The Double Edged Sword of Being Postpartum in the Pandemic

I started writing this post about several months ago when we were not leaving the house at all - socially isolating - and I am just now getting around to finishing it. We are still staying close to home so some of this isn't exactly the same as it was then but I think you understand.

Being postpartum during this pandemic has been incredibly weird. I wrote a little bit awhile back about being pregnant during the pandemic but my whole pregnancy and postpartum experience has definitely been one for the books, as they say. We are "living in unprecedented times." I saw a meme the other day that said "I'd like to go back to living in precedented times!"

I've been relieved about not having to jump back into the kid's activities and sports and school events. When you're postpartum it's good to have time to rest and relax. And it would be nice to relax and rest but I have had kids who are bored and sad about everything being cancelled, so there's not a ton of rest going on!

As a stay at home mom, I'm used to being with my kids. But I'm also able to take a break when I need to, to participate in activities by myself, to go on date nights with my husband, etc. Thankfully we have a good sized house for them to spread out in and a big yard for them to run around in, when the weather is cooperating. Yes, there are days when we've all gotten on each other's nerves and bickered and yelled....but we've also played cards, finished up school work, played with toys and video games, had movie nights, tried new recipes...all kinds of fun things. 

As far as the postpartum period goes, I've been very fortunate that my husband got to spend the whole first month after the baby was born at home. He's never been able to do that and it was honestly amazing. I wish we could have done that for every pregnancy. However, the reason he got to stay home was because he was temporarily laid off! The day the baby was born, in fact! That was a bit unnerving but thankfully we had been trying to prepare and stock up before the baby was born so we have had some wiggle room as far as our budget has gone...and we aren't going anywhere or doing anything so we are saving some money there as well! (Update: he is now back at work full time.)

We've also gotten creative as far as date nights or alone time go:
  • Sitting in our vehicle outside our house for fifteen minutes or so while the kids are all together watching a movie in the living room, quickly scarfing down some takeout or drive-thru.
  • Putting the kiddos to bed and watching a musical together in our bedroom from The Show Must Go On or our local symphony orchestra's virtual events
  • Sitting in lawn chairs in our driveway after everyone has gone to sleep and looking up at the stars in the night sky.
As time has gone on, I've felt stifled at home and uneasy not being able to go anywhere or see anyone else. But conversely, I'm happy to be healthy and not struggling to take care of the kids while I or they are sick. We have a roof over our heads, food in our cabinets, clothes, books, movies, games, phones, computers...we are very fortunate. So I really hate to complain.

It's been crazy to log into my grocery app to order groceries (which I've been doing for years since I hate taking all the kids in the store) and to see "out of stock" on so many things, limits on certain things, seeing the grocery pick-up times all full, no baby wipes in stock, etc. As I said, we'd been stocking up somewhat so I wouldn't have to run around too much after the baby was born so that has worked out okay.

I've been happy to not have to hear everyone and their brother's opinions on everything to do with the baby...but then again I have family who haven't gotten to meet her still! Barely anyone has gotten to hold her, she's only been outside of our house to two doctor's appointments. I realize it's not the end of the world but it still seems odd.

I've definitely been using less fuel in our van and we've been staying safe at home, but I'm also missing out on the social connections and check-ins that are important to a new mom's mental health. My postpartum anxiety and depression have been flaring up and I've been struggling with exactly how to deal with it. Even though I'm a doula and even though I study maternal mental health, it still happens to me. I worry about others who may also be struggling with this, who may not have a very good support system, or who are afraid to ask for help - or during this time period who may not even be able to find help.

I'd just been getting to know some new friends before the pandemic and social isolation and I hate that I can't see or go out with them. I'm glad to be able to talk to them online and connect that way. But I miss face to face interactions. I suppose a positive from that is that we've learned a lot about communication online and Zoom meetings. We're fortunate to have different ways to stay in touch. My oldest son has learned how to do meetings on the computer and been able to play games together with friends through the xbox. He and I attended an online trivia game night and came in second place!

At the end of the day, I'm more than happy to stay at home and stay healthy. But at the same time, it feels incredibly odd. Does that make sense? I flip flop between being grateful and feeling anxious, feeling content and feeling stuck. And now as more restrictions are lifted but things aren't yet back to "normal" or as the laws/mandates themselves flip flop around, those feelings still persist. 

So what is safe to do? And what isn't? I see posts from other people acting like nothing has changed at all - they've been going to work and living life like nothing ever happened. Or worse, they say it's all made up. A friend of mine got the virus. I dropped off groceries at her house one day and I've chatted with her multiple times via text. She's doing okay now but it was really scary and she actually feared she might die. I see people arguing on Facebook back and forth about masks and laws and mandates and medical decisions and mental health and nobody is ever happy with the end result. I hear officials saying we need to get the economy back and people back to their normal activities but then I see health departments and disease researchers saying we need to be cautious and careful. I've spoken to families having to make hard decisions and agonizing about their children's and teacher's safety at school, trying not to lose their jobs while figuring out how to do virtual schooling and work. I see posts from people being outraged about their rights and posts from others who don't really care and still others who just say "if you're high risk, then stay home." Until when? Forever? What if you can't?

It all just makes my heart ache and my mental health take a nose dive.

I don't really know how to wrap this up other than to say I hope you're doing okay. Please stay healthy check in on your family and friends, wash your hands, social distance as required, wear your mask when/if you're out, and make sure you're keeping your mind healthy - whether that's through your support system, therapy, medicine, friends/family, art, music...whatever works for you. 💖

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