By Genevieve Putter
The world is currently in a state of flux as every nation galvanizes to flatten the curve and to protect its most vulnerable citizens from COVID-19. For perinatal mothers across the globe, this situation is particularly troublesome as they prepare to birth and begin their journey into motherhood in an uncertain world and for the most part in complete isolation.
For years now the concept of ‘the village’ or lack thereof has gained momentum in the narrative of modern motherhood. In the last 100 years as human society became more contemporary and where the nuclear family has become the norm, rates of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders have been increasing substantially.
A big contributing factor to this is the isolation that’s so pervasive during the early months of new motherhood when partners have to return to work and many mothers are left at home alone to care for their baby.
Right now, this situation is, on the one hand, exacerbated because of the narrative of social distancing in the common consciousness, as the world battles the pandemic, and the village has all but disappeared. But on the other hand, as offices and schools are closed indefinitely in an attempt to quell the spread of the virus, the positive silver lining in this is that partners more than ever have to step up. This presents with an incredible opportunity for a strong family bond to form and for partners to share the load of infant care as well as housework.
So if you are pregnant or newly postpartum, here are some tips on how to prepare.
Stay in regular contact with your OBGYN to see what the hospital’s protocols are for birth support. As it stands Doulas are not regarded as essential healthcare providers in most of SA’s private health care facilities and so fathers are going to be the main birth support.
If you have signed up with a doula, perhaps speak to them about organizing a zoom call so they can provide partners with some info on how best to support you.
Add some essential hygiene products to your hospital bag like hand sanitizer and surgical spirits.
Online shopping would include food delivery options in your area (if you are in Cape Town, here is a good resource). Also, check out Dischem, Clicks and Takealot for essential baby care products.
If you have yet to complete an antenatal class check out the following links that are providing online classes. https://www.instagram.com/p/B99AoCVJKAc/ , https://www.bellybabies.co.za/ , https://courses.thebirthhour.com/limited-time/ , https://relaxintobirth.thinkific.com/courses/relax-into-birth
Get your partner to manage household duties so you can focus on the baby. As mentioned earlier, partners are in lockdown too and are not returning to work for the foreseeable future.
This is also a great opportunity for partners to form a deep bond with the baby, so let them take the reins with nappy-changing and burping as examples. Also let them hang out with the baby so you can rest, shower and eat.
Set a day of the week to do your online grocery shopping or for partners to head out to the supermarket to stock up. Just make sure they are consistent with correct hygiene protocols- multiple hand washing, wearing of a facemask which must be discarded as soon as they return home.
Set up a daily roster with your partner of what is manageable for housework, namely, Mondays are laundry day, Tuesdays are bathroom day etc. If you feel the urge to do any of it, go for it, partner can be with the baby.
If you are feeling anxious, do some deep breaths, meditation, yoga, write in a journal, call a friend or loved one. Connect with your partner too in this regard.
If you are breastfeeding, remember that in uncertain times anxiety can affect breastmilk production, so aside from your self-care routine or doing everything in the above point, speak to your healthcare provider or one of the team at Nurturey about a supplement to help keep production up.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and in need of more professional help regarding your mental health during this time, speak to your health care provider about your options.
Most importantly, try and find the silver lining and enjoy the bubble of being with your new baby and partner. Never in our modern history have we as a society been forced to be at home for such an extended period of time and indefinitely, which is a wonderful thing.
Join a perinatal support group such as the New Normal’s Whats App group to connect with other perinatal mothers during this time.
It’s important to stay in touch digitally with family and friends every day.
Try not to watch too much news or read news articles, if you feel like you need to know what’s going on, maybe just tune into one news site that you trust and read their latest update. Otherwise, get your partner or family to filter it for you.
Same with social media. Now more than ever you need to be discerning of what you are consuming and who you are following. If you follow an account where the posts are making you feel anxious then just unfollow.
Now is the opportunity to up your self-care game. That may look different for everyone depending on your preferences or circumstances. Do a daily meditation to calm the mind or an online perinatal yoga class such as that offered by Blossom & Bloom. Also, cooking a healthy nutritious meal, whether it’s you or your partner donning the apron, or taking a long bath can go a long way in creating a sense of normality right now.
We are being forced to slow down right now and whilst nesting, organizing and getting things ready is typical for perinatal women, go easy on yourself and do what you feel capable of. Remember that babies need very little to survive, they just need you and your partner.