By Samantha Gratton
Like those early days adjusting to life with a newborn, the pandemic hit suddenly and painfully. At first you feel like you can barely catch your breath between responding to the needs and cries of someone else. All you can fathom is the hour you are living in. Communication from the outside world becomes almost overstimulating and unwelcome.
Right now, you can’t picture what two months or two years ahead could possibly look like, because you’re facing a challenge today that you’ve never seen before. Yet you know you have it better than others. Maybe your situation is not ideal, but someone out there probably has an even harder story of labor or sleepless nights (or worse, a story of great loss).
Every once in a while, for a brief moment, you feel cozy. All wrapped up with nowhere to be, there are elements of this new life that seem to align with what you’ve described wanting on your next vacation. But to be clear, this is not a vacation.
Your partner is experiencing change too but in vastly different ways. You see and hear the same things they do, but your heart breaks faster for the most vulnerable. You cry quicker and harder, whether tears of happiness or sadness or another emotion you can’t even pinpoint. You hope your partner gives you a get-out-of-jail-free card and somehow refrains from calling you crazy. But then when you’re alone and without answers, you start to question, am I actually losing it a little?
Human connection with someone other than your family feels so foreign that you can’t decide if it will feel better to hide from it and remain in your pajamas all day or seek out a smile from the mailman, just to get a glimpse at another person.
The internet says this stage can last weeks or months or more. You think to yourself, those experts must be wrong because I can’t take this for one more day! But you still heed whatever your doctor (and doctor Google) says, because you don’t want to be the one mom who couldn’t hack it.
Sex is fraught with fear and resistance. You know it will probably be a relief and connection point for both of you, but gosh, the idea of accidentally conceiving right now might actually push you over the edge.
Your brain is a constant mix of bored and tired and stressed. Therefore, your intake of TV shows or scrolling habits on social media have gone way up. It’s the only mild distraction that feels possible right now.
Getting to the grocery store involves major planning. Your budget has nearly gone out the window, you’re just trying to get everything you might need to survive. Do you have a list with everything on it (including all of the extra snacks)? Do you have everything you need to leave the house? Do you even know where your wallet and keys are these days?
But, eventually the newborn days fade. And guess what? You never do go back to life before the baby. You enter a new life that can never fully resemble what your life looked like before. It’s okay to grieve this loss.
Inevitably, you will adjust and it won’t always feel impossible to live day-to-day. You incorporate new elements into your routine and shift your focus. Your expectations are different, but you make short-term goals again. You hope to accomplish one small thing a day and if you do, you call it total success. If you don’t, you try to allow yourself enough grace to try again tomorrow.
Sometimes a moment goes by and you realize you aren’t thinking about how difficult it will be to run an errand or how bad things have been. Sometimes you just have a moment that seems normal and makes you forget. Or sometimes you look around and realize you’ve adapted to something completely different and that’s okay.
You will still have long and tiring days but as you build a rhythm, you begin to feel like maybe you’ll be able to pull through this with a piece of yourself and your individuality still intact. You can once more consider where your interests lie and hope for a beautiful future.
So, acknowledge the moments in this pandemic life: the hard, the sweet, the tedious, the fear, the exhaustion. Because it’s real. Then shift your mindset forward instead of back to the life you used to live. Look up and know there are still brighter days ahead.
Samantha M. Gratton is a freelance writer living in Raleigh, NC. She and her husband have survived two rounds of the newborn phase and are learning how to raise a sweet toddler and an extroverted preschooler amidst the pandemic. Find her chasing her kids at the park, shopping for chocolate-covered everything at Trader Joe’s, or online at samanthagratton.com.
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