Many new parents are just now beginning to process the experiences of having been pregnant, delivered and/or gone through the postpartum phase during a pandemic. As we are coming up on the one-year mark, it will make many pause and look back at that pregnancy and first year postpartum. This can be quite heavy when the first year of your child’s life and your parental transition, or parts of it, occurred during lockdown and a global crisis. If you gave birth during hectic circumstances where labor and delivery care was not operating as usual. It’s a big loss to be mourned. It was not the year you had expected or had prepared for (how could anyone prepare for that?). Our transition to parenthood is a multilayered process where we discover ourselves through experiences, and new parents have been so limited in their options for discovering themselves as parents during the pandemic. It is like a whole aspect of your parental identity did not get to fully unfold. This takes a big toll on parents’ mental health and adjustment to parenthood.
In terms of decision fatigue, many new parents might also be very hesitant to get too excited about how things are “getting back to normal”. It’s a very common and understandable way to protect oneself emotionally; not get your hopes too high. It’s also difficult to navigate this decision process as friends and family will be responding in very different ways. Many new parents have worked hard to find some kind of agreement on negotiating different levels of comfort or straight up conflicts around safety measures, especially with grandparents, in-laws, or other family members. This baseline that they might have spent considerable emotional effort establishing (and maintaining!) is now being challenged and “reset” and a lot of the negotiations will have to be re-established.
For new parents who have been dealing with family conflicts, it can be exhausting to even think about. We’re all frustrated after a whole year of limitations, so everyone will be eager to get what they have been longing for, making the situation ripe for conflicts. New parents often end up in the middle, trying to make all sides of the family happy while also taking care of themselves. For expecting and new parents, my recommendation is always to ensure their own basic needs first. The pregnancy and first year after birth is not just a precious time, but also a very vulnerable time. We are particularly vulnerable to the stress from conflicts during this time, as we are transitioning to parenthood.
Spring is indeed coming. But this doesn’t mean that new parents will automatically get all happy. I believe many new parents will feel mixed, understandably so. We are longing to go back to experiencing some sense of normalcy like our prepandemic lives, but if you became a parent during the last year, the pandemic has made it quite complex to understand your pre- and post-delivery life and your transition to parenthood. Without pandemics, new parents go through a natural process of comparing and processing the differences, looking back and mourning the loss of the pre-baby life while embracing and settling into the new normal with a child. This transition has become much more confusing and unclear for new parents.
I am thinking a lot about all the people who went through the transition to parenthood over the last year. It was already an intense process to become a parent; a process that requires time, space, support and compassion. The 2020-21 cohort of new parents deserve this in abundance.
Read more about the topic of “The Emotional Weirdness of Parenting as The World Slowly Opens Up Again” in this Huffington Post article I was interviewed for.
#MaternalMentalHealth #PerinatalMentalHealth #Matrescence #NewMotherhood #PandemicParenting