Is anyone else feeling really cheated right now? For me, I feel robbed of my maternity leave (after a not very nice pregnancy). For some of my friends the effects are more severe – some have postponed their weddings or buying a house, others have had to abandon a once in a lifetime family trip aboard or celebrate a big birthday alone and for others the current uncertainty has put their whole livelihoods at risk. It feels like a lot of us have had to hit the pause button on life and that will hit people in so many different ways and also for years to come.
Obviously when faced with the choice of life in shutdown or losing a loved one to corona virus, it’s going to be lockdown every day of the week but we can’t underestimate the psychological impact that this will have on society as a whole. I can’t even imagine the impact on key workers and the stress and anxiousness they must feel on a daily basis, having to go to work and putting themselves and their families at risk.
And I do feel cheated. I know it’s not that important in the grand scheme of things, but I want to take the opportunity talk about it. I think the impact on prenatal and postnatal women is something that is only just being talked about, but I think it’s crucial that we do.
My pregnancies haven’t been particularly enjoyable, but I’ve made it through and I have been blessed with two beautiful cheeky little boys. One of the ways in which I have coped with my pregnancies has been to focus on my maternity leave and all the fun things I would do with my boys, the thought of seeing all my friends and family and introducing them to my new baby but now I feel like this has been taken away from me. People haven’t met Jamie yet and we have barely been out since he was born. What’s more, our home has transformed to a nursery for my toddler, a workplace for my husband and a baby group for our newborn and that’s just not how it’s meant to be. For parents with older children they are trying to juggle work and home schooling, that’s a whole extra job! For people with a vulnerable relative they are trying to care for someone in isolation. The whole situation is just shit!
Maternity leave is supposed to be an important time for a family. It’s a bonding time for all and sadly we just won’t have that in the same way. I still have special people in my life that haven’t met Jamie and I’m trying to adjust myself to the fact that some people will never meet him as a cuddly newborn but probably a bouncing 6month old instead (or maybe even older). That the grandparents are missing out on so many firsts breaks my heart and while video calls help and mean we can keep in touch, it’s just not the same. I’m also missing out on bonding with other new parents. When I’ve had a rough night with the littlest man I can’t run to Costa with my new mum friends and complain over a coffee and cake like I did with my firstborn. I really feel for first-time mums at this time – and I hope they are finding support online and getting support at home where this is possible.
Of course, there are positives. I’ve spent more time with Rishi (my eldest) and we have had time to work on his vocabulary together, we have worked on Jamie’s routine (with mixed success) and we have had some quality time as a family of four. I’m full of mixed feelings about this time and I often get to the end of the day and think about what’s happened. Firstly I have no idea where my days go. I’m running from one nap time to another, from one feeding time to another, from an activity, to sorting someone crying, to cooking, cleaning. Rightly or wrongly I usually evaluate my day, and think how I’ve done. Not how good I am at being a mum but how I coped in this weird old time because it’s not easy on anyone. I cry, I laugh, I smile and I often feel guilty for those times when I feel happy. I’m learning to accept that it’s ok to be low and struggling with this and also that it’s ok to be happy. I hope that people learn from this experience and I really hope (amongst other things) that we can learn to be happy without all of the excesses of pre-corona life.
We have been fortunate to be on the receiving end of a lot of kindness. Friends going out of their way to make sure we had supplies during our self isolation, leaving mini eggs and surprises on our door step to cheer our day up and people checking in to see how we are doing. For that we are lucky, grateful and thankful.
It’s ok to not be ok and I think in these awful times we need to understand that some weeks will be harder than others, it’s ok to find happiness in the silliest of things, it’s ok to cry, but tomorrow is a new day and next week is a new week. So be kind and stay home.