What it's like to be a new mom during the COVID-19 pandemic
This gives everyone the opportunity to understand the precarious emotional state of new moms
This First Person piece was written by Delaney Seiferling who is a communications consultant and writer, specializing in Saskatchewan agriculture. For more information about CBC's Opinion stories, please see the FAQ.
This piece originally published on April 1, 2020.
People keep asking me how I'm doing through all of this.
My second daughter was born mid-February. People assume I must have higher-than-usual anxiety around COVID-19 because I have a tiny baby at home.
But since going on maternity leave, my life really hasn't changed much. In fact, being at home for long stretches of time worrying fanatically about the safety of society's most vulnerable humans is exactly what maternity leave is!
One positive takeaway from this otherwise devastating pandemic is it's a unique opportunity for everyone to better understand the precarious emotional state of the new mom. I'm going to use the term "mom" going forward but really this is applicable to any new parent, biological or not.
Transitioning to a new reality
Does it kind of feel like a grenade exploded right into the middle of your normal life when the pandemic began?
Same here, but my grenade was a five-pound human being.
Although this is my second child, and I had 39 weeks to get ready for her arrival, nothing really prepares for you the chaos of the post-partum period.
As soon as you go into labour, everything becomes surreal, most notably the fact that an actual human being emerges from you. It doesn't help that newborns kinda look like aliens.
When that baby is placed on your chest for the first time, the world you previously knew shifts.
There is even an anthropological term for the period when a woman adjusts to being a mother: matrescence. According to one medical expert, matrescence is "one of the most significant physical and psychological changes a woman will ever experience."
Does that sound vaguely like what you are going through, adjusting to your new reality?
Let's just hope neither of these transition phases last 18 years.
Oh, the anxiety
Since COVID-19, there's a fun new game we are all playing.
It's called: how many potentially contaminated touchpoints have my family members and I been exposed to today?
The possibilities are endless.
There's a similar game when you are a new parent. It's called: how many things within my current environment might harm my helpless child?
Again, the possibilities are endless.
Nothing is as terrifying for a new parent as the drive home from the hospital. That's when you realize everyone else on the road drives likes an idiot, with complete disregard for human life.
That's just the beginning. Every time you walk down the stairs holding the baby, you might fall and drop her. Everything is a choking hazard. Don't forget to check the baby every single minute during the night because she is probably going to stop breathing if you don't.
Did I mention I suffered a bout of post-partum anxiety? Veteran moms, including my own, tell me this should last approximately 18 years to forever.
Now that we have all been told to severely restrict our social interactions, you may find yourself staring out the window, remembering a time when you had places to go and people to see.
When you go on parental leave, your previous roles and responsibilities in life abruptly end. You no longer have anywhere you need to be.
You soon learn that going anywhere with a new baby requires the preparation work and expertise of a covert CIA operation.
By the time your baby is correctly dressed and positioned for the outing at hand, you will feel you've run a marathon. Because of this, you will just stay home more often.
Prior to your maternity leave, you may also have had responsibilities that made you feel like you were contributing to society at large.
As a new parent, your day consists of hanging out with a human being who does nothing but eat, sleep, soil diapers, disregard your civil rights and laugh in the face of any type of schedule you make.
Parenting is a great honour and an extremely rewarding task, but it can feel tedious as the seconds of your quiet day tick past. You may find yourself measuring the afternoon with coffee spoons as you wait for your partner to finally come home so you can finally have an adult conversation.
COVID-19 exemplifies our greatest fears about the dangers in the modern world and each other, but it has also allowed us to find beauty and comfort in unexpected ways.
In the past few weeks I have seen touching examples of our collective capacity for connection, generosity, innovation and perseverance.
Similarly, as a new parent, every small thing your baby does – smile, grab your hand, roll over, throw up all over you – becomes your drug of choice (although you'll probably still take that drink at the end of the day).
These tiny moments become the benchmarks of your happiness. You realize that those inspirational quotes on Starbucks cups were right all along. It really is the little things in life.
I remember the first time I saw another mom after having my first baby. As I was walking out of the hospital, I locked eyes with a tired-looking woman with small kids in tow. She smiled and gave me a subtle nod that said, "welcome to the club."
I have since been surprised by how much I revel in being part of this global community. It makes me feel like I belong to the world on a whole new level.
I have similar experiences these days when I am out walking with my daughters. Every time I see another person, I look them in the eyes (from a safe two metres away of course) and often we exchange a knowing look that says, we are going through the same thing.
One day we will probably look back and marvel at how every single person across the globe was going through a kind of "matresence" at the same time.
Like having a new baby, that is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
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