A few short weeks ago, I started singing “You Are My Sunshine” to my baby each night before bed. I want my baby to recognize my voice when they arrive in June. A few weeks ago, my biggest concerns were finding and researching “the perfect” baby products, making it to a prenatal yoga class and lathering on belly butter to prevent stretch marks. A few weeks ago, I was lucky to be surrounded by my family members, eagerly telling them to place their hands on my belly to feel the baby move. Eager to share my joy with them, the first grandchild on either side of our family. Sadly, my father, mother-in-law, and father-in-law didn’t get a chance to feel the baby move inside my belly, and now I don’t know if they ever will. Today, I am worried – like most mothers – about how we will get groceries safely next week without being exposed to COVID-19. I have never felt fearful of physical being in our local stores, and it is strange. The dramatic changes of the pandemic have left me feeling like the world is spinning and everything I was looking forward to has been stripped away. Canceled birth classes, hospital tours, baby showers, maternity photos, haircuts (okay, I know this isn’t that important but I desperately wanted to just get a haircut before my baby comes!). My husband gave me a gift certificate for a prenatal massage for my birthday which will not be used.
Today, I cannot purchase diapers or wipes for my baby – something that I assumed would be easily accessible. Unfortunately, even the cloth diapers are gone. I feel unprepared, especially because I may just have to do everything alone. Birth partners are being excluded from hospitals, and I fear that I will have to go through labor without my husband. I have a repetitive nightmare of being separated from my baby after giving birth because I have contracted COVID-19. Even worse – I fear that the hospital will be so full that there is no room for us in case we need medical intervention or help. Yes, I know this may not happen, but the uncertainty in the world right now has left me searching for a sense of normalcy…Today I am Googling “absolute necessities for a newborn” to see if I can still purchase any items for my baby. As a first-time mother, this is a particularly frightening time.
All of the prenatal podcasts I’ve listened to and pregnancy books I’ve read have one piece of advice in common – find community and support. The message is clear and repetitive – “connect with other mamas in your birth class”, “ask for help”, “make a chore list for people to help when they come to visit”, “find support”, “remember, you are not alone!”.
But now, I, like other mothers, am feeling alone.
Who knows when it will be safe for my family to see me again? I may not be pregnant anymore, and they may not meet their grandchild until they are a few months old.
I know that our situation could be much, much worse. I often feel angry at myself for even grieving the pregnancy I’ve dreamed of and lost when others are suffering so deeply. I am acutely aware of the pain happening in the world and feel it to the deepest core of my being. As an empath, the emotions of others affect me tremendously. So much so in fact that at my last prenatal visit my blood pressure was the highest it has ever been. Yikes! It’s exceedingly difficult to feel excited about the new life I’m bringing into the world when the world seems so turbulent and full of pain. I am so, so sad. Sad for all of the first-time moms whose realities have changed similarly to mine. Sad for the partners who cannot be at their prenatal visits and births. Sad for the healthcare workers and nurses working the front lines. Sad for everyone experiencing loss.
I’ve even found myself thinking “Did we choose the wrong time to have this baby?” “Why is this happening now?” But what I’ve come to realize is that actually, now is a perfect time. This baby is teaching me every day to grow stronger than I ever knew was possible. Teaching me to sit in stillness and feel my feelings. To slow down and to breathe. To love each and every thing, no matter how small, especially at a time of so much loss. To never take anything or any moments for granted. I still sing “You are my Sunshine” each night, but with greater emotion and purpose than I have ever felt before. This baby has become my literal beacon of light. My sunshine on these cloudy days. And even though everything has changed, I have faith that the sun will come out… eventually.