The experience of being a parent or pregnancy is stressful at the best of times. Throw in a global pandemic and it increases ten-fold. So, what’s it like to be growing, nurturing and parenting for a child in these strange times. The wonderful Brooke of BluetoBliss and myself, Emma of MyMusings&Me teamed up to write from the perspective of being pregnant and parenting right now.
The Parenting Part
Just like everyone else in the world, my day to day lifestyle has dramatically changed since Coronavirus began to sweep the globe. I used to teach middle school English full time in an urban district by day and raise two children and blog by night. Quite suddenly, I found myself sheltering in place as my state began to shut down industries one by one. For the last seven weeks, I have now been spending all of my time at home, trying desperately to find the perfect balance where all of our needs are met.
The school district I teach for has a high poverty level. So, it is now more important than ever that I help connect my students to the free meals we are providing, the free internet, chromebooks, and technology assistance we have available. As well as the assistance they need with the lessons I am sending to them weekly. I even have students meeting with me virtually and calling me on the phone just to talk, because they are struggling with all of the new changes in their lives.
At the same time, my own two children are now learning from home full time, and I find myself tutoring both of them throughout the day in all of their subjects. I think the hardest part in all of this is that we are all very busy, taking turns with the computers we have at home, and talking a lot about how much they miss their own teachers and friends.
Since they are both in elementary, they are used to taking a lot of breaks and having extracurricular activities like music, art, and recess. I am doing my best to break up their day and provide fun activities for them. This past week we came up with a project to design their own board games, and then we played them during family game night.
Finding little ways to keep them excited and creative has been challenging but well worth the effort for all of us. And to keep them moving, we put our trampoline back up, pulled their scooters out from storage, and have made a point of going on hikes in the woods near our house. It helps all of us to keep our spirits up by enjoying the outdoors, getting fresh air, and sunshine.
In what little time I have left, I work on writing blog posts, maintaining my website, and interacting with my followers on social media. It is a lot of extra work trying to squeeze this in as well, but my business is something I am very passionate about, and I enjoy helping others.
The main way we are all keeping it together is by keeping a consistent schedule.
My students know the exact times I hold office hours for virtual meetings and phone calls. They also know I check my email frequently throughout the day.
My children helped make their own daily schedules and they have work plans that tell them which assignments to work on which days of the week. We were intentional about scheduling the easy assignments they can do without my help during my office hours, so they know not to interrupt me when I am meeting with students.
The key to our success has been including input from everyone in the family on what our days should look like and checking in frequently to make sure everyone’s needs are being met.
The Pregnancy Part
The whole experience of pregnancy has been a little strange for me. And that was before we entered a global pandemic. Needless to say none of this is what I imagined. This is my first pregnancy experience so I’ve got nothing to compare it to. Perhaps my expectations were way off base, anyway? I have no way of knowing.
All I know is that I was hoping to enjoy my pregnancy. Despite doubts about how it might impact my mental health. Surprisingly, despite a rocky first trimester I was excited for my second trimester. My symptoms settled and I was eager to get out in the sun. Spend time with friends, many of whom were also pregnant, and enjoy the positives of pregnancy – namely buying cute stuff!
Initial Pregnancy Hurdles
Despite hoping to become pregnant it still took us a little bit by surprise when it finally happened! We were excited but it didn’t feel real; at all. It was when we were on holiday that reality set in with severe morning sickness. Which is really all day, every day sickness. It needs a rename. This resulted in an early return from holiday and a visit to the doctors. I was offered time off work and medication due to the severity. I managed to keep going to work and got used to being sick in public. But it also meant cancelling all social plans and spending all down time on the sofa.
So, as symptoms settled around week 16 I was eager to see my friends and get back into a sense of normality. I wanted to get back into exercising – not something I could do with every movement making me sick – and enjoying the outdoors as the weather improved. And yet, before I had the opportunity to do this Covid-19 struck and I’ve been housebound for weeks. So much for normality!
Pre-Natal Mental Health & Support
One particular element which I’ve struggled with is a lack of support in pretty much all areas. I was already concerned about my mental health during pregnancy and particularly after. Due to past experiences of depression and anxiety, I was aware of the risks to myself of post-natal depression etc. Consequently, I was relieved when I raised these concerns at my first midwife appointment. They assured me that as my pregnancy progressed I could have extra midwife appointments and they could refer me to specialist support if I needed it. They also let me know they would put support in place for me post-pregnancy too. It was a massive relief to know that there were options. I was incredibly comforted by the empathy and understanding I received from the midwives.
So, it was a bigger blow then I realized that with the advent of Covid-19 that support all but disappeared. Since my initial appointments at week 8, I’ve not seen a midwife. My next appointment is in late June by which point I’ll be almost 7 months. Currently, I’m in month 6 and have had no face-to-face appointments except a scan, which was a scan only and not a space for concerns, and which I had to attend alone due to restrictions.
Through it all I’m pleased with how I’ve managed my own mental health during this time. Despite fears of being furloughed and how I would cope with too much time on my hands. Even though I feel like I’ve had no support from medical professionals. And in spite of particular concerns around weight gain having always struggled with my weight. I’ve found it hard to watch my stomach expand and the number on the scales increase with no idea of what was ‘normal’. But although I’m managing I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t times that it feels unfair and that my emotions do get the best of me.
The hardest part is having no frame of reference of what’s normal or to be expected. Online information can be helpful but overwhelming and often contradictory. Having friends in a similar scenario has been amazing and we’ve shared resources and how we’re feeling. This has been a massive lifeline. But I also have to be aware that our experiences have still been different. Some of the things I have expressed have not been their experience. This leaves me in murky waters and not understanding what is ‘my’ normal. Calls to my midwife have gone unanswered so I’ve had to work through those emotions alone and find my own feet.
At the end of the day, I do feel like I’m doing my best given the circumstances. I know that this is something I can be proud of in hindsight. It’s all I can really do with so much uncertainty going on in the world plus the added burden of living through a global pandemic.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on parenting and/or pregnancy during Covid-19. Let us know in the comments below