Wellness

Managing Isolation While Pregnant, Caring for a Toddler, and Working from Home

working from home during isolation

This time has been really hard on all of us and it’s left everyone feeling anxious and uncertain about what the future holds. I’ve been isolating at home for about 50 days now. Other than a few trips to the doctor and somehow ending up at the hospital twice (triage for me and the children’s ER for Margot), I have avoided all errands and contact with anyone. It’s just me, my husband, and our 21 month old toddler at home. We’re taking care of her, attempting to keep our house clean, I am feeling very pregnant, and like all of you, we’re trying to find a new normal in all of this.

I try to stay in the present but have had to have some real conversations with my doctors about what it will look like having a newborn in 10 weeks. It’s hard. We are healthy, we can work from home, keep our daughter safe, and have access to medical care and groceries. I am beyond grateful for our experience during COVID-19, but would be lying if I said I haven’t found myself grieving and feeling anxious.

My friend sent this video on metabolizing difficult emotions during isolation and I highly recommend watching this. It was really helpful.

I am now 30 weeks pregnant with our second baby and it feels a little scary knowing we’re bringing a newborn into this. Based on the messages I’ve received, a lot of you are struggling with the same thing. After speaking with my OB and pediatrician, I was should expect to completely isolate (no one inside our home and no one getting within 6 feet of the baby) until the end of August at the earliest. The reality is that it’s likely it will be longer. Months longer.

I’ve learned not to go into anything with too many expectations but I’m grieving the maternity leave I hoped for. Simple moments with family and friends. Margot coming to the hospital to meet her baby sister (I have accepted this but it was the moment I was most looking forward to), family and friends coming over, walks to the farmer’s market and park – all of it – all while appreciating how lucky we are to be able to be with our girls this summer.

Most of these moments will happen, but it will look very, very different than we thought.

I say this a lot, but you can be grateful and anxious or sad at the same time. Those feelings can coexist, and so many of us are struggling trying to find happiness and normalcy right now. It’s ok to be grateful for what you have and to grieve everything you’re missing – both in the present and future.

We’re all in this together and we can do this but we’re all grieving, and we need to acknowledge that. We’re missing togetherness, hugs, time with friends, workout classes, and being able to safely run an errand or take our kids to the park. Nothing feels the same but we are staying safe and staying home, and as a result, keeping others safe. That’s all we can do. I miss having childcare while I work (and not struggling or feeling guilty, like I’m always letting someone down), seeing friends, and not feeling like I’m spread thin. I have also loved having extra time with Margot. I’m hoping that’s what I’ll remember at the end of this.

I’ve learned (and am still learning) to be really present. It’s so hard.

A few weeks into isolating, Conor and I were struggling both individually and together. We were so tired after bedtime and trying to do everything all day (work, Margot, keeping the house somewhat clean), organizing, finishing the nursery, that we would just sit there in front of a screen completely checked out at the end of the day. We didn’t have anything left at the end of the day and weren’t really connecting.

Just over a week ago, we had a long talk about how we both felt about everything. We talked about how this has impacted us, what we both needed, and how we could help each other. It felt so good to get it all out. I can’t believe it took us so long to talk about it since we both clearly needed to talk, but it’s been a crazy almost 50 days and it’s sometimes easier to shut down than face what’s really happening. This talk  happened just a few days after I made a big change personally (more on that in a minute) and a few days before a really stressful week that landed Margot in the ER with a 105.9 degree fever. I am so, so glad that talk came when it did because we did a 180 overnight and have felt like a team again.

I want to share what worked for us but cannot stress the importance of figuring out what you need and making it work.

A childcare schedule and staying present with Margot. Whoever has Margot for the first few hours of the day gets some time early in the morning (about an hour) to do whatever they need to do. This has helped us remain so much more present with Margot vs. trying to get things done while watching her. It is most often the case on weekdays that Conor has her in the morning given my work schedule, so he can now get a quick workout and shower in or check his email, and just get dressed and feel like a person before 2:00PM. When I’m on first, getting time to get some work done is important for me since I get really anxious about that. It makes a huge difference.

We are fine with some TV time and do usually plan for a show or movie at some point when we both need to work. I felt so much guilt trying to work all day and continuing to work through my time with Margot. This way, we both have set time to really engage with her, we try to all have lunch together, and we have some TV time, too. All parents need to allow for that right now and let go of the guilt. We are doing our best.

Last week was sort of a wash with multiple doctor’s appointments and a trip to the ER, but we just took care of each other and focused on gratitude. It was hard seeing our girl sad and feeling awful, but I am so proud of her and of how we handled it.

