by Dr. Amanda Zelechoski, co-founder of Pandemic Parenting
One of the best parts of becoming a new parent is “joining the club” – entering a community of fellow parents and being surrounded by generations of wisdom and experience to support you. You’ve likely heard the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” But, what happens when you are pregnant during COVID and are isolated from your village for any number of reasons? You’ve been waiting for this time when friends and family would tell you how adorable you look pregnant, throw you a baby shower, cry happy tears with you when the adoption was finalized, snuggle your new baby so you can take a shower, and take care of you so you can care for your baby.
How can you make sure this significant pre- and postpartum period doesn’t feel like yet another loss?
1. Identify your Grief
It’s important to determine which aspects of anticipating your baby’s arrival during a pandemic are causing you to grieve most. Grief is a normal response to many things we’ve lost since COVID-19 arrived. Name them. Even write them down.
- Is it the shared milestones, like having loved ones present for appointments with doctors or birth parents?
- Fear or uncertainty over whether you will be able to get what you need for you and your baby when you’re postpartum in a pandemic?
- Concern that you and your baby will be safe and healthy throughout the pregnancy and delivery?
Whatever it is, having a sense of what feels most lacking can help you figure out ways to get your needs met.
2. Get Creative (or Let Others Get Creative)
For many new parents, the first few weeks following baby’s arrival typically consist of a steady stream of visitors – family and friends coming to meet the baby and lend a hand. But, the emergence of COVID-19 has made that either impossible or extremely difficult due to travel restrictions, or anxiety-provoking due to individual health risks.
However, you may need that connection or the extra help — now more than ever. It is human nature that during times of stress, we seek to “affiliate” with others. These connections help us cope psychologically and physically as our bodies – not just our minds – respond to these connections and social support. So, let your loved ones be resourceful and innovative about how they can connect and help!
- Video chat with a friend in another time zone while you are up feeding the baby in the middle of the night.
- Let your neighbor be in charge of coordinating a meal drop-off schedule or placing your grocery delivery order for you each week.
- Grandma and Grandpa can pre-record or read stories to your baby over the phone, giving you a few minutes to scroll through social media guilt-free while baby squeals at the new voices and sounds.
The goal is to acknowledge that you may be feeling lonely and in need of connection or support. Let people help — they want to!
3. Take Care of Yourself
As new parents, we focus a lot on the importance of bonding with your baby. Amidst the sleep deprivation and so many transitions all at once, it becomes easy to forget that you are also a human in need of connection, especially now.
- Be gentle with yourself. Would you say to a friend the things you say to yourself inside your head? Ask yourself what you would tell your friend in this situation and then say that to yourself instead.
- Commit to doing at least one thing you want to do each day (versus should do). If you want to binge-watch your favorite show during your baby’s catnap instead of folding laundry, do it!
- Let people help you. No, seriously. This can sometimes feel contrary to your new mama bear instincts to do everything on your own. But, sometimes letting others take over, even to just give you a few minutes to breathe, go for a walk, talk to your partner about something other than the baby, or catch-up with a friend, is the best gift you can give yourself.
Having a baby during a pandemic definitely isn’t ideal, but there are so many ways to leverage technology and creativity as you adjust to your new normal. Your village is still there, masked up and ready to help. And, fellow pandemic parents all over the world are also right there with you, rocking and soothing children in the wee hours, and dreaming big dreams for these very special 2020 babies.
Learn more about Pandemic Parenting here.
Amanda Zelechoski, J.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Amanda Zelechoski is a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist and attorney, specializing in trauma. She is board certified in Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology and has worked clinically with adults, children, and families. As an Associate Professor of Psychology at Valparaiso University, she directs the Psychology, Law, and Trauma Lab, where she conducts research on the impact of childhood trauma. In addition, Dr. Zelechoski provides training and consultation to numerous mental health, legal, educational, and child welfare agencies. More importantly, she is a wife and mom of three young children, mostly just trying to make sure her kids have clothes on when they bust into her virtual meetings.