You spent 9 months growing your beautiful baby and preparing for your world to be turned upside down by your little bundle of joy. But the words COVID-19, global pandemic and lockdown didn’t feature in your birth or postpartum plan.
So then what do you do when your “village” goes into lockdown?
As NSW, Victoria and SA face ever-increasing restrictions and no end to the COVID-19 lockdowns in sight, it got us thinking about all the new parents out there. Our hearts go out to all the new mums whose birth experience wasn’t what they had pictured, or hoped, it would be.
For some, they may have had to face part or all of their birthing experience alone, or for others, they are isolated from loved ones who have not yet gotten to shower their bundle with love and support. Or may not have been able to bring their other children to the hospital to meet their new sibling.
For some new mums, they’re desperately craving that connection and support that a mother’s group can provide. Just like during lockdown last year, the stories that are coming out this time around are truly heartbreaking.
Being a new mum is one of the hardest things you will face, no matter how ready you think you are, nothing can truly prepare you for the experience of birth and caring for your child. Without the proper support and care in place, it can be completely overwhelming and extremely isolating.
Since the Coronavirus pandemic began PANDA reports a 20% increase in the number of calls to their perinatal anxiety and depression national helpline.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Gidget Foundation’s consultations for new parents were up 127% across the last four months.
Of the NSW and Commonwealth governments recently announced a $17.35 million ‘Lockdown Lifeline’ mental health support package, $150,000 has been allocated to Gidget. Whilst this will provide counselling services to around 300 parents suffering perinatal anxiety and depression, sadly this will not be able to cover the growing demand for support.
There has also been $100,000 allocated to Tresilian to provide free access to their SleepWell baby app.
Obstetric social worker, parent educator and resident Kiindred expert, Genevieve Muir from Connected Parenting, works at the Mater Hospital in Sydney and is seeing first-hand the impact tighter restrictions are having on new parents.
“Both new mums are affected because the supports normally in place are not there, and mums of multiple kids are affected because kids can’t visit,” says Gen. “The stress of Covid has us seeing an increasing number of people with anxiety and depression as stress levels are up.”
“When the normal supports that would be there, like dropping into a community health centre, aren’t available, it’s really hard for people.”
So we want to make sure any new mama (or father or carer) who is feeling isolated or alone can find the connection they need. That’s why we’ve pulled together some ways for mums and parents to connect during lockdown.
1. Embrace online support
We know online forums and online calls can be a new terrain to navigate and the idea of sitting on a Zoom call with a bunch of strangers doesn’t seem appealing. But trust us, the power of connection transcends the computer screen. In those early weeks and months with a newborn, your mother’s group can be invaluable for advice – all the babies and all the mums are at the exact same phase as you!
There is so much power in knowing that you are not alone, and for this reason, we strongly urge you to give the zoom groups a go.
It might not be as easy to create instant connections with the others in the group but it’s an engaged forum where you can ask questions and seek support. It will keep you all in touch and be a great talking point for when lockdown does eventually end and you all get to meet up in person.
“Women were saying they’re just completely stranded, they’ve had a baby, and there is no community help, there’s no mother’s group,” says Gen, who has also joined forces with lactation consultant Felicity Hughes and doula Janine Armfield to start Ready Together.
Ready Together is a support service for new parents which offers live webinars, small group chats, one to one consulting and online resources as well as a private Facebook group.
“It’s a place where we can bring community back and where people can get to know each other.”
Other resources for support include:
You can also reach out to your local council or speak with your doctor or hospital, they will have information on support in your local area and can help you connect with them.
2. Get your village online with you
Chat to friends and family who want to help but can’t physically be there. Getting on a FaceTime or Zoom chat with your nearest and dearest to see them can be much more comforting than just a phone call.
But there’s, even more, they can do for you from afar…
3. Ask friends and family to send you meals
We know that looking after yourself and eating healthy, nourishing meals is so important during the postpartum period. But when looking after a crying, hungry baby all day long the last thing you feel like doing is cooking.
So if your support network can’t help you out physically right now, something they can do is get cooking. If they are located too far to drop off meals, they can order from a meal delivery service so that you have healthy, ready-made meals to take the load off you and your partner having to cook.
4. Take advantage of your daily “exercise” time
Remember that you are allowed to get out of the house for “exercise” and this is vital for new mums – your baby will love it too. No matter what stage you are at, whether it’s just a walk around the block or down to the park to do some exercise while your baby lays on a mat. Get out in the fresh air and sunshine wherever possible and it will do wonders for your soul – and your baby will love it too.
5. Take it as an opportunity to really embrace the 4th trimester
With no visitors to have to vacuum for or get showered for, you can take this time to truly embrace the 4th trimester. Surrender to the downtime and the “bubble” to just be with your baby and reframe this time as precious bonding time for your new little family unit.
6. It’s ok to grieve
“It’s ok to grieve this not being the birth or postpartum period you would have wished for,” says Gen. “But we can also create a new narrative and make the way this is happening special.”
That the grief you feel is valid and don’t forget to be kind to yourself. There is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety at the moment, and being a new parent in the midst of a global health crisis is scary. This is not how you imagined this time to be.
6. Communicate with your partner
Communication is key to managing this time as a team, speak with them about how you are feeling and try and come up with solutions together.
7. Factor in self-care
We know there may be limited opportunities to have a break from your baby with fewer hands on deck, so it’s important to talk about what this is going to look like with your partner. Work out a schedule that means you are getting the time you need to rest and recover and just to switch off – and that they are too. Self-care might look a little different right now – so take any opportunity you get and roll with it.
Just know that you are not alone, there is support out there, speak to your partner or loved ones or seek professional advice. Your village looks a little different right now but it’s still there.