Parenting in a pandemic is hard- I think that is a safe statement to make. We are all in the same storm- though we each have different boats. We have different challenges based on stages of life, employment status, job type, family availability, overall health and baseline mental state.
This particular message is for you first-time mothers of the pandemic. I had my third child in 2021, and I recognize it was different for me than it would have been had he been my first. I want to recognize the first time moms, and tell you how brave you are. I want to commend you for managing what you have been able to manage, and to send grace and empathy for the times that you may have not felt you managed well or at all.
During my first pregnancy, I felt like was glowing from the inside out. I was so grateful to be pregnant after 10 months of trying to conceive, and while I was nauseous during the first trimester, my pregnancy was uneventful and I was someone who would say “I love being pregnant.” I know that’s not the case for everyone, and I recognize that I was lucky. I got to check things off my list- we took a babymoon to Niagara Falls, I got to go shopping for maternity clothes, and I went to weddings and bachelorette parties despite not being able to let as loose as I would have previously. All of the events of that year allowed me to show off my baby bump, and I’d venture to say that quite nearly everyone I knew got to see me pregnant. My husband and I went out to dinner often, and we still visited friends, staying overnight if we felt like it. He was allowed to come to appointments, and while he didn’t attend all, he tried to come for ultrasounds. Once I had given birth, our families were able to visit us in the hospital. No masks, no restrictions, no Covid tests.
As new parents, we hunkered down at first but were open to visitors. Once I had healed a bit, we were out and about. We brought her everywhere! We left her for a weekend when she was just 3 months old to attend a wedding several states away, and she flew for the first time at 9 months old to visit friends. She would sleep as we ate in restaurants, enjoying the din like a little angel, and we thought we were killing this parenting thing. After all, with just one child it’s much easier to be out and about. There wasn’t a global pandemic to worry about. I believe those outings and trips allowed us to hold onto pieces of our old selves as we transitioned into this new way of life.
I say all this to highlight the invisible losses that new parents today have had to endure. No (or very few) cute baby bump pics in new maternity clothes while out with friends, no “I have a baby in a bar!” moments to laugh about. Many friends and family may never even have seen you pregnant. It is a loss to not have the opportunity to share that with others. No cousins-feeling-baby-kicks, no babymoons, no opportunities to be doted on by strangers, even! I like attention, so I liked people holding doors for me, complimenting me, and giving me an outlet to talk about myself and relish the spotlight. Without those opportunities, I would have felt cheated. It’s hard to not get to savor those last months with just you and your partner, going out to eat and traveling. It’s hard missing bachelorettes, when those opportunities are so few and far between going forward.
We were afforded a gradual transition into parenthood, as we were mostly able to preserve our social life, independence and mobility after our first daughter. But if you have had to go through that during a pandemic, its like your whole life came to a screeching halt all at once. By the time the pandemic hit, we had two children, and our social lives were already pretty tame. Those initial 3 months of quarantine were certainly a change, but it was almost nice to have a quiet schedule and weekends at home. Our toddler and baby had us pretty grounded anyway. People in each stage of had different challenges during the shock of those first 3 months of the pandemic- I do not mean to minimize them, because they were REAL for us too. But I personally feel like we weren’t hit as hard as some were.
I have found there to be some positives to the changes brought on by the pandemic, and I am sure you know and appreciate them. There is more time with your inner circle and partner, less opportunity for rude comments and unsolicited advice, less money spent on maternity clothes, more peaceful family time once baby is born, and no extraneous visitors in the hospital. But man, I don’t envy you. Those things were nice as a third time mom, but you can’t get back that first time experience, and I just want to say I SEE you, I empathize with you, and I hope that if you have another pregnancy you can maybe have a little more of what you missed the first time around.