Artist and teacher Catie Atkinson at Spirit y Sol recently shared a beautiful drawing of a new mom crying on a couch—leaking breasts, newborn baby, pile of laundry and what we can only assume is cold coffee, included. Everything about the image is so real and raw to me—from the soft stomach to the nursing bra and the juxtaposition of the happy wallpaper to the palpable vulnerability of the mother—I can almost feel the couch underneath me. I can feel the exhaustion deep in this woman’s bones.
My heart feels the ache of loneliness right alongside hers. Because I remember. I remember the confusion and uncertainty and love and messy beauty of the fourth trimester so well. After all, it’s etched in our minds and bodies forever.
But I’ve never experienced a fourth trimester amid the chaos and heaviness of a global crisis. A scary pandemic keeping people away, keeping new mothers home—increasing the isolation, increasing feelings of being trapped.
I haven’t quite experienced that. And my heart goes out to the postpartum moms who are crying on their couch right now wondering why exactly, this is the maternity leave or introduction into motherhood they’re getting—and not the one they envisioned.
“This is not what you had planned. This is not what you’d envisioned. There are no visits from friends, no loving doula bringing you soup, no ‘mommy and me’ yoga classes, no coffee dates, no stroller walks through the park. There is empty space where you had planned comfort and company. There are long days with no one but your little one to talk to and this big transition to navigate all alone.
“I know it’s lonely, mama. I know the walls of your house feel tight and the days feel so long, and you crave a warm hand on your knee and the soft embrace of a friend. You wish for someone by your side to marvel at this beautiful baby of yours and to wrap an arm around you when the feelings get too big and scary.
“We were never meant to do this alone. Motherhood has never been a solitary sport. And yet here we are, in this odd chapter of isolation and distance, with no choice but to do it by ourselves.
“But mama, know this—We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing.
“This too shall pass. And when it does, hugs and coffee dates and visits from friends will taste so much sweeter. Soft kisses on your cheek and arms around your waist and gentle laughter in your ear will be the joyful medicine after this trying time.
“Until then, hunker down mama. Find the coziest, warmest spot on your couch, sink into the pile of unfolded laundry, and sleep the Spring away, with that sweet babe warm on your chest.”
I cry for the new mom who has to introduce her new baby to their grandparents over FaceTime instead of an in-person visit.
I hold onto hope, knowing the day you can finally parade your baby around out in the world—showing them off to everyone you love—will be one of the proudest moments of your life.
I cry for the new mom desperate to go to a mother’s group to commiserate and celebrate together with other mamas who are in this.
I hold onto hope, knowing that there are opportunities for virtual connection that are helpful and soul-filling, too.
I cry for the new mom wishing she had an extra set of hands around to hold her baby while she showers or naps.
I hold onto hope, imagining this time is a really special (albeit, intense) period of bonding and connection for your brand new family.
I cry for the new mom needing to break free from the walls of her home, the surroundings she looks at all day long.
I hold onto hope for you, praying you’re able to get out for a walk or even a quick drive by yourself—with the music turned up on full blast.
We cry for you—with you—mama. But we’re wildly inspired by you, too. You’re the mothers birthing and raising new babies during a global pandemic. You are strong. You are resilient. And you are certainly not alone.
We are with you in spirit and solidarity. The fourth trimester you’re getting might not be the one you hoped for, but that doesn’t make it any less real, or any less significant.
It’s powerful and it’s yours.