Maternity Leave in Quarantine
When my second son Teddy was born mid February, the word coronavirus did not mean much to me. It was something I had heard about in the news but was in the back of my mind as it was only in China at the time and not a threat to us in the United States. My first son, Ryder, had just turned 18 months and was so excited to become a big brother. The moment he walked in the hospital room to meet him my heart just about exploded and I couldn’t believe my husband Matt and I now had two kids under two. Life those first few weeks was a blur as we were balancing between caring for a newborn as well as caring for a very active toddler who was into just about everything. It was a big transition for all of us to care for two babies who needed our constant attention. We were sleep deprived, the house was a complete disaster, and we had no choice but to embrace the chaos. We had visitors coming each day to meet Teddy, tons of help from family and friends, and Ryder was in day care on his regular schedule. Matt went back to work after a week and we all got into a new routine quickly. What I didn’t know then is that while it was one of the most crazy times in our lives, it was actually the last time things were “normal”.
Fast forward to mid March when Teddy was just a month old and suddenly everything changed because of COVID-19 hitting the United States and my tiny state of Rhode Island.. Everything seemed to shut down fast and before I could blink phrases like ‘stay at home’ and ‘social distance’ were added to our regular vocabulary. Ryder’s day care closed and I found myself home alone with the two kids with nowhere to go besides walks around the neighborhood and drives in the car. We went from having people over to hang out for Friday night pizza to scheduled zoom calls where we’d talk about how crazy the world was and introduce Teddy over a screen (who else is zoom-ed out at this point?!) I would be feeding Teddy and put Ryder in the play yard for 20 minutes just so I knew he wouldn’t run around and get into trouble. As if a new mom’s anxiety isn’t already high, the situation we were in heightened it as there were still so many unknowns about the virus.
Thinking back, I remember days where I would second guess everything. Did that neighbor get too close on our walk? Is it safe to get an iced coffee? (I sure needed coffee on most days!). I never thought I would be watching tutorials on how to properly wash down your groceries or that I would have to wait in line to get in the grocery store while wearing a mask, but this became the new reality. I’m sure I am not alone when I say that it was difficult and stressful. Was it the maternity leave I envisioned? No, it was far from that. A part of me felt guilty whenever I would get bummed out about the current situation as I was safe at home with my two kids while there were so many front-line workers risking their lives each day or mothers delivering their babies in the middle of a pandemic. I had to take a step back and realize it was okay to feel what I was feeling and that other moms were going through the exact same situation but that I was lucky, and would be okay.
I believe there is a silver lining to every situation and mine was all of the quality time I got to spend with my family. While working my full-time job at the University of Rhode Island and having Ryder go to daycare, I would only get a couple hours with him each night and time on the weekends. Matta and I got to spend time with him and Teddy 24/7 and while some days were tough, it was the most amazing experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We spent so much time at home and on walks on the seawall in beautiful Narragansett. It made me appreciate the little things like soaking up snuggles on the couch watching a movie or seeing Ryder give Teddy a kiss.
Now we are in July and while things are certainly not back to “normal”, life has gotten a little easier. I am now working from home with Ryder back at daycare and Teddy starting next week (that’s a story for another time!) To all the moms who were in quarantine while on maternity leave, home with a baby, or home with school-aged kids, please give yourself a pat on the back. The situation we were all dealt with was not easy but we got through it and did the best we could. The kids won’t remember the house being a mess or watching a little too much Disney+, but they’ll remember all the love you gave them and how you made them feel safe. After all, that’s our most important job. And if you are a new mom on maternity leave or you’re about to be, just remember to take it day-by-day, soak up every moment, and know it’s all going to be okay.