Real-Life Story: Life of a new mom during quarantine!
Tips on how to survive lockdown with a newborn.
This New Mom Life During Quarantine & Lockdown post is written by Alka Mysore, a new mom.
Alka is a software professional, a socialist, political organizer, and a lover of cats, plants, and travel. She lives in Washington DC with her husband, brand new baby, and their three adorable cats.
Isolation – Coronavirus or New Motherhood?
I gave birth to my first child in late February at a local hospital in Washington DC.
My husband and doula were able to be present. We finished our hospital stay and returned home, sleepless but excited, mostly running on adrenaline at that time, having taken no extraordinary precautions while at the hospital.
My parents had arrived from India earlier in the month to help us out, and the plan had been for them to stay longish term (about 6 months – which is an extraordinary amount of help for most American households).
We had first begun to worry about the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic right around the time my parents first arrived, not knowing whether they’d be able to travel without issue. However, their trip went without a hitch. While we kept abreast of news of the spread of the virus, our lives didn’t change drastically at first. I went for walks as I used to, I went to the store to get the supplies I needed and ordered stuff online. We went out to restaurants to eat so that we could enjoy the short blissful period we had left as adults with no kids.
Once the baby arrived, we became consumed with giving him round the clock sustenance, care, attention, whatever he needed. While as a new mother I celebrated getting my body back after carrying the baby to full term, I also quickly discovered the postpartum period came with unusual challenges – raging hormones, my own inability to figure out or enjoy breastfeeding and entering the scary world of exclusively pumping while supplementing formula, pressure from my very traditional parents as well as “baby-friendly” hospitals and lactation consultants to keep trying to nurse, the pressure to eat certain foods or not eat certain foods, and so on.
My entire previous arrangement as a childless adult had gone for a toss.
I was constantly angry and indignant.
I felt unheard, or worse, dismissed.
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Complicating this already unbelievably difficult time in the life of a new parent, especially a new mother, was the quick spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Within a couple of weeks of the arrival of my child, my city had been shut down.
In the beginning, we were unsure of the consequences of going out for walks or making trips to the store, so my parents and I stayed put entirely, while my husband shouldered the burden of shopping for a family of now four adults.
As days of isolation turned into weeks and now a month plus, I have concluded that the social exclusion and isolation I felt and continue to feel are exacerbated by COVID-19, but is not the underlying cause.
That is the result of being a new mother!
The World Economic Forum published an article recently on how to survive the pandemic with a newborn baby.
Accompanying the article was a sobering and terrifying statistic – 82% of young mothers responding to a survey by the Co-op and British Red Cross felt lonely some of the time, while a staggering 43% of young mothers felt lonely most of the time or always.
These statistics make sense to me, even though they’re appalling.
I experienced loneliness as a new mother despite having people around me, there were times when it felt unbearable enough for me to question my decision to become a parent.
I felt I was teetering on the edge of postpartum depression in the early weeks, thanks to uncompensated sleeplessness and intense pressure to parent a certain way.
I allowed myself to feel guilty that I was not nursing, and I let myself be constantly bombarded by mostly unhelpful advice from my parents, in-laws, other mom friends who seemed to have forgotten their own challenging postpartum months.
During those first few weeks, I relied heavily on my husband for support, and I am thankful for his kindness, as well as that of some friends, doctors and nurses, as well as strangers online for their vocal and tacit encouragement as I finally pulled myself out of despair.
But then there was another kind of despair – the constant worry about the larger consequences of the coronavirus crisis.
Socially, it has been doubly isolating to be a new mother during the time of coronavirus.
Since giving birth, we have hardly had any visitors.
My son’s grandparents have not visited from another state, our brother-in-law’s planned road trip to see us was canceled, most of our local friends have not come to see us, and I have not been able to take my son out to do otherwise ordinary things – postnatal yoga with friends, mommy and me classes, his first swim.
In fact, even his and my doctors’ appointments ended up being tele-visits, which sadly resulted in a bout of bronchiolitis we didn’t catch early enough that landed us in the ER and then in the hospital.
My then 5-week old child got swabbed and tested for COVID.
