maternity leave

Postpartum during COVID-19

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This isn’t the postpartum experience I wanted, but it’s the one I got. 

I thought that this time would be different. My first maternity leave passed by in a blur of sleeplessness and tears, not knowing if I’d ever figure out this mom thing. Or if I’d ever sleep again. I went back to work and had to figure out how to be an entirely new person, the working mom. 

Years passed in what felt like the blink of an eye. We finally decided to give our daughter a sibling, and we were all so excited about what was to come. 

I was calmer and more confident. We knew that this was our last baby, and I really wanted to take in the experience. I didn’t want to “miss it” this time around.  We had support systems in place and thought we knew what we were getting into. (Although can you ever really prepare for adding another kiddo?) 

I have health-related anxiety and have battled emetophobia for over twenty-five years. I was very nervous about having a second baby in general, but especially during the flu season. With the help of my therapist, I was as prepared as I was going to get. Our second daughter arrived on 2/23/20.

A week later her big sister got Flu A. One week after our oldest went back to daycare, we went into lockdown against COVID-19. It’s been 49 days with no one in or out. It’s safe to say our littlest lady has never known “normal” for our family.

This was not the postpartum experience I’d hoped for. 

I’ve spent nearly every day of her life worried about her getting sick. First with the flu, and then with COVID-19, a virus that seems to make the flu look fun. Postpartum hormones and the first weeks of this pandemic gave me a dose of almost debilitating anxiety.

I’ve worried about my milk supply alone, afraid to go to the lactation consultant at the pediatrician since my baby was gaining weight. Our doula (and other lactation support) is quarantined with family. Leaving the house for anything other than a dire emergency just wasn’t going to happen. 

I’ve worried endlessly about our doctor’s appointments. I canceled a one-month well check because I was afraid we’d pick up something else at the doctor. I couldn’t risk ending up in the hospital with a fever.

Even now, I struggle with fears over what would happen if I get sick. Would I need to be separated from my newborn exclusively breastfed baby? Could a virus derail our entire nursing journey?

Now that my hormones have leveled off and we survived our first trip out to the doctor, I’m *slightly* less scared. 

My baby will be 10 weeks old in two days, and now I’m mainly sad.

Sad that none of our friends will ever meet her as a newborn. Although I would have been nervous for friends and family to bring illness to our newborn, at least I thought I’d have the option for them to meet her.

Sad that she’s only seen her grandparents the first week of her life. This is our last baby, and it’s heartbreaking to not know when she will get to see her grandparents again.

Sad that I feel like I blinked again and have missed the first (almost) three months she’s been with us. Again wishing away the days. This time until we are through this pandemic, until she’s older and stronger, until we’re all safe. 

Today I’m spending my 35th birthday under a sleeping baby who has decided she won’t nap unless we are holding her. I’ve played multiple games of matching with my four-year-old and watched her do a dance workout online. So far today I have done dishes and laundry, changed clothes and diapers, and nursed five times by 3 p.m. I am exhausted.

After seven weeks of quarantine and anxiety, I realize I have two choices.

I can be sad all the time about everything we are missing out on. I can worry for the next year about our family getting sick. (Because let’s face it, if one of us gets it, we are all getting it.) And I can resent the fact that our baby entered a world of facemasks and social distancing. 

Or, I can choose to look for the positives and try to make the best of the hand we were dealt.

We are so lucky in so many ways.

My daughter was born healthy and is gaining weight. We’ve been successfully breastfeeding for the past 10 weeks. 

My husband has been home with us for the entire experience. Although he works during the day, he’s been able to spend so much more time with our newborn than he could with our first daughter. 

I’ve been able to spend extra time with our oldest daughter. Although we (desperately) miss daycare, we get more games, cuddles, walks, and stories than we ever would with our normal routine.  {Also, bless the preschool teachers. Who would have known how hard it is to teach someone to write the letter W.}

I’m lucky to be home with my whole family, and have the luxury of laying down with a baby on top of me napping.

We’re all still healthy, and today, that’s one of the biggest blessings.

We’ve been able to reconnect via technology with friends near and far. 

Although the days pass in a blur, every week we get to watch the new ways both our girls grow and change.

This isn’t the postpartum I wanted, but it’s the one I got. And even though it’s hard, it’s kind of beautiful too.

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One Comment

  1. I am a single with 8 kids and I had a rough pregnancy with this last one then gave birth alone in March. Right smack in the middle of all of this. I’ve given birth 6 times before this and never dealt with postpartum but with everything I’ve realized as my son hits 6mths that I am dealing with that exactly. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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