As I’m sitting here at home, wrapped up in my newborn bubble (my little Ruby is only two weeks old today), I’ve spent a fair bit of time on social media- generally as I sit in one place feeding for multiple hours a day (yes, definitely waaaay too much time on social media!!).
I’ve been reading lots of posts and comments from pregnant mums to be about their fear & uncertainty around giving birth, & having a newborn in these unprecedented times.
There is so much unknown right now.
Plans are being turned upside down.
Recommendations & policies are changing daily.
And the collective is anxious.
Prenatal care is changing:
Many service providers are moving from face to face appointments to online & telephone appointments.
In some ways, this is actually super convenient, and the less pregnant women are out & about or in healthcare institutions, the less their exposure to others that potentially carry the virus. Which is an obvious positive. But it does at times feel far more clinical. There’s less chance to create a bond and there are some elements of care that simply can’t translate to consultations that aren’t face to face.
Birthing options have been affected:
Many hospitals are implementing restrictions on the people birthing mothers can have in the birth suite or to visit whilst still in the maternity ward.
In the hospital I just birthed in, birthing women are only allowed one support person in the birth suite with them now. For me, I only ever wanted my hubby at my births, but I do know some women that have hoped to also have others in attendance (mother, MIL, doula, birth photographer)- and many are grieving having this choice taken away from them. When many women envisage an empowered birth, it includes being able to make decisions around their birth experience. Having choices taken from you can have a very serious impact on mental health in the postpartum period.
Many hospitals have also banned more than one visitor on the maternity ward, and children are not allowed to visit anyone on the ward.
I personally see these measures as completely positive and I appreciate the fact that hospitals are minimising the number of people that are visiting these wards, but again, if you had envisioned siblings meeting for the first time in hospital for example, you may grieve your choices being taken from you!
Postnatal care & connection:
Just as prenatal care has changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, so too has Postnatal care.
Many appointments have moved online or are being conducted over the phone.
Children’s health services have cancelled in person appointments & drop in clinics (meaning in-person mothers groups, a great source of support for many new mums, are not being organised for the time being).
Women are being urged to stay home with their newborns & follow social distancing rules- all at a time when they are most vulnerable.
The thing is- we were never meant to navigate this period alone. We’re just not built that way.
We already know that feeling isolated, lonely, and disconnected are risk factors for developing post natal depression &/or anxiety.
I think we all also know that this distancing & isolation is absolutely necessary to keep ourselves, our little ones & our extended families safe. But it’s totally ok to admit that it absolutely sux as well!
I have to admit, if I was going through all this with Zac (my eldest), I honestly don’t think I would be doing so well. I was a ball of anxiety from about midway through my pregnancy, and I found the Postnatal period particularly hard. My thoughts felt heavy, and I relied on family for help- holding Zac so I could have a shower, helping settle him, being a voice of reason when my thoughts overwhelmed me, and generally just helping to break the monotony in my days & reduce my loneliness once hubby had returned to work, through visits and conversations.
I’m honestly feeling sadness & guilt over the fact that my little Ruby, and our families, will be missing out on this precious bonding time, which really should be full of copious amounts of newborn snuggles.
I’d also envisaged long walks along the beach, coffee catch ups, and having 3 days a week just Ruby & I, so I could soak her all in, and slow down a little (those that know me know switching off isn’t generally something I do well0. Instead, I’m home with 3 kids under 5, no peace & no downtime. Two weeks in & yep….I’m feeling a tad frazzled times! The fact we don’t know how long this will all go on for just adds to that sense of loss & uncertainty.
So…..in all of this, can we find any real positives? Is there a silver lining?
I actually can honestly say, for me at least, there is!
Being number 3 I have two other births & postnatal / newborn phases to compare to. I should also say that hubby is staying home from work at the moment & is likely to return to a very reduced workload of just a couple of days per week to continue to give me a hand & to minimise our risk of exposure- so our situation may be different to many others.
- With the whole family home (Zac & Isla are not attending daycare at the moment), this has been a really beautiful bonding time for us all.
- I’ve felt zero pressure to accept visitors or entertain, when I haven’t necessarily felt up to it.
- Not needing to be anywhere, I’ve really been able to focus on establishing breastfeeding this time around. No hurrying or cutting off feeds, no stress about being somewhere in time to feed, no worry about what to wear (for easy access) and knowing I can get myself comfortable ahead of a feed has really helped.
- It’s totally acceptable to sit with your boobs out for half the day at home.
- No one will know that my boobs are constantly lopsided! (Ruby only feeds one boob per feed!)
- You can wear your comfy loungewear allllllll day and no one will know.
- I’ve been able to completely focus on healing & nap or rest when needed.
I’m sure even these positive aspects will lose their shine as we move through self isolation for a longer period – and for me as I move through my Postnatal repair phases they will become less relevant.
I do think we should all be really aware of the fact that the times we are living through arena no way the norm. And it’s ok to admit that you are not doing ok. My tips for expecting mums & new mums not feeling like they’re coping with all that’s going on:
- Make use of all the online/ telephone support services available to you
- Look for online mother’s groups in your area. They may become in person groups once this is all over – and that sense of connection can be vital in the early postpartum period.
- Reach out & keep in contact with family & friends through FaceTime, zoom calls or using other video call apps
- Limit your exposure to the news/ media if you find it’s fuelling anxiety / stress / depression
- Allow yourself to feel ALL the feels, then work through them. You might do this by talking things out with your partner, a friend, or even journaling.
- Focus on nourishing your body with nutrient dense food
- Move your body daily- even if it’s just a short stroll around the block
- If the sun is shining, sit outside in your front yard, back yard or balcony and get some Vitamin D
- Set aside 5 minutes per day at least for meditation
And if you’re friend or loved one is pregnant or a new mama in these times- PLEASE- check in on them regularly! Keeping these connections strong, even when it’s necessary to use technology to do so, could make all the difference to someone that is struggling.
Stay safe & well everyone xxxx