirth. I was ready and excited to be out and about while on maternity leave, and we were just beginning to see people and explore new places. “You got this!” was a regular mantra that was finally becoming ingrained in my brain.
When the pandemic hit, I felt like I was taking one thousand steps backwards. Like many others, parents or not, the anxiety and stress brought on by the pandemic, hit its peak. Adding in all the new mama fears, frustrations, and anxieties that come from breastfeeding, lack of sleep, unstable hormones, just to name a few – started to feel unmanageable. I was also angry – angry that I couldn’t properly share the joy of our new baby girl with loved ones, especially my out-of-state parents and sister who are first-time grandparents and auntie. There has been so much that this pandemic has taken from all of us. It has taken so many lives and has taken precious time away that would have been shared with those who mean the most to us.
We’re halfway into the year, and here we are still living in what feels like a nightmare that we might never wake up from. Aside from the pandemic, our world has had many defining, life-altering moments. It’s history in the making. I can’t help but ask myself, “F***, what kind of world did I bring my daughter into?” There are still so many unknowns for when we will pull ourselves out of this pandemic, but one thing is for sure that this pandemic WILL end.
The biggest silver lining is that my company’s policy for employees to work from home has allowed me to get more time with my family. Instead of a two-hour/day commute, I can shift those hours to more time with my new baby and I am so grateful for that! Managing an infant in between work schedules was tricky at first, but now that our baby is in daycare (more on that later) we have been able to establish a routine and have a bit more balance.
It can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve learned that there will be good days and there will be bad days, and that is completely normal. Here are a few things that have helped me cope and adjust to mamahood during these unprecedented times:
- Getting in some “me-time”: I recognize that this is not doable for many, and I have my husband to thank for this. In the early days, my “me-time” was catching up on sleep or taking a shower but as baby girl has gotten a little older, my “me-time” has involved things like going for a solo walk in my neighborhood or doing a virtual “girls night”. Even squeezing in 10-30 minutes a day to do something small for myself was helpful for my sanity.
- Leaning in on my support system: I am so lucky to have a wonderful group of girlfriends who are also mothers. Vent sessions, which consist of just a 5-10 minute text chat has been really helpful. Knowing that I wasn’t alone, and that I had other girls to lean on has been such a relief and so helpful. Additionally, I had never tried online dating or networking before but I decided to try something different and join an app called Peanut, a social network for women throughout all stages of motherhood. I’ll admit I was skeptical at first, but I actually made a really good mom friend who lives nearby. Her daughter is exactly one month younger than mine, and it has been so wonderful to talk through each phase of development and share our journey of motherhood together.
- Seeing a therapist: There is so much stigma on mental health and seeking professional help, but I am such a huge proponent of therapy. And especially now, with COVID affecting taking a toll on the mental health of so many… It’s one thing to vent to your friends about issues you are facing, but seeing a professional who is unbiased adds a whole new perspective to things, and in my experience can offer really helpful advice and strategies on how to combat hardships you are facing. Again, I realize this is not something that is accessible to all, and I recognize that I am privileged to have this option.
- Getting outside: There is research that suggests that mood disorders can be lifted by spending more time outdoors. The pandemic limited my options for outdoor space, but I am lucky to have a backyard and a neighborhood to walk around in. During my maternity leave, I tried to get outside with baby girl as often as possible and went for walks in the neighborhood either in her stroller or with her in a baby carrier. And if you can’t get outdoors for whatever reason, listening to nature sounds can have a similar effect! In the very early weeks, when I was still recovering physically I would play soothing nature music during a warm Epsom salt bath.
While there is still so much for me to learn only seven months into my journey of motherhood, I have learned this – don’t forget to give yourself grace. The first few weeks are tough, but hang in there because with time, you will figure things out and it WILL get easier. To all my mamas and mother figures out there, you got this!