I learned that I was pregnant around November 2019. And even though it was unplanned, I was confident that everything would fall into place and was super excited to meet my baby. Around December, Covid19 broke out, and by March most countries started to enforce strict Covid measures, including introducing lockdown to control the spread of the virus. This was when everything took a complete turn. I barely left the house and was even scared. After the second week of March, I stopped going anywhere other than the occasional doctor’s visits and walks around the city. T
This one time a lady offered me her seat on the train when she noticed that I was pregnant. And I couldn’t help but think about her for months to come. She was really the only person, apart from my partner, sister, obstetrician, several nurses, and my neighbors whoever saw me pregnant. My mom didn’t. Some of my siblings didn’t. Neither did my best friends, or my coworkers, and any other kindhearted people on the subway. And even though they could just pop in for a minute if I let them, I was too paranoid to let them visit.
To be honest, I was too scared of Covid and couldn’t take any chances. I delivered a beautiful baby girl in June 2020 and then I stopped going anywhere at all. The doctor instructed me to take my daughter home and to keep her home, and that is exactly what I did. What’s worse is that I mostly spent the postpartum phase alone because I was too worried to let family and friends around my newborn.
Having a small baby is isolating all by itself. You get into the hospital as one hopeful, terrified and uncomfortable person, and you come home as another. Happy but still terrified and uncertain about what to do with your newborn. I was cranked into hour-by-hour survival mode, physically ripped apart, and nearly hallucinating from lack of sleep. None of this was conducive to see people, apart from those closest to you. And even then, I was paranoid my baby would catch the virus.
The hormonal, emotional, and psychological change someone experiences when they become a mom is referred to as matresence. It represents a significant shift in your sense of self. Still, we’re social beings that tend to construct our identity not only around what we know or feel about ourselves but also around how others respond to us. My baby is almost one-and-a-half now and I can count the number of people who’ve visited us since she was born. Other than my partner and husband, not a single person I love has really seen me being a mom. This new human I’ve become since I delivered is a person virtually no one knows.
Everyone who was pregnant or had a baby during the pandemic experienced some form of isolation so acute that it’s difficult to process. This isolation of pandemic new parenthood felt like a wound that stung bitterly from the very start, and every day that went by only made it rawer. My daughter hit most of her milestones without people being a part to witness it and it was filled with grief. Every day and month went by as we spent time in the square-mile perimeter of our neighborhood, and the more we stayed there, the harder it was to imagine that we’d ever leave. We spent Thanksgiving dinner, Halloween, and Christmas, all at home. While the first two holidays were surprisingly comforting, Christmas had me aching for everything it didn’t have. I’m slowly seeing the same signs of hope on the horizon that other people are- vaccines, fewer Covid restrictions, maybe going back to the office, and some eventually form of “normalcy.”
However, the life I had is gone, and I’m not sure if I can imagine a new one with room for my baby and anything else. Every second during which I’ve been a mom has been defined by shutting down, closing off, and retreating into a space small enough where my family can be safe. We’ve had to catch up with our loved ones virtually, keeping us connected. But what I’ve enjoyed the most is how much I’ve been involved in her life and we spend a lot of quality time together compared to if I’d have gone back to work. I’ve also seen her cross most, if not all of her milestones and it was exciting. While this may not have turned out how I’d have expected, and pandemic pregnancy and parenting was hard, I’ve had to make do with what I have and enjoyed every minute I have with my little daughter.
The researchers did find that there were some differences in women depending on which number of pregnancies they were on.
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