I’m Postpartum During COVID-19 and I’m Not Okay. (And That’s Okay.)

When I had my daughter at the end of January, I knew that my world would be rocked forever. I felt like I had just gotten into a good groove parenting my 5-year-old son, and I finally thought, “Okay, I got this.” I had no idea what to expect with adding another baby to our household. I knew that it would change everything, but I could never have been prepared for just how much things would change only a short time after coming home from the hospital.

When I had my son, we had only lived in San Antonio for less than a year. We knew no one besides my husband’s coworkers and a few friends. It was a period of extreme loneliness and isolation. I eventually found my people—I met one of my best friends at a La Leche League event. But I will never forget those long days of being by myself with a brand new baby, figuring out how to become a mom.

So as I prepared for my postpartum period, I armed myself with as much support as I possibly could. My husband had already helped to advocate for paternity leave at his job, and I had done the same at mine. I made sure that my mom could come down and help out for a few weeks. I started looking up local community groups for moms with new kids, and I was looking forward to attending events and meeting new moms. I made sure to continue my therapy sessions in case postpartum depression decided to creep back up. Several friends and family members were preparing to visit us to offer even more physical support once my mom left. Operation Smooth Postpartum Period was in full effect.

Or so I thought. For the first few weeks, we existed in a lovely bubble at home and fell into something of a routine. My recovery from my C-section was going much smoother than the first time around. At my two-week checkup, my doctor marveled at how well my incision was healing, and told me that I seemed happy. I was—tired, but very happy and well supported. When my mom finally went back home to Chicago, she was already planning her trip back in a few weeks to see my soon-to-be born niece. I was looking forward to seeing her again and having the extra help, too.

Then she started talking about a virus and asking me if she should still come. I shrugged it off. I had heard that there were people quarantining here in San Antonio but figured it wasn’t that big of a deal. “Of course you should come! Don’t let that scare you,” I told her. I could never have imagined that the virus she was talking about would turn our world upside down.

Immediately things began to change. I had to reschedule my six-week checkup, and was concerned that my daughter wouldn’t be able to have her newborn checkup. I was offered the choice to have a telehealth visit for my checkup instead of an in-person visit but I declined. I needed to see my doctor, to be certain that I was okay. When I was finally able to see my doctor—at nine weeks postpartum—the office was almost empty. Everyone around me had on masks. I was told that I had to come alone. A pregnant mom came in at the same time I did, and brought her partner. He was quickly told that he couldn’t stay and had to wait in the car. My heart dropped for her as she became visibly upset. When I was finally brought back to a room, my normally bubbly doctor entered the room with a mask on, shielding the smile that I could hear from her voice. This would be the end of our journey together, and she looked genuinely sad that we wouldn’t be able to hug. I left that appointment in shock at how fast things were changing.

We are over one month into quarantine, and I am almost three months postpartum. This is not how I imagined my postpartum experience would be. Although my family and I have been grateful enough to all be quarantined together, I still get lonely and feel isolated. When my son was a small infant, I looked forward to library storytimes, park playdates and support group meetings like La Leche League and Babywearers. I could ask questions, get advice, and my son was able to socialize as he got older. This was supposed to continue with my daughter, and of course, this isn’t possible now. Some groups have offered online support and virtual meetings, but I haven’t attended because: Zoom fatigue. I have to be in front of a computer screen for work and gleefully look forward to turning it off once I am done for the day. The fatigue also sets in because it’s a further reminder of how isolated I still feel.

My emotions were already all over the place before quarantine began. I found myself sitting on the bathroom floor and sobbing. I initially struggled to feel connected to my baby. Now, we are together all the time, and I don’t have those feelings anymore. But I am on an emotional rollercoaster every single day. Some days I have accepted my “new normal,” as my therapist calls it. I’m adjusting to homeschooling my oldest and working from home. Other days, I feel despair and feelings of hopelessness. I’m sure that this is a mix of a surge of hormones due to being postpartum but has also been exacerbated by living in a global pandemic.

This probably sounds completely irrational, but I also find myself feeling sad that my daughter hasn’t had a chance to be around other babies. She’s two months old, so even if we did go to storytime, she would probably have no idea what was happening. But I’m also hyperaware that because her little immune system is so vulnerable, there’s a real chance that she may not socialize with other babies before her first birthday. No storytimes, no playdates, no birthday parties. I worry about the impact that this will have on her. What will it look like whenever we are finally able to come together with other families? Will this ever be a thing again?

For now, all I can do is be grateful that we’re able to keep her safe and at home. She has no idea what is happening around her, and I’m glad that she doesn’t. The silver lining in having a newborn during a pandemic is that she gives us something good to look forward to. She’s going through a period of rapid development and it is exciting to witness. There is a storm happening outside, but inside this little bundle of joy smiles at us, kicks her legs, and reminds us that good can exist in chaos.