Pregnant in a Pandemic
A month and a half ago (which now seems like a lifetime ago), I was feeling blissfully inspired and motivated. My energy had finally returned after the first trimesters morning sickness had brought me to my knees. My outlook and enthusiasm were high-vibe. I was gearing all of my attention towards enjoying the last remaining months of this pregnancy and thoughtfully planning/preparing for a healing, mother-centered postpartum this time around.
At this time, not once did I consider how drastically all of my well-made intentions were about to change. I had no idea that all the free time to myself that I had intended to create an easeful transition to a mother of two was about to be pulled out from under me.
The idea that I would be navigating the remainder of my pregnancy, my birth, and postpartum amid a global health crisis was nowhere on my radar, nor would I have placed it on my wishlist. Who would choose our current reality? My guess, no one. I would have never planned to be pregnant in a pandemic, none of us choose this. Pregnant or not, none of the humans on this earth would have or expected to be living our current circumstances (except maybe the doomsday preppers?)
Though my inbox was filled with messages related to COVID-19 from almost every entity that I receive emails from for a week or more prior. It wasn't until March 13th, 2020 (Friday the 13th, go figure) that the world as we knew it really started closing all its doors and confining us within the four walls of our homes. At least that is the date this occurred where I live.
I wasn't entirely in denial and clueless that this was imminent. All the signs were bright and flashing but let's be honest there is a distinct difference between talking about something happening and your reality as you know it changing overnight.
The fast-tracked shift to quarantine which for many entails— working from home (or sadly unemployment), homeschooling children, maintaining your household and managing everyone's emotions (your sanity), and venturing into an uncertain world to purchase basic survival needs. This quarantine is rocking many of us like a hurricane.
My immediate response to the announcement that we were under quarantine was a whole lot of ANXIETY and FEAR— uncertainty and loss of control— are the perfect circumstances for these two emotional BFF's. The rapid speed of all the transition occurred sent me into a tailspin of "what if-ing." Luckily self-awareness and emotional pulse-taking have been my practice for some time, and I was quick to acknowledge that I needed to change something to gain a sense of personal control and work with the emotional eruptions I was experiencing. I needed to safeguard my already immunosuppressed pregnant self.
The first step I took to regulate my nervous system (a huge player in boosting our immune function) was to retreat. The world was beginning to practice "social distancing," and I decided that for me, it meant "social-media distancing." I made this decision as I checked in with myself and realized that some of my fears were influenced by the global energies of fear. I was having a hard time discerning facts from fears and fake news. I am also too much of an empath for my own good. I've been a highly sensitive being since birth; I just couldn't be exposed to the understandable worries/concerns of others because I was experiencing what they call in mental health "vicarious trauma."
In my fragile state of 30 weeks pregnant, I retreated to practice all the self-care, self-love, self-compassion techniques in my toolbox; I rested my mind-body away from the world.
The beautiful thing about nourishing the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit with nutrient-dense food, rest, meditation, and energy medicine was that it only took several days before I found peace and clarity. I also became more present and available for my family. I was able to see us coming together in a bubble of love and safety, not see through clouded anxious eyes that were scanning for threats from every direction. I was able to start viewing this as a massive opportunity for building deeper connections with self and others.
After 5 days, I returned to such a state that I was even starting to see the silver lining in this crisis. By practicing gratitude and finding glimmers of hope and joy I lifted myself out of my pit of despair. A renewed sense of wanting to be a resource and cheerleader for others returned, and so did my presence in the tricky online world. Since then, which I think was weeks ago at this point (I can't really say because does anyone really know what day it is anymore?), my emotions have been on a trip around the world.
In the past few weeks, I have felt: anger, grief, frustration, distraction, panic, apathy, worry, sadness, courage, irritability, hope, and denial. Somewhere along the way I even found the humor in all of this, which is typically a nervous default of my personality, but I also thought we all could use a laugh and wasn't afraid to humiliate myself. I said F' It and did my own stand up comedy about being Pregnant in a Pandemic, which was a fantastic emotional release, in hindsight, I wonder if it was actually a subconscious panic-attack?
