The pandemic has thrown up so many issues which we have struggled and wrestled with over the past year due to restrictions and services. Pregnancy and birth has been yet another casualty of the norms we are so used to and quite frankly need.
My heart breaks for women who need the support, both physical and emotional, from not only partners, but friends, mothers, midwives, and the wider network. Now that the network has been forced to be oh so quiet throughout the pandemic, new mothers have been making their way through the excitement, anticipation, and apprehension of pregnancy, desperately needing a guiding hand which is not always there. We know pregnancy and birth in 2021 will still remain quite a different experience.
Gone are the ordinary milestones of sharing the size of baby with friends over coffee and browsing the baby shops for the smallest size socks. Gone are the countdowns, the fun-filled baby showers, and friendly pats on an ever-growing belly. And gone are the joyous celebrations once baby arrives with knocks on the door, casseroles on the doorstep, large christenings and friends and family eagerly meeting the newest addition. This is not the birth envisaged and it may feel as though the world is washing over an event which is so incredibly important.
There is an incredible truth about new mamas which we need to always remember. But first, new mamas need to remember their feelings during this time are incredibly reasonable.
Validate Those Feelings
There are common feelings dashing through the corridors of pregnancy, many of which are felt without a pandemic at hand but are certainly more pronounced now. Loneliness is perhaps one which we cannot necessarily fix but can at least recognise. As a pregnant woman, only we know what our bodies are physically going through. How much it hurts, how exciting the flutters are, and how nauseating the sickness is. And only we know what help we need to get through pregnancy.
The Barrier of Isolation
On top of that, we are the only ones to understand and hear the thoughts going through our mind. Thoughts which seem to bounce around our minds from one lockdown to the next. The worries, fears and the sadness felt while pregnant during restrictions are amplified because of this loneliness and isolation. There are feelings of being disconnected, thoughts and anxieties over birth and motherhood, the loss of relationships with other mums and friends, and the feelings of not being good enough.
All of these emotions, throughout every stage of pregnancy and new motherhood, are valid. So valid in fact that we must not run away from them or feel guilty for having them. The isolation you may feel with having little to no physical support, the anger of not being able to share these moments with your sister or mother, and the sadness of feeling as though no one knows your baby, are all so incredibly important to recognise.
If we push our feelings aside and say to ourselves, “others have it worse,” or “sure, what do I expect in a pandemic,” this quickly devalues our feelings which in truth only heightens them. When we feel sad, or hurt, or angry, we need to sit with our feelings and accept them, allow ourselves to cry and feel those emotions. These feelings may not be nice or appropriate, but they are how you are feeling in that current moment and by validating them we are not being judgemental and not allowing them to spiral out of control. Every single feeling is valid.
The Village is Hidden
Along with coming to terms with our feelings and the reasons behind them, there is an isolation echoing in our homes. The birth of a baby is one of the most exciting occurrences in our lives. We are proud and exhausted and in desperate need of help. That help is all but gone and the gaggle of friends who would usually be around may not be able to travel outside of their 5km. There is a huge loss felt when our village disappears, especially when new motherhood is not what we expect. These are terribly difficult times with little leeway. And yet, the village is there, hidden, but available, albeit a virtual one.
The benefit of emotional support is huge for a new mother. We’ve all googled at 2am, “why won’t my baby feed,” when the worry and anxiety hits threefold. Doubting ourselves comes with the territory of having a baby, even if it’s not our first. Having an online support network of new mums can really help to ease the fears of new motherhood. Even having your mum or sister on speed-dial!
Trust Your Instinct
Chances are what they will tell you is to trust your instinct and as impossible as that seems when you feel so desperately alone, they are right. Our instincts have served us well for our whole lives and won’t fail us now. And when you feel a second opinion would be helpful when our sleep deprived minds play tricks on us, that is trusting your instincts too. Know what supports are available to you through a lactation consultant, a counsellor, midwife, GP and your partner and best friends. But there is one incredible truth you must remember throughout all of this – You are doing a great job!
Recognise the Reality and the Truth
This may be an incredibly tough time but recognise how amazing you are doing.
The reality is you have grown a human being, birthed that new life, and are now raising that precious little human. You! All you! Never underestimate how powerful you and your body are. With every pat on your baby’s back, every giggle and gurgle they respond with, you are incredible. With every cry (yours and theirs) you are one day stronger, one hour tougher, and one more minute a Mama.
Your Mama Moment
We may spend our years as Mama questioning everything we do, battling guilt and worrying if we are doing the right thing. The truth is that you are enough. You are enough! And that is a mantra we all need to remember and repeat to ourselves when these days get on top of us.
Remember to care for yourself every day, just as you care for your baby. You are just as important so find your Mama Moment and refill your cup so you can love and adore your beautiful baby.