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Real Women, Real Stories: Pandemic Edition - Pregnancy, Parenthood and Perspective from a Psychotherapist

Intro by Lisa Butler: Previously, we've shared real stories from real women about their motherhood journeys. These narratives offer solace to others, resonate with those who feel isolated, and validate the various trials of motherhood. Twenty-twenty was a whirlwind of a year, particularly for many moms, including all of us at Perissos Therapy. Throughout the upcoming year, we are now aiming to bring you more genuine stories from mothers navigating through the pandemic. To kick things off, I'm sharing my personal story below. I hope my perspective as a psychotherapist and mom resonates with many women out there who are struggling to feel like enough.

mom working from home with baby on her lap
Discover the pandemic journey of a psychotherapist and mom, navigating pregnancy and parenthood. This story is the first of many in our Real Story, Pandemic Edition Series that will share valuable perspectives from women during an unprecedented time..

In March 2020 we started hearing about COVID-19. The next thing I knew we were all home “for 2 weeks.” As time went on it became more apparent that it was not going to be just for 2 weeks but no one really knew how long it would be. Heck, here we are 10 months later, and we still really don’t know.

Recently, I took a stroll down memory lane, flipping through photos from the days just before lockdown. They captured moments from a party with friends and my daughter's gymnastics class—simple, everyday occurrences that now seem like distant memories in the wake of the pandemic.

My daughter's birthday falls at the end of March, and we made the difficult decision to cancel her party, assuming we could reschedule in a few weeks. Little did we know how drastically our plans would change. In the early days, I found myself glued to the news, hoping to gain insight that would help me plan for the uncertain future. However, I soon realized that the news and experts were just as clueless as I was.

I had to dial back my news consumption and remind myself, as I often do with my clients, to stay grounded in the present moment. Worrying about what might happen next week or next month, when the future is so unpredictable, only adds to our anxiety. There were moments when I felt like we were managing just fine, taking each day as it came. But then, there were also moments of panic, wondering how we would hold it all together and make it through.

My husband and I found ourselves both working from home while also wrangling our energetic 4-year-old. The constant shifts in work schedules and responsibilities added an extra layer of stress to our already full plates. And then there were the challenges of navigating the intricacies and logistics of working remotely.

As the weeks passed, it became increasingly difficult to keep our daughter occupied, especially since she had never spent such extended periods of time at home with nowhere to go. None of us had! She was suddenly cut off from her friends, teachers, and familiar routines. Our regular visits with family also came to a halt, which was a significant adjustment for all of us.

I braced myself for tantrums and arguments as I explained to her why we couldn't visit our usual spots—the park, the library, the Dollar Store, and so on. Surprisingly, she adapted to the changes better than I anticipated. Perhaps the extra screen time and video calls with grandparents and cousins, providing some much-needed entertainment while we worked, contributed to her resilience. I tried to not let the guilt about her amount of screen time consume me because I recognized that we were simply in survival mode!

I've left out a significant aspect of my pandemic journey. When the pandemic began, I was seven months pregnant. Attending doctor appointments, I often felt uncertain, wondering, "What should I be doing?" and "Should I be worried?" My OB didn't have much more information than I did; her advice was consistently to adhere to CDC guidelines. From the onset of the pandemic, until I gave birth, I rarely left my home except for medical appointments. Even then, each outing triggered anxiety until I felt reassured. The situation felt entirely beyond my control.

As my due date approached, I was flooded with the usual anxieties. Would labor kick in during the wee hours? Who would look after our daughter? Would we make it to the hospital in time? But amidst these typical concerns, there was a looming layer of pandemic-related worries. What if my parents contracted COVID and couldn't care for our daughter? What if they inadvertently brought the virus into our home, putting both our daughter and the newborn at risk? Would we catch COVID at the hospital? Would our baby be born with COVID? The list of concerns seemed endless.

In truth, the only solace I found was in reminding myself that we were all healthy and safe, and we would remain so. I had to hold onto that belief firmly to navigate through the sea of worries. And in the end, everything turned out fine.

Some days I think about how our lives could have been different this past year. How things should have been. Our baby celebrated her first birthday, and I can't help but wonder how different her first year might have been without the shadow of a pandemic hanging over us. While this past year didn't unfold according to our initial plans, I find myself reflecting on the unexpected blessings that emerged amidst the challenges of life during a pandemic for our family...

  • A lot of bonding and time at home with just us.

  • Not having to “prepare myself” for visitors early in postpartum.

  • I’ve only packed a diaper bag a handful of times.

  • We haven’t rearranged social plans around naps.

  • No morning rush to get everyone out the door.

  • Get to wear sweats/leggings to work.

  • No wasted time commuting.

  • We get outside more and take middle-of-the-day walks.

  • Able to get light chores done or prep dinner between clients.

  • Target Drive Up!

As I sit down to write this blog, I can't help but think, "Who am I to share my story when others have endured so much worse?" Perhaps you've had similar thoughts. "You have no reason to complain; your situation isn't even that bad." Or something along those lines. Maybe you've refrained from seeking support because of these feelings.

Let me assure you: There are no right or wrong feelings. How we feel is valid, and everyone's experiences matter. In fact, dismissing someone's experience only adds to their emotional burden. Writing this blog wasn't easy for me—I'm not fond of writing, especially about myself. But I hope that by doing so, it can offer some comfort or guidance to at least one person who reads it!

Please stay tuned over the next several months for more real-life pandemic stories from moms with a variety of life circumstances.


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