I am a midwife, and that means two things:
- I am a total birth nerd
- I want to hug every new mom I see
But we are in a pandemic, which means that the latter is impossible—and this makes me impossibly sad. You deserve hugs, love, recognition and so much more. So I will settle for the next best thing, which is to write you a little love letter.
Darling new mama. Here are seven things you need to know:
1. This is hard
Welcome to the mom club. It's a really awesome club, but there is a sad underlying truth you need to be aware of: Moms are notoriously hard on ourselves (often for things that we have no control over). Like, say, a pandemic.
So many new mothers are wrought with guilt that they are doing this "wrong." Mama, there is no wrong here. Not even close. This is just hard. And it's okay to admit that. Saying that this is hard or disappointing does not diminish anything about your quality as a mother. This IS hard. And it's okay to say as much.
But that brings me to my next point...
2. You can do hard things
Motherly's co-founder and CEO, Jill Koziol, often says, "This is hard, but we can do hard things." I'm not sure it has ever rung more true than right now.
You have a long history of doing (and rocking) hard things. Perhaps getting pregnant was hard. Perhaps you had a hard pregnancy. Then a baby came out of your body—um, hello! Or perhaps you became a mama through adoption, surrogacy or with a gestational carrier—that can be super hard, too.
The point is, you have been met with challenges before, and you have overcome them. Yes, this is tough. But mama, so are you.
3. People are on your side
On #TeamMotherly, we often remind each other of the Mr. Rogers quote that says, "When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world."
Maybe it feels impossibly scary to be bringing a baby into the world, but there are so many helpers right now.
Public health officials are figuring out policies to keep people safe.
Scientists and doctors are researching treatments and vaccines.
Activists and policy-makers are working to make the world a more just place for everyone.
Remember that even when it feels helpless, people are working around the clock to make things better for you and your sweet baby.
4. The statistics are on your side
We are still learning a lot about COVID-19, but what we do know is promising when it comes to outcomes for pregnant people and newborns. I won't bog you down with details here—though if you want the details, check out Motherly's extensive COVID-19 coverage.
In short, there is reason to be hopeful that you and your baby will be just fine through all of this.
5. Prioritizing yourself is more important than ever
Self-care as a new mom is paramount. Self-care during a pandemic—well, it's everything. In fact, the word "self-care" actually needs to be upgraded during this time; instead of self-care, think of it as self-adoration. Adore yourself, mama.
This is incredibly hard, and the potential negative consequences are very real: stress, depression and health problems, just to name a few. It is, therefore, essential that you prioritize taking care of yourself.
This means eating deliciously nourishing foods, preferably ones that you don't have to prepare yourself. (Try this: The next time a friend or family member says, "Can I do anything to help you?" get very specific. "Actually, yes! I would love a meal that will help me recover; I love the salmon from XYZ restaurant. Could you bring me that for dinner tonight?")
This means sleeping. (Try this: When you put your baby to bed, dive into your bed. I mean immediately. Not after you "just check Instagram for a few minutes" (totally, ahem, hypothetically, of course). Use every moment that you can for sleep, and know that even cat-naps are helpful.)
This means putting off the to-do list (by a lot)—people will understand. (Try this: Send out a mass email or text message to everyone that sent you a baby gift saying, "I want to convey my deepest gratitude for the thoughtful presents! They mean so much to the baby and me! I will be writing handwritten notes to each of you, but it might take me longer than I'd like since we are settling into parenthood during a wild time; please know that I truly appreciate the gifts!")
Give yourself permission to do whatever it is you need to do to lovingly—adoringly—take care of yourself.
6. You are not alone
I know that this feels cliche. I also know that it doesn't feel particularly true right now, as you start motherhood in isolation. But, mama, it is so true. You are an esteemed member of a collective of mothers who love you, care about you, and are holding space for you.
I love this series of illustrations from Common Wild.
Even when you feel so alone, remember, your light is part of a collection of lights that is illuminating the world.
7. This is part of your story
Have you seen this video yet? (Side note: Grab the tissues first.)
Motherhood is a love story—and goodness, what a story you have.
Yours is a story of resilience.
Yours is a story of power.
Yours is a story of hardship.
But yours is a story of strength.
Because at its core, yours is a story of love. You've got this, mama.