The road to new motherhood, I think, is always challenging and has its highs and lows. But I think one of the challenges that I have found with new motherhood during COVID-19 has been in grappling with the uncertainty about whether I’m making the right decisions for my child and his development.
New Motherhood in a Relative Social Vacuum
Sometimes I will see other mothers on their social media, and they’re taking their children to nature centers or the beach or out in more public places. I don’t feel very safe yet. I’m not judging them at all. I’m just observing that for me, I’m almost too nervous about the anxiety that follows anytime that I go out into public, that I don’t even take the chance anymore. Certainly not as often as I would have, or as much as I see other people doing.
That’s been a difficult thing. I think all new mothers compare themselves to each other. At this point, you have that extra anxiety associated with COVID-19. You just don’t know – am I doing my child a disserve by staying home and not showing them more of the world? At the same time, I’m just so concerned about safety. It’s really hard to know if you’re doing the right thing. It’s hard to steer around COVID-19 and to find the balance between getting out and also staying safe.
Making sense of Times
I do, though, want to remember how unique this experience is and to be aware of the ways we can grow. A couple of weeks ago we decided to baptize the baby. Our church had just opened back up and the pews were all marked off to promote social distancing. It was a private ceremony and only our immediate family came. To prepare for the baptism I had to speak with the deacon. He told me that this whole experience was going to change who we are as people. It would change how we are as a world and as a community. One thing he said that stayed with me was that we have to be brave and we have to be smart. That we just have to care for each other.
Creating Your Truth
Bonding. The lack of social contact has some benefits too. I feel that I’ve been able to bond with my baby in a manner unlike that I would have been able to before this pandemic. I feel so connected to him.
Breastfeeding. I think that my experience with breastfeeding would have been cut shorter if we had not had this time together, privately, in our own home. For instance, I haven’t had to deal with pumping at work. I haven’t had the pressure of having to feed him out in public and some of the judgment I think can be associated with that. It’s been very good for me in that I’ve been able to get my milk supply up. I’ve also been able to push through some of the struggles I experienced with breastfeeding.
Routines. I also feel that I’ve been able to get into a really good routine with the baby. Sleep training has been on the easier side. The baby has a very good routine going. He naps at the same time every day. There is not anything to interrupt that pattern.
The Downside of Limited Contact
I wonder about exposure to germs. He’s up to date on vaccinations. But we are so obsessive about staying clean and not exposing him to anything that I get nervous that he’s not exposed to enough bacteria. I wonder if his immune system will be strong enough. That’s the worried new mom in me. Because the scientist in me understands that it will be fine. It’s just something I think about – and that new moms have extra time to roll over in their brains without the benefit of in-person mommy and baby groups we thought we would join.
It’s hard to socialize. Recently, I went to one of my friends’ houses and we met up with our babies in her backyard. She had some of the neighbors over in the front yard. They were all socially distanced, but when I walked up with the baby he was greeted by a bunch of very friendly faces. There were about six people and they were all greeting him so warmly and smiling. He just immediately started crying.
I think he was so overwhelmed by seeing that many people. He’s never really experienced that before. A typical baby would have experienced that already. In normal times, we would have had multiple family gatherings at this point. Maybe we would have attended some of my friends’ children’s birthday parties or something like that. So that was kind of interesting and eye-opening to see his reaction to as few as six people – strangers – but friendly faces. It was very overwhelming for him. I thought it was interesting.
When I look back on this time, I know too that I will remember all of this precious time I’ve had with my baby to bond. But it’s hard not to think about how anxious I am. How overwhelmed I am. I am going back to work as a school nurse soon – so thoughts about that have been consuming lately.
In general, I’m going to remember the things the deacon pointed out. I’m going to try to instill in my child that he needs to be brave and smart. That he needs to be considerate of other people. I think that as much as I want him to be a “normal child," we are going to have to teach them to think about safety and consideration for others in ways that we had not thought of before.
I would love for everything to be very carefree, but the world is changing and I’m looking forward to teaching him all of these valuable lessons. I will hopefully work toward shaping him to be a positive member of society. To be someone who can truly connect to other people and can truly care about the world.
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