Coping as a New Mother During a Pandemic

By Chinar Som

Expectant mothers looking forward to an exciting, parenting journey in 2020 were in for a rude shock. The New Year threw us in the face of an unexpected challenge- a plunge into a Pandemic! Fears associated with COVID-19 only further aggravated the worries that came along with being a new parent. As reported worldwide, birthing and parenting during this time has turned out into a stressful experience for many mothers.

Some of the common stressors faced by most young parents have been:

  • Financial setbacks: Pay cuts or unemployment of self and /or spouse/family
  • Non-availability of household support staff and other family members.
  • Shortage of resources and difficulty in sourcing baby care items and/or household essentials.
  • Social and environmental disconnect
  • Restricted or modified access to medical facilities and consultants.
  • Physical fatigue
  • Lack of opportunities to unwind and disconnect from the chaos.

Jenanee, who gave birth 3 weeks into the lockdown of India, shares that cultural customs prevented her from buying baby goods before the birth. After her delivery, she was unable to source many baby care items due to the impact on supply chain of products.  Her experiences are a reflection of what most first time parents are facing as she further adds, “It’s a nightmare to even think of taking the baby to the hospital. Hospital visits are filled with fear and anxiety over, coming in contact with infected persons.”

Irrespective of the nature of the stressors, most eventually lead to a common outcome: Emotional Exhaustion. 

Many new parents are struggling to cope with waves of fears, anxiety, uncertainty, self-doubt and hopelessness. If you find yourself experiencing the same, here are a few suggestions to ease you into coping:

Accept the limitations: As a parent, you do want to provide THE BEST you can for your children. However, given the current scenario there will be limitations to what you can do and buy for your children. Nidhi S, laments the inability to give her daughter the exposure to the external environment and channelize her energy through outdoor activities. It is not uncommon for mothers to feel they are not able to provide the right environment or the right developmentally appropriate toys during the Pandemic. Remember, parent-child bonding and healthy future relationships are not dependent on luxuries. Your baby will not judge you on the number of toys and the brand names of products. What matters most right now is surviving this phase gracefully. So Nidhi coped by designing multiple activities to keep her child engaged indoors. You too can improvise with what you have at home.

Self-Care: “You cannot pour from an empty cup.” As a parent of a young one, you are the anchor of their universe. That makes it important that you stay functional, even if not in the best of physical or emotional health.

  • Laugh more- read jokes, watch reruns of your favourite comedy shows and movies, share a laugh with your partner.
  • Take turns to recharge yourself- With both parents at home, it is now possible for each parent to take a turn to watch over the baby while the other takes a much-needed nap or a relaxing shower. You can also synchronize your rest along with the baby’s naptime.
  • Listen to music- Years of research point out towards the positive therapeutic effect of music on moods. You may play peppy music to feel energized while working and soothing music or chants when feeling fatigued.
  • Be a team- Look at the bright side. In most homes, this situation has forced both parents to be present with the child for an extended period. Make this work to your advantage. Aparna. M a mother of 1 year old mentioned that this was a great time to connect as a family since the dad was at home and could spend lots of time with the baby. You and your partner are each other’s greatest support system now. Share the responsibilities, be grateful for being together as a family and lighten your worries by keeping the communication flowing.
  • Move your body- While exercising outdoors is largely restricted, a simple at home exercise routine will help your circulation and boost serotonin hormone that helps combat depression. On the spot jogging/ skipping, basic yoga stretches, freehand exercises are some basic options. Mothers need to consult their Obstetricians regarding safe exercising practices post-delivery.

Positive Self-Talk: Replace the negative inner chatter, your self-defeating statements with positive ones. The basis of the successful approach of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which helps anxiety and depression, is, “If you change the way you think, you can change the way you feel” (Aswell, 2020). A big source of hope and a helpful affirmation statement for everyone right now is “This is only a transitory phase- It too shall pass.” This eternal truth is a reminder that helps to “keep your neck above the water” and avoid being overwhelmed.

The absolute to dos: With no domestic help or support system and a spouse who may be occupied with “Work from Home,” mothers need to have their “absolute to do” tasks identified. What is it that you cannot ignore? Begin with that. Make Checklists and weekly chores calendar.

Maintain the human connection: Aparna M, talks about the impact of this enforced isolation, “I feel the worst part of the lockdown for me was the inability to meet other moms because the warmth of personal interaction is irreplaceable.” Nuclear families confined to their homes have felt the blow of the isolation more intensely. While personal interaction has no replacement but the next best you can do is to make sure to stay connected with your family, friends and social circle via available modes of communication.

Video calls, ‘heart-to-heart’ talks on phone calls, text and chat can be comforting. Do not undermine the sense of family and support one can feel even through typed words. It is advisable to avoid complete social disconnection. With visitors not streaming in to see your new-born, Make the most of this exclusive, undisturbed family time, enjoying co-parenting and bonding.

Connect with Nature: One of the undesirable outfalls of the Pandemic has been restricted outdoor movement. Being outdoors can reduce blood pressure, production of stress hormones, heart rate and muscle tension. (University of Minnesota, 2020). Therefore, disconnection with nature has a direct impact on emotional health.

Irrespective of whether you stay in a high-rise or an individual house. You do have access to a window/balcony/ terrace/ yard.  Go grab 15-20 minutes to connect with the outside or simply throw open your windows, look outside and breathe deeply.

Sunlight helps to increase the release of the hormone Serotonin responsible for uplifting moods. Carey Bligard, M.D, (Unity Point Health, 2019) terms it “a free mood enhancer”. Keeping these in mind, make it a point to get your daily dose of Morning Sunlight. A small act of connecting with nature as simple as having a houseplant and caring for it, has been scientifically proven to reduce stress.

As the rough times will pass, so will these moments of your child’s development. We want to see you make the most of these beautiful stages. Hence, we urge you to take care of your emotional health, be present as a stable parent and enjoy bonding with your child amidst the new normal. Do explore Mindfulness as another effective coping practice.

 Yes, these are exceptional times but You shall overcome!

References: 

  1. Tips for Coping with a New baby During COVID-19. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/COVID-19/Pages/Tips-for-Coping-with--a-New-Baby-During-COVID-19.aspx. Accessed on June 29th, 2020
  1. Coronavirus Stress adding to postnatal depression, anxiety in new mothers. https://m.economictimes.com/magazines/panache/coronavirus-stress-adding-to-postnatal-depression-anxiety-in-new-mothers/amp_articleshow/76479458.cms#aoh. Accessed on June 29th, 2020
  1. I Use this 5-minute Therapy Technique Every day for my Anxiety. https://www.healthline.com/health/ental-health/self-talk-exercises#1. Accessed on June 29th, 2020
  1. How does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing? https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing. Accessed on June 30th, 2020
  1. 13 Ways the Sun Affects Your Body: The Good & The Bad. https://www.unitypoint.org/livewell/article.aspx. Accessed on June 30th, 2020

About the author-

Chinar Som has Post Graduate degrees in Special Education and Human Development, with over 16 years of experience. She has taught from High school to Post-Graduate University students in India. She is an expert on a wide range of educational and parenting topics. A polyglot with a passion for writing. She practices a holistic healing lifestyle.

We sincerely thank all mothers for their valuable contribution to this article.

Picture Credit: United Nations Covid-19 Response


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