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Real Women, Real Stories: Pandemic Edition, vol. 1

Intro by Lisa Butler: In the past we brought to you real stories from real women about their journey of motherhood. These stories provide support to others, speak to those that feel alone and normalize many challenges of motherhood. 2020 threw us all for a loop, especially many moms. All of us at Perissos Therapy included. Over this coming year we plan to bring more real stories to you from moms and their journey through the pandemic so far. To kick it off, here is my story.

In March 2020 we began to learn about COVID-19 and the next thing we 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. Here we are 10 months later and we still really don’t know.

Recently I looked back in my photos to those days just before lockdown. They were photos from a party with friends and my daughter’s gymnastics class. Things that were simple and normal before the pandemic. My daughter’s birthday is the end of March and we canceled her party thinking, oh we can just reschedule in a few weeks. Now we are approaching that time again and I still don’t have answers as to how or what we will do to celebrate her birthday. One of the biggest challenges of the pandemic for myself was/is the unknown. I have moments of feeling like we are fine, we are figuring this out day by day and then shifting to worry about how we will keep it together and make it all work. Early on I found myself watching the news often feeling like if I have more information I can plan ahead more easily. Problem was, the news and experts didn’t have much information either! I had to decrease watching the news and remind myself, what I often remind my clients, that we need to stay in the present. Worrying about what will happen next week or next month when we can not predict the future just creates more anxiety.

My husband and I were both working from home while juggling caring for our active 4 year old. Changing work schedules or responsibilities every other day brought on added stress. Not to mention figuring out how to navigate the ins/outs and logistics of working from home. Which now feels like the new norm. As the weeks went on it was more challenging to keep our daughter entertained, she had never been at home with nowhere to go for that amount of time. None of us have! With no warning she was pulled from her friends, teachers and normal routine. We couldn’t see family which we were used to doing regularly. I was anticipating tantrums and arguments about going to the park, library, dollar store or McDonalds. After we explained why we can’t go to those places she never really asked. Aside from boredom at times she handled the drastic change better than I expected. However she definitely had way too much screen time and video calls with grandparents and cousins for entertainment while we worked. I could let the guilt about that overrun me but I know we were in survival mode! Luckily the weather was improving and we could get outside more, which really saved us.

I have left out one huge detail of my pandemic experience. At the start of the pandemic I was 7 months pregnant. Going to doctor appointments I almost felt silly asking my OB “what should I be doing” and “should I be worried” because frankly she didn’t know anything more than what I knew. Her recommendation was always to continue to follow CDC guidelines. From the start of the pandemic until I had the baby I did not leave my home except to go to doctor appointments. And even when I did that it brought on anxiety until I felt “in the clear” again. The situation was completely out of my control but what I could control was not going anywhere.We did not interact with anyone outside of our home.

As my due date approached we were also starting to hear stories of hospitals not allowing spouses to be in the delivery room and that was heartbreaking and scary. I had a friend ask me if I was going to have a home birth, but my answer was 100% NO WAY! Pandemic or not I was going to the hospital to have my baby. Leading up to the birth I had all the normal worries. Will I go into labor in the middle of the night, who will watch our daughter, will I get to the hospital in time. It was also layered with, what if my parents get covid and can’t watch my daughter. What if they bring covid into our home and then our daughter is sick and gets the baby sick when we get home. Will we get covid from the hospital, will our baby have covid. The worries went on and on. Honestly the only thing that truly helped was reminding myself we are all healthy and safe and will continue to be. I just had to strongly believe that to get through all the worries. And in the end everything was fine.

Once the baby was born and we were back home safely those worries did calm down. There were times when I wished things were how I had planned them, my oldest in daycare and able to spend time with grandparents so she didn’t feel stuck in the house with a newborn. But we were now in a new reality. As my maternity leave was coming to an end we had to make decisions about child care. I went back and forth, over and over what was the best plan. Once we made the decision I told myself I just can’t think about it anymore because we will never know 100% what is the best decision. Our pediatrician said to me there are always risks we take in life and you have to choose what is best for your family. When in reality I wanted her to make the decision for me right? Ha! So far I feel good about the decisions we made and hope that it remains that way.

Some days I think about how our lives would have been different this year. Our baby’s first year of life would have been different if it weren’t during a pandemic. Although the year didn’t turn out how we “planned” it, I think about the silver lining 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.

Wearing sweats/leggings to work.

No wasted time commuting.

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

Getting little chores done or prepping dinner between clients.

Target Drive Up!

But as I sit here writing this blog I have thought “who am I to tell my story when others have experienced SO much worse.” Maybe you have said something similar to yourself. “You have no right to complain, you don’t even have it that bad.” Or something similar. Maybe you haven’t reached out for help because you have felt this way. I am here to tell you that there are no right or wrong feelings. How we feel is valid and everyone's experience matters. In fact invalidating an experience causes more emotional distress. For me writing this blog was not easy, I do not like to write and especially not about myself. I hope in doing so that it is helpful 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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