Post comedic relief, I returned again to a more altruistic state. I was feeling the collective energies of other expecting mothers facing this crisis, and I felt called to do something with my deeply felt compassion. That is when the universe presented an opportunity to birth a love child with some of the most genius and caring birth and postpartum workers in my area. Out of the darkness, we created a light to guide and support the many scared and confused expecting mothers about to birth in the face of COVID. #COVIDbirthEd. It was my role in this series to explore how we can mindfully manage our emotions (the whole gang of them) to empower ourselves to stay strong, courageous, and educated for birthing and postpartum— Pandemic or not.
Participating in this collaboration took me into deeper contemplation of my own experience of being pregnant at this time. It's harder than I could have imagined to stay calm and convicted that all will be okay, most days, I hit a ball back and forth between love and fear. I have been crying more than ever— which isn't just my hormones. I am also not implying that there is anything wrong with shedding tears, it moves emotions rather than denying them.
In moving beyond my personal experience of this nightmare, I think perhaps globally, we need to partake in one big sob-fest. Together release the grief we feel regarding the lives of loved ones and strangers being lost and collectively grieve the lives we were not too long ago accustomed to living. I wonder— Can we allow ourselves to mourn and simultaneously find gratitude for whatever we can?
Being pregnant in a pandemic has personally birthed lots of perspectives. I think bringing new life into the world makes you ponder the safety and the future survival of our species in general, maybe a bit more so now. I've been thinking about what all mothers, fathers, children, humans in general (regardless of roles) are navigating living in this lock-down state with no clear end in sight and no sense of what the world will look like when this is "over."
I have written previously about the emotional rollercoaster that is motherhood—the high-highs and the low-lows— but the current moment by moment fluctuation in moods is a mental-emotional crisis sweeping this nation, that I never before fathomed.
I have said it many times before that emotions are the language of humans and I’m a person that prides myself in having high emotional awareness and intelligence. However, this is some unprecedented shit we are living through. It feels like I’m trying to learn 7-10 new languages a day, with daily testing and no matter how hard I study for and or understand the languages— I’m scoring below average. I know I’m not alone in feeling like there is no hope for a 4.0 at the end of this semester.
Mothers and others are now feeling the effects of all of their stressors compounded under one roof. How does anyone find work-life balance while standing on their head and juggling far too many balls? Oh, and these particular balls that you are juggling, they are on fire.
How do we find the midpoint between the suffering and beauty that still exists?
Something has to give, shifts need to be made if we are going to stay afloat for who knows how long in this strange and challenging (yet promising) new modality of living.
I say, let's start by releasing the #momguilt and not play the shame game. We are attempting to manage a litany of emotions and hold ourselves, families, and communities together. We are actually living in survival mode, more so than ever before, and while the virus presents a threat to our physical health, this is also a full-blown financial and mental health crisis. Our health is really a sum of all these parts (and a few others) anyhow.
We must all recognize that we are doing the BEST that we can. I hope you can remind yourself of that when you are having a moment of feeling like you can not handle this one minute more. I hope you can find compassion for yourself and extend it to others that are also struggling to “keep it together.” However different the hardships of this experience looks for each of us #weareinthistogether. Let us all embrace that now is not the time for any grand notions of perfection around managing all of our obligations. Instead, let us practice acceptance for how incredibly heavy all this is to lift and in that acceptance, perhaps consider there are ways we can choose more simplicity to lighten the load.
Let's focus on what matters most and try mightily to find meaning in this madness. We have the opportunity on the other side of this to maintain our tightening communities, to stay and shop local more often and appreciate the many and valuable resources our unique communities offer. Perhaps we will continue to #stayhome more deeply connected to each other then ever before and savor the value of togetherness over going out and spending our precious dollars on sources of entertainment and "non-essential" materials. Maybe, we can look at how we have been living and see that perhaps in some ways, this pandemic was a wake-up call for us to take better care of ourselves, to own our health destinies, enjoy each other more, and practice greater reverence for this planet?
Let's celebrate technology for the win, our tech advancements are keeping large companies and small businesses operating—though I fully acknowledge the many service-based businesses unable to function in this format. Facebook, FaceTime, Zoom, and other platforms for connection are helping us celebrate birthdays and baby showers, educate our children, have playdates, and take/teach online fitness classes. While we celebrate our ability to maintain our activities, can we also make sure we don't allow "connecting socially" and staying informed online to distract us from the living persons right in front of us that NEED our undivided attention? Because they are scared and confused too.
