Having a baby during the coronavírus pandemic was not easy but we got through. With the best medical stuff we could ask for, our family at a distance of a FaceTime or WhatsApp, and most crucially, each other, we survived and got our free pass to go home. Then the real stuff started.
Usually, when parents are discharged to go home they say they feel scared or even anxious about how they are taking a thing so little home: “what if we are not ready? What if we break them?”. Well, I can say that neither myself or André thought that, we had a very different experience which will make me into one of those old ladies that will tell all pregnant ladies she’ll encounter that “in my time it was difficult, now it’s easy” – a typical saying in Portugal, Portuguese will understand.
We were ready to go home. We were grateful for all the support in the hospital but we were emotionally tired and felt that our home was the perfect place to go at that moment. We had a reality check when the nurse came to give us all the info we needed to go home: there were a tone of actions we needed to follow which weren’t in the books we read on preparing for this moment, because this time was nothing but normal.
We were asked to go straight home. If we needed to get any medicine, the dad should go pick it up alone and go straight home after. We shouldn’t have anyone over or be with anyone until further indications. We should leave the shoes at the doorstep of the house, disinfect our hands, doorknob and keys, and put all our clothes in the washing machine right away. It was serious. After having one hundred careful ways on packing and getting myself and T ready to leave our room at the hospital, stepping outside to a scene which I can only compare to a Walking Dead one (the normally full hospital reception had a total of 6 people and the usually busy streets were now empty, even in one of the busiest ways of our city), I could not stop myself from crying while doing all those steps. This wasn’t supposed to be this way.
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Well, I’ve done a lot of crying in those days, actually. Everything and nothing would make my eyes tear. Showing my mom baby T from the window of our hospital room (on the 2nd floor of the building) was the start of it.
I was so worried with all the careful actions we had to do and how everything could be infected that I still have my suitcase and beloved bag in the floor of our entryway unpacked. Yes, it’s true.
For a person who had dealt with anxiety and OCD in the past, which included washing the hands too many times a day, this was a nightmare coming true. And this was how I felt for the major part of these weeks. Every day I would wake up and think for a few moments that maybe this was just a dream, only to realize that, unfortunately, it wasn’t.
T was a fantastic baby this few weeks. I’m saying this with tears in my eyes of how grateful and happy I am for this to be true.
Even if breastfeeding wasn’t as easy as I expected in the first days in the hospital (adding a body recovering from a c-section makes it 100% more tricky and exhausting) making him loose too much weight in the first days, thankfully after being home everything changed and he got all the weight back and behind. We were relieved as soon as we got our first appointment and the confirmation that our first few weeks as parents (in a quarantine) had been successful. He was healthy. He had gained the loosen weight. A week after he had even gained weight. We were ok.
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But this didn’t went as easy as it seems. After two weeks of sleep deprivation, we got it bad. I got it bad. My mental state was worsting every day and I felt it. I warned André that I wasn’t feeling well and he tried to help as he could. And we got through it. Just know that it is ok to ask for help, especially from your partner, if it’s being too much. It is ok to give baby formula if you are not feeling well enough to breastfeed your baby. You are doing your best, and that it’s what matters. You need to take care of yourself too. And that was what I did.
One day, we decided that watching the news all day wasn’t getting us any better, so we decided to change it to only 1x a day. And on that weekend I took part in a reading marathon, where I decided to finish a few books I had half-read in my currently-reading list. This was amazing for my mental health. This and letting myself feel all the things and, especially, crying on my husbands shoulder.
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We missed having our family around, even if we got to see them via all the amazing digital ways we have these days and on one or two times they endangered themselves to come bring us groceries or pharmacy needs to our doorstep.
I’m grateful for the special breakfast we got with my mom and brother in the morning before we got admitted to the hospital. For seeing my dad a few days before on a spontaneous visit he did to see us before baby T arrived. For the help our family got to give us on getting everything ready for him, from the laundry to our amazing clean house which they did while we were in the hospital, to the groceries, food and supplies they brought us over. I’m grateful for everything.
But we missed it. While embracing it at the same time. We looked for the bright side of things: we had this time for ourselves, it was just the 4 of us (yes, I count Luna in too since it is still being an adjustment to her, especially the not sleeping all night part).
We didn’t have any trouble with having the house too full, on needing some space (even if at one time all the calls and messages got too much for me – I’m an introvert, really). We got all the time for ourselves and we got the best of it.
But at some point around the 3rd week, another thing got to me: being locked at home. We live in a small one-room apartment since the summer in one of the best parts of Lisbon, near my office, 20min away from André’s, with amazing surroundings to walk, get out, socialize, shop, whatever you’re into, really. And there we were: locked at home because of this COVID-19 pandemic. In a house with no balconies and little to no sunlight.
In reality, #stayhome is so important to me that I didn’t want to leave the house for weeks. I didn’t want André to leave the house either or anyone else from my family or friends. But I missed the outside world and breath in some air. I missed our old house, even more than I usually already do. The 3 bedrooms and 2 balconies apartment away from the city but near the countryside and my family. But well, crying about the past is not going to help anyone, so I started to depress and André started to realize it was time for us to do the one thing we didn’t want to do: leave the house to take a walk.
We got the carrier, put T on it, got ourselves ready and left the house around 3pm in a week’s afternoon, the less probable time to find anyone on the streets around our house. And we did. As baby T’s doctor recommended: we got outside, being extremely careful to not run into anyone (if we saw someone 1km away, we switched ways) and not touch anything plus disinfect our hands if so. All the extreme precautions we should take. And it felt good. Being able to stretch my legs and take T for a walk in the warm March weather felt so good, I could cry.
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It was nerve-racking for me but it was extremely needed for my mental health at that time. I spent weeks without feeling outside air in my lungs, since we got out of the hospital really (we had one appointment in the hospital after but we got into the car from our garage to the hospital parking, so no outside world out of the car for me).
I say and repeat: stay home. Don’t leave your home unless you really need to. I’m doing this 99% of the time. I am on our 32nd day of social distancing, aka quarantine aka whatever you want to call it, and left the house 4 times: the medical appointment and three walks with T with extreme cautions. I don’t leave the house even for groceries since I’m still recovering from the c-section and can’t carry too much weight, André is the one doing all the errands.
And I can comfortably say that with those three walks I’m ok to stay home without leaving for a few more weeks.
Because I finally feel like myself again.
And it wasn’t just the getting air part or walking more than 10 steps at a time inside my small house. It was the change in my mindset. I decided to focus on making myself feel better. I didn’t want to cry every day, I was terrified to be anxious and sad and miss the most important part of my baby’s life. I was terrified of being missing out on one of the best times of our life. And when I finally shocked this scary feeling from myself and focused on not letting that happen, I found myself again.
I focused on sleeping what I needed (even if that meant to sleep in until 1pm), on having some type of routine (or begin to create one), on embracing and enjoying each moment with my baby and just being a mom, and remember each thing I can do in this time that excites me: working on our goals, baking, organizing the house, binge-watching new Tv shows and reading.
And when everyone asks: and in those scary times when something strange and new happens, didn’t you felt scared as a new mom? How did you deal with it without your family close?
Well, that I will leave to the next part which will be here next Friday: what you really need in your pandemic post-partum