Congratulations if you have just birthed your baby or are about to. This is a magical moment and feeling accompanied and supported through your birth as a mother in these uncertain times has never been more important.
You may be feeling worried, anxious, scared or saddened that you have to birth your baby during the COVID-19 pandemic. You may even feel cheated out of how you had imagined things to be. You are not alone in how you feel. Being a new mother can be challenging enough, without the added stress of having to isolate yourself and your baby from most of your loved ones and outside life. Any worries you may have are valid. We know this is hard.
Homing in on the positives and changing the way you face some of the negatives can shift your experience of being a new parent and empower you during these unparalleled times.
Overcoming the negatives
You and your family may be feeling disappointed and saddened that they’ll have to wait some weeks to meet your baby. Yet many new parents report feeling overwhelmed with visitors for weeks after the birth of their babies, wishing they’d established boundaries sooner. Alone time with your baby is invaluable, especially in the first few weeks, when you are getting to know each other, adapt to different rhythms and establish feeding, all whilst recovering from your birth. Family and friends can still feel very much present and engaged via video calls and they can offer help with shopping and bringing cooked meals – just remember to wash/disinfect all containers when you get them, wash your hands and heat or freeze the food straight away. And there is no reason why they can’t spend time looking at your baby through the window.
Most partners have very limited time with their new baby and women often feel robbed of that close company and support when they return to work. Partners who now have to work from home or who have been furloughed can see this new situation as an extended period of paternity leave. This extra time together could help you both feel more confident as parents, strengthen your relationship and deepen their and your bond with your new baby.
Access to the internet and social media means endless possibilities for communication and entertainment. Feelings of loneliness and isolation can increase anxiety and long-term stress, so it is important to connect with family and friends daily. Messaging can be OK, but texting can absorb a lot of your time and attention away from your baby and those you live with. Connecting via video call will gift those who cannot be with you live footage of your precious baby, while seeing their faces and smiles will increase your sense of safety and connection. We are social creatures and, when gatherings are best avoided, video calls can also introduce your baby to ‘village life’. You may notice how your baby finds the rhythm of your conversations comforting and soothing.
Spring is here and, with it, come longer days, blossoming gardens, the birth of wildlife and the promise of summer. Despite the difficulties of this situation, you can choose to feel fortunate that ‘lockdown’ did not occur in the darkness of winter and that you and your baby can enjoy the sunshine and the spectacle of nature from your home and on your daily walks.
A daily outing will help break up your day, provide you with exercise and maintain feelings of connection with nature and the outside world. You can keep your baby and yourself safe by going out at quieter times of the day and keeping to the social distancing advice.
How to cope during lockdown
- Think of covering your basic needs by eating nourishing foods, drinking plenty of water, doing some gentle exercise, getting daily fresh air and grabbing sleep whenever you can. Remember to freely engage in activities that you find soothing and enjoyable and which have no other goal than to make you feel good.
- Even during normal circumstances, adapting to change takes time. So, be kind to yourself, acknowledge how you are feeling and be patient. The situation we are currently experiencing is a threat to our normal way of life, so it is normal to feel anxious about it.
- For now, you can help yourself through this by trying to stay in the present moment as much as possible. The focus that you develop when you are attentive to what your baby is doing and experiencing will help you deepen your connection with him and reduce feelings of worry and anxiety.
- Having a rhythm in your life enhances your wellbeing, as it helps to regulate your metabolism, appetite and sleep. You can ‘shape’ your days by keeping meal and bedtimes regular and instil a sense of purpose and achievement by getting showered and dressed every morning. That said, flexibility and adaptability are important in your life as new parents, so don’t worry about letting go of rigid routines and flowing with the needs of your baby if you need to.
- Watching and reading too much about the pandemic can create increased anxiety in the longer term. To help manage this, try to check in on the news once a day only and choose reputable and official sources.
- Unfollow pages on social media that you feel add to your worries and set boundaries with people who regularly share articles. Choosing to follow pages that focus on helpful and uplifting material will help to minimise the sense of chaos.
- Now more than ever consider your self-care as essential maintenance.
Remember that this is temporary and that by following the official advice you are not only keeping yourself and your baby safe, but also those that are particularly vulnerable. By reinforcing this, you will find purpose and reason within the current challenging circumstances and feel an enhanced sense of connection with your community and the world. Now more than ever, we all have each other’s backs.