I became a new mom in a pandemic. When we found out we were pregnant in May of 2020, I didn’t understand what that meant and what I, and so many new moms, had already lost before we had even started. We didn’t talk about what was to come, because we had no idea. We had no idea that over a year later we would still be here, masked, and mostly alone.
We lost our community
I didn’t comprehend my loneliness during my pregnancy until a colleague asked to see my belly over Zoom. Not a single coworker had seen me from the neck down in the eight months since I’d found out I was pregnant — 10 months since I had seen them in person. Most never knew I was pregnant until the day my “out of office” said I wouldn’t be back for four months. My closest friends never saw me grow, literally and figuratively, over those nine months. My husband is the sole keeper of those memories.
We lost joy
My baby shower was bittersweet. My friends and family did all they could to exude joy and happiness through a screen. But the reality is, I stood alone, in our home office, staring at a computer camera. Dressing up for the occasion felt incredibly silly, but I did it anyway, hoping at least that would feel normal. (It didn’t.) There were no hugs, no confident squeezes on the shoulder, no private words of wisdom as I stood on the doorstep of a new chapter of my life. I celebrated this moment alone. With vaccines in place, it’s hard to see mothers-to-be celebrating in person, surrounded by loved ones, gleefully oohing and aahing over adorable newborn onesies. It’s a reminder to many of us of what we have lost.
We lost our story
I finished up my prenatal appointments alone or on the phone. I sat in the nurse triage office alone, anxiously waiting to be told what I already knew — we were having our baby several weeks earlier than planned. I’m better with faces than names, and in my memories and dreams I can conjure up faces faster than anything else. But my birth story is faceless. I never saw my midwife’s face, or the faces of the kind nurses who kept me company through 36 hours of labor, or the face of the pediatrician who spent 45 minutes with us after our daughter was born. While I’m certain each of them smiled at us and our new baby, I can’t recall a single one.
Maybe we will have another baby someday, but you only become a new mom once. To all who became moms during the pandemic: You are seen, your feelings are valid, and it’s OK to mourn what we have lost.