His cries will haunt me forever, and I will be riddled with guilt for years to come that I forgot to wash my hands after touching the elevator buttons in the hospital.
Just like everyone else’s, our normal life has as such come to a standstill.
I have not been able to go to the gym or the pool to get some alone time and exercise. We were unable to go see the beautiful cherry blossoms along the tidal basin.
I am constantly around the same people, including my very demanding growing child.
There is no ability to get any real physical separation.
My husband and I were unable to celebrate 7 years together by going out to our favorite restaurant. These may seem trivial issues at first, but when you are reeling from the effects of childbirth and lack of sleep, the issues compound, and resentment sets in.
The feelings of despair I encounter on a day to day basis extend beyond my personal experience.
When we review the statistics of infections and deaths across the globe, it is easy to see that the worst affected are the poorest, most marginalized among us, not just directly by the disease alone, but by the economic fallout it has caused.
The very foundations of our societies are failing us as a people.
While there was initial consensus that the virus does not care about class, skin color, sexual orientation, and so on, it has become painfully obvious that the response to the virus does in fact fall along class, race, sexual orientation lines.
Tom Hanks may have successfully recovered, but the same recovery was not afforded to thousands of working-class New Yorkers, many of them young and otherwise healthy.
While I sit among the privileged many with a white-collar job and a white-collar life, I think about the transit workers, food industry workers, retail workers, factory workers, cleaning crews, healthcare providers, gig economy workers such as delivery drivers and Uber/Lyft drivers – who without a doubt are shouldering all of the burdens of keeping our lives unaffected where possible.
I have continued to order supplies online, justifying to myself that I absolutely need them, that the workers are working anyway, that I can tip them well and support local businesses, or that lifestyle politics will not fundamentally alter established and deeply entrenched inequalities.
While we ought not to harbor any judgment for folks who are baking up a storm at home, or spending their newly acquired free time spring cleaning, it behooves us to spend time and energy in introspection.
Though we cannot single-handedly change society and its inequities, it is worth reflecting on why our lives are the way they are, and what affects our successes and failures beyond our own individual contributions.
I cannot shake the feeling that I am quickly becoming part of a generation that is as ineffectual as our parents’ generation in fighting injustices enough to effect lasting positive changes, and part of a generation that will leave behind a worse off planet for my child.
I wish I felt differently and I know it has not been easy graduating college in the midst of one recession and having a child at the beginning of another, but I also count the missed opportunities for revolutionary change – the Occupy movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, or at the very least a reformist Bernie Sanders presidency.
When all of this ends, and it will, it’s not enough to go back to normal and be thankful for what we have. It is imperative that we apply our time and energy into re-imagining our society.
This amount of inequality is unsustainable for humans, the animal kingdom, and our planet.
If we do nothing or go back to status quo after the pandemic is done ripping apart the fabric of our society, we will have missed yet another opportunity to address the existential threat to our pale blue dot.
Six weeks after giving birth, I had to go back to work.
This was again a sore reminder of the deep injustice working-class people experience in the United States.
In the richest and one of the most advanced countries in the world, a new parent is not even able to get enough paid time off to spend with their child, not to mention spending thousands of dollars thanks to the cruel for-profit healthcare system that trades on the stock market, betting on our health.
A somewhat healthy amount of time with newborns is a luxury we afford to dogs and cats in this country, not separating puppies and kittens from their moms for 8 weeks if we can help it.
While mothers take on almost the entire burden of social reproduction, our reality is much more grotesque. One in four mothers returns to work within two weeks of giving birth.
Given this statistic, perhaps I should consider myself lucky that I was able to take 6 weeks to heal and get to know my child, that I have help at home, and that thanks to the pandemic, I am able to work from home for the time being.
Of course, the lockdown is a ticking time bomb for me. I expect to have to return to work as soon as things go back to business as usual.
But it is not all doom and gloom.
Being a new parent during this pandemic has offered a small handful of concessions to me and my new parent friends.
Despite the lack of an appropriate amount of paid parental leave, thanks to the lockdown, my husband and I have been able to work from home and watch our child grow and change.
