Self Care During A Pandemic
And just like that, your village was locked down
It felt like it happened overnight. Moms went from random meetups and coffee dates, scheduled playtimes and prenatal groups to virtually nothing. The pandemic locked up the proverbial village and left many moms without others to turn to.
While moms who gave birth for the first time during the pandemic may not be as aware of what’s been lost, they’re feeling the impact just the same.
New moms need support
A study from Unity Health in Toronto found that pregnant women have unique concerns during the pandemic. For example, of those who had never given birth before, 51.5% were concerned about access to prenatal classes*. Early data from a blog on Psychology Today notes that more than 70% of pregnant women surveyed reported clinically significant depression or anxiety**.
Add to that the constant changes to mandated physical protocols causing many moms anxiety about how much to engage with others in person and it’s a hard balance knowing how much the village can help while being uncertain about how to keep families safe.
Mom’s groups and services exist because they help
Numerous mom groups and counselling services dedicated to pregnant and postpartum women have popped up over the years. Whether in a pandemic or not, giving birth is a major event. Nothing wreaks havoc on your life like having a child. Your body changes, your family structure changes, your schedule changes. Everything changes. That much change means there’s a need for support.
Moving to online supports
The need for self-care and support during the pandemic, therefore, has grown exponentially for expecting and new moms. While everything may point to the pandemic being complete and utter bad news, there is at least one positive. Moms can connect with other moms, healthcare providers and other supports absolutely anywhere in the world.
What would have been odd in the past (videotaping yourself breastfeeding to ensure proper positioning or sending photos of diaper rash) has become commonplace as women reach out to one another in many varied and beautiful ways.
There’s no shortage of groups online to join, but how do you find the right village that will meet your needs? Think about it as if these online groups were an actual person. Who would you be with if we weren’t in a pandemic? Likely you’d start with a prenatal group and would probably make a friend or two there. You may stick with those friends after your baby is born, or you may drift to a new group and new people.
Here are a few tips:
- Many groups like Baby Center’s community help align you with others based on due date or birth date.
- Don’t expect to like everyone. Just the same as if you were in person, you’re not going to enjoy everyone in an online group.
- The first group you try may not be the right fit. Keep your options open.
- Local groups may be a good choice so that when you’re ready to meet in person you can ask friends and family if they were part of any particularly good online groups.
- Your doctor, doula, nurse practitioner or other health care provider should have a few suggestions.
- If you have any specific needs such as multiple births, special needs children, fitness focus or mental health, look for specialized groups.
- Remember that others in these groups are peers, not professionals. Even if advice is offered, it should be considered in tandem with your healthcare provider.
A word about mental health
Your mental health should never be underestimated. Being a good mom starts with taking care of yourself first. It sounds (and likely feels) counter-intuitive to put yourself first but it’s essential. More than a few books have been written about this, so we’ll leave you with a few thoughts:
- Arrange for support so that you can get time on your own to do something you enjoy. Yes, this is a HUGE challenge in a pandemic, but hopefully there is someone in your bubble you can trust who can give you the break you need.
- Get outside for a few minutes a day. Standing on your balcony in the fresh air is often enough to remind you there’s a future beyond the meltdown you may be experiencing at that particular moment.
- If you need additional support, reach out immediately to mental health programs. There are so many available for expecting and new moms and you deserve whatever help you need.The Canadian Mental Health Association’s website is a great place to start. You can also check out Wellness Together Canada, offering free mental health support 24/7.