Let's just name it...this is a hard time to be a new parent.
This is just hard right now, period. What an extraordinary time of grief, change, and fear, coupled with the celebration of your precious new baby. My heart aches for you being in such a vulnerable season of growth and change in your life and perhaps also feeling isolated. As a couple you are only able to look to each other for relief and rescue now because you’re stuck inside and not able to access other supports like doulas, relief from caregivers, etc.
Typically we’d be trying to bring in outside support to help you feel relief. We’d be helping you build and strengthen your village so that your sole support is not just each other.
Added to this is that both of you can also experience perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (i .e. mood changes during this time like depression and anxiety) and if you’re only relying on each other for help, it can easily become a fatigued system (I’m preaching to the choir, right?)
And this is hard starting at conception too.
For many, Covid has impacted decisions around conception. Many are having to pause fertility treatments, make difficult, heartbreaking decisions around next steps, or noticing stress affecting their indecisiveness and are feeling overwhelmed.
Perhaps you've noticed that you feel stuck between a rock and a hard place, either having to pull the trigger and move forward with fertility treatments, but being scared this isn't the ideal time with financial uncertainty and heightened stress. You're not alone, many are faced with even more uncertainty around these difficult choices, and this continues long into pregnancy and parenting right now.
How is grief impacting you?
This was likely not the pregnancy you were hoping for, the delivery you'd wanted, or the newly postpartum period you'd dreamed about. There is so much time spent dreaming about this time, and certainly none of us had fantasized being isolated and kept away from our loved ones and support. Grieving the loss of baby showers, getting attention while pregnant, slowly shopping for baby items and preparing for your home are all part of adjusting to what is versus what you had wanted. Perhaps you're grieving the birth you had hoped for, surrounded by the team you had prepared. Because while certainly your safety is crucial, it's understandable if this isn't what you'd envisioned. And maybe you're grieving being isolated now as a new parent. Adjusting to parenthood is difficult enough, and being alone inside is likely not what you'd pictured.
So, what can you do?
⠀⠀⠀So now some positive news: how can we help you now bring in external support even if it looks different?
▫️Many therapists specializing in this pregnancy and postpartum period are offering virtual appointments and online postpartum support groups.
▫️Doulas, lactation consultants, etc, are offering virtual support as well.
▫️There’s virtual meet ups and support for dads and partners too, you’re not alone.
▫️Even though your loved ones can’t come inside to help you yet, they can help in other ways: for example, perhaps you could use meal or grocery delivery services right now to take off some added pressure etc.
And how can you both help each other without burning yourself out? I’m all about microbreaks. You’re both exhausted so if you’re taking turns to relieve each other, how might you swap off sleep schedules to ensure you’re both getting bigger chunks of “off duty” time, you’re both getting alone time during the day, and that you’re both able to get time to move your bodies?
It takes a (virtual) village right now
Many other cultures have beautiful traditions of surrounding new parents with support in the early postpartum recovery period. In India, for example, a confinement period around 40 days is often practiced where the new mama is fed, nurtured and supported while she focuses on healing and tending to the baby. Similarly, in China, the “sitting the month” period entails the woman staying indoors with baby to focus on bonding and nursing while others cook for her and tend to her needs. Even though multigenerational homes are no longer always the norm, this continues to be a mainstream practice in parts of the country.
Typically I work with my pregnant clients on creating their own postpartum recovery plans, and the modern village concept is such an important part of this. While the idea of a short term home confinement period may have previously been unrealistic for you (or totally undesirable/horrifying), what’s tough is that for many, confinement in the postpartum period is happening right now with Covid but without the good stuff of getting embedded support nurturing mama.
It’s like we’re only getting half of the good stuff. Because being isolated during this vulnerable time certainly gives you some limited ability to focus on rest, bonding and feeding (depending on how you’re doing); it doesn’t give YOU nurturing and support from others.
What else might YOU need during this vital healing time that we can provide virtually? How can we build and strengthen your virtual village?
Virtual teletherapy, postpartum doulas, meal delivery services, neighborhood meal trains, lactation consultation via videoconferencing, friends to text, online support groups for both you and your partner, etc can also be part of today’s modern village. Who is in yours?