Can we recognize the constant posting of our lives and the mindless scrolling of our news feeds as FOMO and see that we are actually missing out on our lives as they are unfolding in real-time? Let's not forget that addiction to our phones and devices existed before this crisis, and perhaps now more than ever, unplugging might be just the thing we need to unwind. Can we step into the shelter of the present moment?
Can we try and find more balance? More truly aligned living. Can we connect in the ways that are helpful and required, and also monitor our screen time? Can we allow the extra screen time for our children without guilting ourselves and then also put our devices down and be fully present when they need us? Make direct eye contact with each other and capture precious moments through the lens of our eyes with no need to create a media file of each moment? Can we be honest that sometimes disconnection better serves our personal/family needs and creates more space for BEing over the constant doing? Can we be of service to our jobs and families, and make sure that we are making enough space for just ourselves?
Our nervous systems need time to rest and restore, we can't maintain this fight or flight frenzy and be in a constant cycle of production, we need to find states of ease. Let us all remember that there is a reason we wake with the sun, and we sleep with the moon. AND. Can we also try and take a pause amid our over-scheduled days to step into the sun undistracted and feel its warmth on our faces?
We are being offered a significant opportunity to slow down, can we embrace this gift in whatever way we can big or small? Can we clear clutter from our homes and minds and sustain a more minimalist mindset moving forward? Can we embrace the beauty and benefits of boredom and spend more time in nature absorbing natural light and scenery and allow ourselves to receive all the benefits it bestows? Can you consider that maybe this time of crisis will support you in revealing the things you need to let go of and draw your attention and intentions to spending more time doing the things that fill you up?
Can we accept that life as we know it has most likely forever changed?
Please know, I'm posing all these questions to myself, maybe more so than I am asking them to anyone that might be reading this. I fully acknowledge and am aware that this time of crisis is affecting each of us differently. I understand that some people just want things to return to “normal” back to “business as usual,” part of me feels this way too but I am not sure we are ever going back.
We are each experiencing this state of emergency under the umbrella of our unique circumstances. This certainly is shining the light even brighter on the socio-economic disparities of this country. So again, let's practice compassion for each other and not judge ourselves or measure how we are coping against anyone else's experience. PERIOD.
Let us all find as much HOPE as we can muster, that somewhere down the road beyond all this uncertainty, the world as we know it will heal and we will all live better than ever before.
I've reflected quite a bit now on being pregnant (or not) and living through (and beyond) a pandemic, so I will get on with wrapping this up now.
If you are nearing birth chances are you never would have predicted this the day you found out you were expecting, this is unexpected. As a good friend of mine recently said: "This sh*t was not in my birth plan!"
With the birth of my second child drawing closer and closer and no ETA of the end of this current reality, I am turning to the practices of non-attachment and surrender. I am practicing radical acceptance and making a whole lot of lemonade with all these f'ing lemons. I am still preparing myself and my home as I would be otherwise, but with an extra sprinkle of LOVE and GRATITUDE to keep my spirits lifted. I extend an invitation to all expecting mothers and humans to join me.
Things in life, births especially, never go according to "plan." Pandemic or not, childbirth isn't something you can micromanage. The best you can do is inform yourself, advocate for your preferences, and prepare yourself with an understanding that everything is uncertain until labor unfolds. Labor requires an inward retreat into fully experiencing the sensations of our bodies while following the guidance of our hearts. Birthing asks us to step out of thinking with our minds, birthing is a process of our whole being that is informed by our emotions. Birth is an inside job.
So can we feel our way beyond fear with love to joyously greet our babies when they arrive earth-side? I enthusiastically believe so. I know that I can not change what is happening in the world right now, so I am going inward to the only place I can make shifts.
Personally, I'm turning to surrender, courage, grace, strength, trust, beauty, and love to once again step over the threshold of motherhood, arriving on the other side, born as the next version of myself. I extend an invitation to all expecting mothers and humans to join me.
Personally, I'm going to face bringing baby boy number two into these turbulent times like a badass warrior, like the divine goddess of a mother that I am. AND. I see you, I honor and revere you— you the expecting Mama reading this— YOU ARE a badass warrior, divine goddess of a mother too.