Sanyya on health anxiety while raising a baby during a global pandemic

picture of a mom holding her baby in her arms - essay on raising a baby during a global pandemic

Content warning: Discussion of postpartum depression, birth trauma, domestic abuse or other tough topics ahead. If you or someone you know is struggling with a postpartum mental health challenge, including postpartum depression or anxiety, call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (tel:18009435746)—The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline This free, confidential service provides access to trained counselors and resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English, Spanish, and more than 60 other languages. They can offer support and information related to before, during, and after pregnancy.

He sneezed a little more than usual today. The chain of thoughts that followed scared me half to death. Raising a toddler under a lockdown with the scare of the formidable COVID-19 looming outside is tougher than it sounds.

And to top it off, my recurrent pangs of anxiety drain every last ounce of strength I try to gain from those countless cups of coffee I have during the day. Of course the evenings require a much stronger form of liquid courage, but that too happened to be scarce owing to its limited availability.

My baby should be in a park under the sun, on the swings, walking on grass, befriending other kids, but instead, he is at home all day every day, pacing from one room to the other, playing with the same toys each day, seeing no new faces apart from his parents. That’s how growing up has been for him during the past few months.

Related: The pandemic robbed me of my dream for another baby

I fear he will grow up to be this individual who has been indoors for so long that the outside won’t feel as appealing anymore. What if he finds himself not wanting to make new friends or meet new people because all he has seen in his most impressionable years is his parents distancing themselves from friends and family and cutting off even the remotest possibility of meeting someone new?

I wonder how the new mothers around me are coping with the current situation. Are they as anxious? What must be their source of comfort? Is it a person, or food or are they too indulging in liquid lunches? The overthinking eventually takes me to a point where it starts to alter my physical state, like my heart begins to race, while I try hard to catch my breath, I go week in my knees, and completely lose the ability to concentrate on the present. I am not a know-it-all of how anxiety affects others but this is how it has been for me.

Related: 5 steps to stop an anxiety spiral, according to a therapist

In the beginning of April, I had an allergic reaction to pollen, which was only diagnosed later but the symptoms I was suffering from then included breathlessness, cough and a sore throat. I can’t stress enough how convinced I was that I had it. I spent every waking minute thinking about the various worst case scenarios this could end up being.

This made me almost completely withdraw myself from taking care of my toddler until I had definitive answers. The poor thing not being able to comprehend why his Mama is not around as much would keep calling out to me until we would both end up with tears rolling down our cheeks.

Meanwhile, I kept replaying in my head how it would be being separated from my baby. And as if this wasn’t enough, my head began to circle an even more unsettling and disturbing scenario, which was, having passed on the virus to my baby. It felt as if I had lost all control over my thoughts.

Related: Yes, you can breastfeed with Covid, says new study

The weight of these morbid ideas had become dense enough to burrow a hole in the very fabric of my reality, and I had begun my free fall into it as if plunging toward a blackhole with no escape. Moments later I find myself trembling and gasping for air as if I were drowning. I was in fact drowning, drowning in the pool of my own dreadful thoughts. The anticipation of these horrifying scenarios affected me to the extent of hindering my ability to function in everyday life.

A day later the Doctor’s verdict came in and it turned out to be just an allergy and I was relieved beyond words. But the relief I felt in that moment was quite short-lived. We are still amidst a pandemic, fearing every walking soul to be a carrier of this frightening disease and I still find myself plummeting down my very own blackhole of fear and anxiety every time my baby sneezes a little more than usual.