I went back to therapy a few weeks ago and it’s one of the best decisions I could have made for myself. It was a struggle trying to do everything and feeling like I couldn’t do it all, because I couldn’t, and I knew I needed to work through this. When we left the city, I was about 7 months pregnant and not feeling great, so driving 45-60 minutes each way and struggling to find parking to get to therapy sounded like too much at the time. I love my therapist but she doesn’t take insurance, so instead of paying $35 per session, I was paying almost 5x that. You can’t put a price on mental health but we were having a baby and about to start paying for childcare, and now had a mortgage and second car, so it was my plan to find someone nearby who took insurance.

I tried seeing a few therapists out here but didn’t click with anyone. Then I had a baby and I let way too much time pass. A few weeks ago, I reached out because I knew I needed to talk to someone, and starting a virtual relationship with someone new sounded more difficult than talking to someone I really connected with who already knows me and my history. We have met twice via FaceTime and she’s helped me work through some of the day-to-day, and anxiety that I’ve been struggling with around bringing a baby into a pandemic, knowing that realistically (according to both our pediatrician and OB) no one will be holding her or coming over through the end of August at a minimum.

I’m also going to commit to using Headspace every day this week. Who’s with me?

I’m taking the advice of my therapist and making sure I give myself down time every day, even when I haven’t gotten everything done. Conor is much, much better about this so I’ve been unplugging with him after bedtime instead of rushing right back to my computer. In my defense, between The Everygirl/Everymom, Margot, my blog (last on my list), and the house (and the fact that I care a lot more about cleaning/organizing) my list always feels never-ending. Can anyone relate?

The thing is, I feel really good (even “better”) after organizing or completing a project that’s been on my list and I am used to always doing something, but now more than ever, need to relax. This weekend, I took my extra clothes out of the baby’s closet, put aside a bunch of pieces to sell and donate, and organized our spice cabinet. I thrive in a clean, organized space, so tackling those projects feels great.

Organize your spice drawer with these etsy labels.

This brings me more joy than it probably should. I ordered the glass jars here and labels here.

This weekend, Conor got a (virtual) guitar lesson in and I relaxed in bed for an extra hour on Saturday. We spent an hour on the patio in the sun while Margot napped on Sunday. It was glorious.

Stop mindless scrolling. Conor has been a lot better about this, too. He even went so far as to delete his personal instagram because he spent too much time scrolling. He’s inspired me to put my phone down, set some screen time / social media limits, and to disconnect.

I have been struggling with Instagram messages now more than ever. It’s like text messaging but with too many people, and can only be done on my cell vs email which is so much easier. I love connecting and helping but sometimes, it feels like too much. My point in sharing is to know what works for you and to be kind to yourself.

Cook healthy meals. Constantly being at home and not feeling 100% on board with take-out right now, we’ve had to get it together. Up until a few weeks ago, when we felt like we were constantly scrambling. There was a lot of banza chickpea pasta and frozen pizza. Then I saw my OB and she told me I was 15 lbs heavier at this point in this pregnancy than I was with Margot. She told me not to worry since I started at a healthy weight and blamed isolation, but said to try to eat healthy and move my body. That really hit me, and we were both on board to start cooking lighter – fresh, whole, healthy food. We’ve been making lots of salads, roast chicken, bowls, etc.

I went through our kitchen, got rid of what we don’t need, ordered a few new things I knew we needed, and we’ve been trying new recipes each week. Some nights, all three of us eat together. We always sit with Margot but sometimes, it’s really nice to make a healthy meal and have a quiet dinner together after a long day. Our own little at-home date night just for us.

Come up with a chore schedule. We decided to create a schedule so one day, all of a sudden, it doesn’t feel like the whole house needs to be cleaned. There are a few tasks for each day like vacuuming, steaming the floors, cleaning bathrooms, washing sheets, etc. Of course we can clean as needed but knowing it’s been a week and has to get done helps us prioritize and split up what we need to do. It’s been really helpful. Working through this one and will share more about our progress in the coming weeks.

We’re both focused on how we can help each other, connecting and what we both need to get done. On taking care of ourselves and being present with Margot instead of just getting through the day. I’m working on giving myself grace given that I’m pregnant, the hormones are quite real, and I am really feeling how much this will impact my girls. It’s almost impossible not to think months out since no one knows what to expect, but staying in the present helps. It was so easy to lose sight of everything after not leaving the house for almost two months. We were both stressed and I was very, very anxious. I’m still anxious, but I am working on it. Talking to my therapist again has been so helpful. Knowing what we both need and talking about what really matters kept us both so grounded the last week.

This pandemic has ended lives, destroyed families, it’s destroying our economy, both large and small businesses, and so much more. If those of us who are lucky enough to stay healthy can find gratitude in all of this, that’s something. We can change. It will never be worth the lives lost and the suffering, but we can walk away more connected, grateful, and present. We’ll appreciate time together and that it’s a privilege to hug a friend or even run an errand.

ps. it’s 10:25 on a Sunday evening and Conor just started a fire in our fire pit and asked me to come sit outside with him. Connect. Slow down. Enjoy these little moments when and where you can. We will get through this together.

Sending you all so much love.