It felt strange becoming a new mum last year. I mean, giving birth is weird on its own. Combine that with the weirdness of 2020 and you get weird on a completely new level.
When the news of COVID-19 arriving in Australia sent the entire country into panic mode, I was in my third trimester. Hormonal shifts were kicking my ass. My feet were killing me. I found myself on the edge and the whole pandemic hysteria didn’t help.
Things became more difficult when I learned that no one besides my husband, Jason would be allowed to visit me during the delivery. My parents ﹘who were waiting for months to meet their grandson ﹘would have to join us virtually.
It was supposed to be my time of celebration and joy. Instead, it became a time of fear and isolation.
Going to the Hospital Wasn’t the Same
My local hospital looked like a set from a post-apocalyptic movie. There were people all around in protective suits. The staff would take my temperature on arrival. I would sanitise my hands and avoid touching anything as if the entire hospital was infested.
This was the time where I’d first start talking to the little guy in my belly. With my right hand on the bump, I would reassure him that things were going to be alright. Perhaps these reassurances were more for me than for the passenger inside me.
Jason wasn’t allowed in many appointments due to social distancing protocols. He would wait patiently in the car for me to bring him the ultrasound pictures. Getting the ultrasound alone wasn’t easy. I missed holding my partner’s hand and watching that comforting smile on his face as our child appeared on the monitor. It was tough but I understood what the circumstances demanded of me.
Franka Cadée, the President of the International Confederation of Midwives believes protecting healthcare workers is a priority. “I expect that pregnant women will find they’re seeing their healthcare professional less, to protect them and the healthcare professional from getting infected and that they will be seen live when it’s necessary,” she explained to UNICEF.
It’s hard to disagree with her.
Giving Birth During the Pandemic
Two days before the delivery, I was greeted by the hospital staff in PPE. Immediately, my nose was swabbed for a COVID-19 test. If I had tested positive, my husband would not be allowed in as per the hospital policy. Instead, another person who did not live with me would have to be my birth partner. In any other year, this would seem bizarre but since it was 2020, everything was bizarre.
A lot was riding on this test. We were trying for two years and this moment would have been incomplete without Jason by my side. Fortunately, my test came back negative. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing I wouldn’t have to go through this alone.
From there, it was pretty much your average delivery. There was some pushing. Some screaming and lots and lots of pain. It was all worth it in the end. As I ran my finger through those tiny palms, the world didn’t feel so grim. Shane was beautiful.
I thought my trials and tribulation would end here and from now on – it would be all laughs, lullabies, and snuggles.
I was wrong.
My Struggle With Postpartum Depression
It started when we brought Shane home. Since I was still healing, Jason looked after my baby. He bathed my little boy, put him in fresh new clothes, and sang to him. I did practically nothing. “Maybe I am not cut out for this”, I thought to myself as tears formed in my eyes.
I struggled to look at Shane even as I was breastfeeding him. The shame of being an uncaring mother was too much. For the next few days, my sleep remained disturbed and an unusual feeling of sadness devoured me.
Looking back, things probably would’ve been better had my mother was there. Hearing her from the phone wasn’t enough. I wanted her to be near me and Shane.
Research showed an unprecedented surge in postpartum depression in Italian mothers during the pandemic. The last thing a new mother needs is to feel isolated from the world. Usually, someone in my situation would go out, maybe take a walk in the park, watch the birds. But this was a time of social isolation.
I have dealt with depression before but all my normal coping mechanisms weren’t an option anymore. This made things even worse. My tribulations aside, I was also anxious about the world around me. Occasionally, I would ask my husband how COVID-19 would impact his job and whether we would have any financial troubles.
Jason would try his best to raise my spirits, telling me things were going to be alright. That COVID-19 in Australia was under control. His words provided me comfort for a time but the overall feeling of sadness and misery never went away.
Becoming a Mother
Until my six-week appointment, things seemed pretty bleak. Dr. Adam reassured me that I wasn’t going to lose my mind and this is common among new mothers. He wrote me a prescription while explaining the entire science behind this phenomenon.
I learned it was the extreme drop in estrogen and progesterone that causes postpartum depression. “It’s the chemicals in my brain”, I repeatedly told myself.
With a help of medication and therapy, I was able to get back on my feet. Some semblance of normalcy returned to my life. The worst had passed.
Shane will be a year old in a few months. I share a special bond with my baby boy that’s both unique and wonderful. I am trying to raise him right and while I may not be doing a perfect job – I am doing alright.
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