Mothering in the Time of COVID
Hi, all. Very quickly, let's address my absence from posting recently. I've had ideas for things that I have wanted to write jump into my head during brief moments of clarity, but those little lightbulb snippets of intelligent thought seem to have been repeatedly extinguished by the requests and needs of the tiny humans who reside in my home. We're all tired, but in different ways. My fatigue stems from the seemingly constant barrage of bad news, coupled with my general anxieties and fear of making the wrong choices for my family. Bailey is my name, and feeling overwhelmed is my game. I wonder and worry about the way things will be for our 11 month old as she grows. I see the physical and emotional fatigue that our 4 year old is facing. She acts out towards me more, undoubtably sick of my constant company. She understands why we are taking precautions, but still was crushed that her soccer season was cancelled. Cody remains our rock, returning home from work every day, bringing with him a reminder that we are safe, provided for, and that life still exists beyond the boundaries of this home. We're all just feeling a bit weary.
In the days where the weariness feels extra heavy, I can't help but to think about all of the mothers experiencing these feelings with me. It's not light work, raising the next generation. And while I know that historically, mothers have faced hard times and been resilient (because moms are seriously tough. as. heck, guys), I hope for the other mothers in my life that they are still managing to thrive amongst today's challenges.
Personally, I know that at I have had to modify how I fill my proverbial cup and maintain my peace while caring for my children almost solely in our home. My glorious, 60-minute workout while my kiddos were in childcare is temporarily gone, and I've been left to find other ways to care for my mental and physical health.
I often encourage my doula clients to think of hiring a doula as adding another tool to their tool belt. My presence alone isn't a guarantee that they will walk away with a satisfactory birth experience (though statistically, the presence of a doula does significantly help). What it does is add to their ability to face a challenging and emotional experience with more skills than they might possess without. Anyone who has done a DIY project can tell you that having the right tools can make the job easier, or at least less daunting. So here I am, in 2020, taking my own advice and making myself a modified mental toolbelt to make sure the days seem easier, or at least less daunting.
Hot tip: give yourself grace. ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE A FIRST TIME MOM, or a mom with a brand new baby. No one could have prepared you for this version of postpartum, and you are strong and impressive and very cool.
Below is my daily mental checklist for when I start to get a case of the crabbies. Let me also mention that these are basic, basic questions to ask yourself and that meeting your basic needs does not equate to 'self-care.' You are not selfish for caring for yourself in the way that you spend your days caring for others in your home.
Have you showered? Did you wash your face this morning? I am delightfully reminded how differently I feel when I able to wash my face and brush my teeth before the girls are up and in need of breakfast.
Have you moved your body today? The gyms might be closed, and those babies might not tolerate your at-home workout, and if you're in Phoenix, your feet and/or babies might melt if you go for a walk outside of the hours of midnight to 4am, but find a way to move. If you haven't exercised, stretch.
Have you had a meal where you weren't sharing with a tiny person or hovering over your kitchen counter shoving your face before your baby wakes up from their nap? If not, eat a meal. A real one.
4. Emotional + Community
Have you expressed how you're feeling to your partner, a friend, parent, or even a notebook? Do you have friend, or group of friends who are experiencing similar things who you can text? If so, use them! It's likely that those around you want to be supportive and helpful, but they also can't read your mind. Be specific. Tell them what you're feeling and how they can help.
If you're not plugged into support in your community yet, here are a couple of ideas to help get you started. If you're not in Phoenix, you may be able to join remotely, or there may be similar offerings near you.
Matresence 4th Trimester Planning & Support: If there ever was a time where preparing for postpartum is extra important, it's now. Matresence offers workshops for pregnant moms and their partners to educate them about the postpartum period and to equip them with the tools they need to feel supported and empowered throughout that time.
Virtual Support Groups: There are SO many of these popping up, and they can be a wonderful option for interaction and support. My friend Caitlin, a unicorn of a human and counselor specializing in Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders co-hosts My Tribe Tuesdays each week from 10:30-11:30am. You can sign up via Instagram by DM'ing @DocMomPsyD for the weekly zoom link. You can also find Caitlin's website here if you are interested in virtual counseling. Matresence also has an extensive list of virtual resources including other groups and even virtual prenatal and mom + me yoga on their website here.