This is not normal: Postpartum in the time of COVID

“This is not normal. This is not how it’s supposed to be. No one’s experience has ever looked like yours.”

I’m finding myself saying this over and over again lately. In my virtual video consults. In my weekly Zoom support group. While messaging back and forth with clients. “Your maternity leave wasn’t supposed to be like this. I’m sorry you’re living like this.”

The coronavirus and COVID-19 has drastically changed our lives over night. Going through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum during quarantine and lockdown is unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes.

Postpartum is known to be a stressful period. You have just undergone a drastic change — becoming a parent for the first time, or adding a new sibling to the family. You are tired — devoting ceaseless hours to caring for a new helpless being. You may be dealing with breastfeeding or chestfeeding struggles. You’re trying to function on very little sleep. You’re navigating a new routine with your partner (if you have one), which can strain even the best relationship. And all of this comes with waves of hormones that can affect mood. But being on lockdown in your home, away from extended family and friends?! That turns it all up to 11. Holy hell — this is HARD.

Quarantine life goes against ALL of the advice I usually give my clients: “Get outside! Go for walks! Don’t stay cooped up! Make friends! Go out for coffee! Find meet-ups! Come to my support group!” It’s just not natural to stay cooped up indoors with very little social interaction and no visits from family. However we know at this moment it’s what we must do, especially here in northern New Jersey where rates of infection are among the highest in the U.S.

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed — you’re taking caring for newborn without all of the typical support systems.

It’s okay to feel lonely — many of us isolated in the world do right now.

It’s ok to feel resentful — of the parental leave experience you thought you’d have.

But you do NOT have to feel anxious or depressed. Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADS) are common, and treatable. Help is available during pandemic, too. Most therapists are offering telehealth support and it’s easy to find a provider through Postpartum Support International. Support groups have moved to Zoom, and are meeting everyday. Support is now available with a few taps of your phone screen.

You don’t need be facing a major mental health crisis to benefit from therapy, either. Therapy is for everyone.

And you will get through this. With a story to tell your little one about the unique time they were born into. About the hours you cuddled them while watching Netflix. About the privilege to stay home when others were working on the front lines. About the walks around the living room instead of the park, where you were both cozy and safe. You will get through this.

For more information about COVID-19 and breastfeeding, please visit the WHO, CDC, ABM, and AAP.

Published: May 1, 2020

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