A few weeks ago, my friend texted me, "I was thinking. Maybe we should schedule a Zoom girls-night-in dinner and catch up? It'll be a while before we can do a baby shower for you and I guess I won't be able to visit and meet the baby right away?"
I texted back, "That makes me want to cry."
I am a mother of a 3.5-year-old boy. Each day of my son's life brings a new opportunity to practice surrendering and letting go—whether it's a belief, an expectation or desire to be in control.
There are the bigger lessons, such as changing my career course when I decided I wanted to become a mother or accepting the trauma of my delivery and the postpartum depression that came afterward. Then there are the daily acts of surrender that come with raising a tiny human, like giving up on a strict sleep schedule or hopes for a meaningful conversation with another adult while my kiddo's around.
At its worst, surrender feels like a white flag of defeat and despair. At its best, it is a practice in humility and grace. My days are a pendulum constantly swinging between both ends.
The two opposing sides are more apparent than ever before in this recent plot twist of my motherhood journey—being pregnant with my second baby during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Several months before the word "coronavirus" entered the public discourse, I was already preparing myself mentally and emotionally for another baby. I scaled back on work projects. I preferred staying home to going out. I rearranged the furniture in our kitchen and living room.
But now I can't stop myself from worrying:
Will I be able to have my husband and my doula in the room? Who will care for our son when I go into labor? What is my risk of exposure to COVID-19 by giving birth in the hospital? Is the risk worse if my VBAC fails, and I need an emergency C-section?
These worries are part of my brain's fight-or-flight survival response. I am no longer solely preparing my home for a baby, I am also preparing to stay safe during a health crisis. It will be a fight in the dark because there's no way to gauge how ready I will be, how ready I will feel. No way to know if my body and my spirit can handle it. My opponent is both real and imagined, a future outcome that is faceless and unknown.
For new and expecting mothers, it's crucial to be part of a supportive community of other women and mothers. Social distancing has made pregnancy feel much more isolating than my first pregnancy. Even with emails and FaceTime calls readily available, I feel less connected with my support system than I did my first time around.
I miss the feeling of warm hugs from loved ones. I miss having friends and family members marvel at my growing belly. I miss having the shared emotional experience of pregnancy with other women.
As my due date approaches, I mourn the fact that I will not have one last chance to gather with my closest friends before the baby's here. More than the fun shower games and adorable gifts, I am missing an important rite of passage into motherhood. And it's not just me—I know stories of people who have had their milestones taken from them during this pandemic—canceled weddings, canceled graduation ceremonies, canceled plays or recitals.
Here's what I've learned about surrendering—there is always an ending and a beginning. After death, after loss, comes rebirth. A chance for a new story to begin.
This truth has accompanied me throughout my motherhood experience. I am slowly finding my way to the other side of surrender, where grace and transformation reside. My journey has been made up of thousands of tiny, ordinary moments reminding me to trust the process.
One early morning, I woke up and felt the fluttering of my baby's kicks in my belly. I placed my hand where he moved as if I could touch something fleeting and sacred. For a few precious minutes, I forgot the chaos of the world outside. I forgot to be afraid.