Miss Spoken: Life during a pandemic

This week I got to read for Miss Spoken, a fave live lit series in Chicago. Since most of the country is under a ‘stay at home’ order because of the Coronavirus pandemic, they held their first ever livestream show, and through the magic of the internet I was able to join from Los Angeles! We had some technical difficulties with the video, but my full piece about living during a pandemic with an infant is below.

Quarantine day: I don’t even know. I know it’s week two. And I know that I haven’t cried today.

It hit me the other night that this isn’t just a temporary two week thing that we need to buckle down through. This is the new normal, at least for a while, and we need to adjust accordingly. For me, that means structuring a new day with an infant. I need to approach my day with intent. Or my day will shape me.

My daughter is now 3 months old, 14 weeks to be exact. We had just started to emerge back into the world after weeks of postpartum isolation, which was surprisingly difficult on its own. Figuring out how to get the car seat in the base on my own, driving with my baby in the car with all those maniacs on the road?! Learning patience while someone is waiting for my parking spot as I fold up a stroller. Figuring out how to shop for groceries with a baby taking up all the room in the cart or stroller.

All this while my body is still recovering from the physical and emotional toll of growing a human and then birthing it.

I didn’t start to feel postpartum depression until about 8 weeks when my husband went back to work. All of our visitors and helpers were gone, and I was alone with this baby that I barely knew all day. The mornings were toughest. I felt sad when I woke up, and didn’t want to get out of bed. The day ahead felt overwhelming with its demands and unpredictability.

We adapted by scheduling one thing outside the home each day: a mommy and me yoga class, one of my mom support/social groups, a coffee play date, or just a walk or a trip to the grocery store.

And now, Coronavirus. Classes: canceled. Groups: canceled. Play dates: canceled. A stay at home order for the state of California was issued on March 19. Our once a day respite outside of the house is over. We’re back on isolation. And we have to worry about catching a deadly invisible virus. I have to worry about my baby being exposed to it (with the minimal comfort that it doesn’t seem to be affecting children that much). I have to worry about my baby having some other medical emergency or injury and the hospitals not having the capacity to take care of her, plus risk exposing her to whatever is inside.

Still, I’m grateful that we had the baby when we did. I’ve heard birthplaces are now only allowing one support person and no visitors (not even an exception for a spouse and a doula). My parents spent all day every day with us in the hospital and were here in my apartment after to help us. That time is still a total blur to me, and I couldn’t imagine having to do it without the team we had. My in-laws and sisters both also got to visit and meet the baby, and a couple of friends.

I’m not saying I have it worse than anybody else. This unprecedented event is affecting everyone in different ways. There’s my friend who is a nurse, seeing patients who are coughing directly on her, my parents who are in the higher risk group in their 60s, friends who work in retail that counts as essential business now, friends who have already been laid off from their jobs, kids who don’t have warm meals, or safe homes to spend their days.

We’re all coping, or not.

I still feel depressed in the mornings, and now my days are coupled with anxiety. But this is where I try to see the bright spots. I get to spend my mornings cuddled in bed with my new daughter. My husband is home and safe (even as we struggle to share our small space with him working from home). My support groups and even yoga communities are holding online video meetings. I’m talking to my friends and family in Chicago and St. Louis more than I did before the pandemic. We may be living in isolation, but we’re more connected than ever before.

Yesterday in one of my mom Zoom meetings, I was talking through some of these challenges and wrapped it up by saying ‘But we’re getting by.’ I was reminded that we don’t have to be ‘just getting by,’ life is for living and you can decide what that life looks like, what your day looks like. Even if it’s going to be indoors for the foreseeable future.

And sure that can be tough with all the challenges we’re facing right now, or ya know, when an infant dictates what most of your day looks like. We need to approach our day with intent, now more than ever. Or the day will shape us.

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