It all happens so fast and we’re fortunate to be able to witness it between conference calls. I am still able to pump breastmilk for my child offering him what little antibodies and immunity I can during these scary times.
My child is growing well, completely unaware of the life of isolation he’s facing in his few short weeks on the planet.
Though we’re in the midst of a recession, we’re currently gainfully employed, healthy, and among loved ones.
The seasons have changed, we went from winter to spring, the flowers are just as beautiful, the sun just as warm.
Though juggling full-time jobs and childcare is no easy feat, we are being afforded a once in a lifetime opportunity under this cruel hyper-capitalist system to spend time in our safe homes as days of the week have become a blur.
I think we will never take for granted the boring trip to the grocery store ever again, or the fact that we have the full lung capacity to breathe in fresh air.
Our future travels will be so blissful, we will likely complain a lot less about public transport, and we will be ever more grateful for the internet, smartphones and similar technologies.
5 THINGS I DO THAT HAVE HELPED ME STAY SANE (& SURVIVE) BEING A NEW MOM (DURING QUARANTINE & LOCKDOWN).
While I am grateful for the positives, I do engage in a handful of behaviors and habits that I found to be beneficial to help with feelings of anxiousness. I am listing them here in the hopes that they will help new parents like myself —
1. Developing a routine
This is both easy and difficult to do with a newborn.
While babies like to be fed on-demand pretty much round the clock, my family did strive to get ourselves and the baby into a simple routine at first, and once it was established, we have continually added things to our individual and collective routines.
For instance, I know what times of day I will pump breastmilk, when I will start and end the workday. So I am consistent about my bedtime and rely on my hungry child to wake me up. I take a shower at almost the same time every day. I pump breastmilk at almost the same time each day.
I try to maintain discipline about what time of day I give my child a bath, and what time of day he goes to bed for the night.
Routines offer consistency.
Consistency offers comfort.
2. Getting fresh air
The internet has a lot of unhelpful information about the ways COVID can spread.
Luckily, experts say being outdoors does not pose a significant risk of infection. I try to go on walks with my kid daily, weather permitting (it rains a lot during the Spring in DC!).
If we don’t walk, I work on my little patchy flower garden.
In any case, I have found that getting fresh air has helped to not only get away from the rut of everyday life but also to get some exercise so that I can sleep better during the few precious hours I manage to squeeze in.
3. Mindfulness meditation
I am a big fan of Sam Harris (not his politics but his lessons on attaining spirituality without being bogged down by religion) so I spend ten minutes daily on meditation using the Waking Up App.
Mindfulness meditation has helped me become more aware of the present, and better able to handle a downward spiral into anxious thoughts.
4. Talking to friends
During the lockdown, I have reached out to and heard from friends I had not talked to in ages.
It has been wonderful to get back in touch with folks, and keep in touch with my close circle of friends, checking on one another, keeping one another abreast of our situations, and seeing their smiling faces on video conferences.
5. Enjoying my growing baby
Babies are so much fun!
I have enjoyed watching my little one change over the last couple of months of his existence, and have witnessed first hand him discovering his limbs, learning how to smile, making eye contact, and becoming intrigued by new sounds.
Perhaps I might not have paid this close attention if I had to go into work daily, or if life had not slowed down due to the lockdown.
Babies and pets, are fascinating. They are conscious creatures without the ability to use language, and observing them has been incredibly eye-opening for me. It has taught me to slow down and appreciate life and the opportunities that I have received to enjoy it.
I wholeheartedly recommend this.
When the lockdown ends, I look forward to taking my son for a swim in the public pool with other babies his age and their parents. I look forward to going to the grocery store to pick up everyday supplies.
I look forward to fighting for paid parental leave, the very least we should expect as we contribute to the wealth of the richest country in human history, and most importantly, to re-joining the fight to end wealth and income inequalities, and to, once and for all, overhaul capitalism armed with my new perspective as a mother.
Alka, thank you so much for your openness & honesty in sharing your journey of being a new mother with us – the most beautiful and yet the most difficult! I am sure that a lot of new mothers who feel isolated (especially during these unprecedented times) will find solace reading your story.
“Birth takes a woman’s deepest fears about herself and show her that she is stronger than them.”