New Moms During The Pandemic *Need* Your Support, Experts Say
It's not dramatic to say that everything has changed since COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, hit the United States. As social distancing rules go into effect, leaders ban gatherings of 10 or more people, and local and state governments enact lockdown, literally everyone found themselves stuck in their homes. It's an extremely difficult situation for everyone, but one group in particular is really feeling these changes: new moms. Guys, it's time to check in on your friends with newborns.
If you're a mother, you can probably imagine what these new moms are going through right now. The first few months of being home with your newborn are a struggle — to put it mildly. New moms are trying to figure out how to balance taking care of their baby and taking care of themselves, all while learning how to be a mother. They are scared, stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted.
On a regular day, not one during a pandemic, new moms can easily feel isolated and lonely, feelings that can lead to postpartum depression and anxiety. That's not to be taken lightly: suicide is the second leading cause of death in postpartum women, according to an article in JAMA Psychiatry.
Now imagine how isolated they must feel during this pandemic. Dr. Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D., NYC neuropsychologist and mother of two young boys, explains in an email interview with Romper, "If new moms are in the very early stages of post-pregnancy, they have hormones that are still fluctuating. Even in the best of times, new moms can experience postpartum depression, as most of us know. Adjusting to being a new mom is challenging when life is 'normal.' Having to adapt to motherhood when a spouse (or you) might have been laid off, or when you are afraid to let a baby nurse into your home, or you were depending on grandparents to pitch in, renders the challenges of new motherhood exponentially more difficult."
New moms didn't just lose the support system of their family and child care, they also lost the support of their friends, especially other new moms in similar situations. New mothers often rely on each other so they have someone to talk to who truly understands what they're going through. They often meet up for walks, coffee, or park dates to feel less alone. And right now, with social distancing, that's just not possible.
Oh, and to make things even worse, they have to stress over the looming possibility of catching COVID-19. "It is scary to feel that if you have an emergency with your newborn, the medical help you need may not be as readily available, as medical teams in the ER might be focused on COVID patients," says Hafeez. "There are so many questions we have about keeping ourselves safe, and new moms may have confusion about keeping their babies safe with questions such as: Is it safe to breastfeed? If I get the virus, can I pass it to my baby?"
In other words? New moms need their friends now more than ever. Don't just send them a text to ask if they're OK. Give them an actual call and talk on the phone. As a new mom myself, I remember getting these texts and always replying back, "Pretty good!" even if I was sitting there sobbing, attempting to breastfeed. One day, a good friend of mine called me, and hearing her voice allowed me to open up and really share my fears and frustrations.
Use Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom so that you can talk face to face. It's so hard to feel connected with others during this period of isolation, and sometimes even a phone call doesn't cut it. Seeing someone's face can make things a little better. Hafeez recommends doing this every day, if possible: "Set up a virtual meeting at a mutually convenient time each day. Pretend that it's your 'park' get-together. Use this time to share your anxieties, new mom frustrations, and tips."
If video chatting each day is a challenge, start a group chat for your mom friends and text each other throughout the day. I'm currently doing this with three of my mom friends and it's incredibly helpful. We're all stuck at home with our babies, and we text each other all day long to share how frustrated we feel, what we're doing to entertain our kids, and any silly stories that occur throughout the day.
These gestures may sound small — a phone call, a video chat, a group chat — but for a lonely new mom, stuck in the house with her newborn, they can make a huge difference. The next time you're bored or feeling lonely yourself, remember to check in on your friends with newborns. They'll appreciate it more than they'll ever be able to express.
Wisner K, Sit D, McShea M. (2013) Onset Timing, Thoughts of Self-harm, and Diagnoses in Postpartum Women With Screen-Positive Depression Findings. JAMA Psychiatry, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/1666651.
Dr. Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D., NYC neuropsychologist, Columbia University faculty