Taking Care of You

Christine Sweeney, LICSW Program Manager, Parent Connection, BIDMC

JULY 07, 2020

Married Asian couple watching tv on the couch and eating popcornTaking care of you may seem like a strange and completely unrealistic concept when you are suddenly thrown into the biggest adjustment you've ever faced; becoming a parent. Suddenly and rather abruptly, you are thrown into learning to care for your newborn, at the same time (if you are the one who has given birth) you are healing from the process of birth, dealing with the intensity of hormonal fluctuations and coping with the reality of sleep deprivation.

And yet, here you are, and while accessing the supports that may have been available if we weren't in the midst of a global pandemic… family that may have come over to give you a much needed overnight break, friends whom you might have met for coffee and been there for moral support as you ventured out with your newborn for the first time, or going out to a new moms group for some much needed comradery… well, those opportunities are not really available right now.

But for many, this pandemic may open some opportunities that may not be all bad. I'm talking about a shift in expectation. Many new moms in the United States struggle with unrealistic expectations for what this 4th trimester might be like. I specifically mention the United States, as other countries, I believe, have more realistic cultural norms around the postpartum period that prioritize the healing, nurturing and care that mothers (and fathers) so deserve. For parents going back to work, there's often a feeling of the clock ticking and needing to make the most of this very short time, and the added stress of financial loss around one or both parties not having paid time off. So where are the opportunities in all of this?

I mean the opportunity to face the reality that you are not fully in control of this current situation. If we can learn anything from the past several months, we can learn to let go of this effort to control and manage that so many of us struggle with, and instead adjust our expectations and definitions for what we think we "should" be doing in this time of becoming a parent, and allowing time to just BE.

Taking time to take care of you is easier if you allow yourself to put your feet up, and close your eyes without thinking of the dishes in the sink or the thank you notes that need to be written. It's about putting your phone down, or instead, putting your earphones on and listening to a guided meditation — even if it's just for 15 minutes, to drown out the voice in your head urging you to be "productive," and instead consider this an act of rejuvenation, of putting gas in the tank so to speak. Consider all the energy that goes out in caring for an infant, and recognize that if you don't take time to put energy back into your tank, it won't be long until you run out of gas.

This same concept of putting gas in the tank applies to your relationship with your partner. It's an opportunity, when many are still at home or perhaps doing a slow transition back to work, to check in with each other. To see how your partner is feeling in this transition and to share the thoughts/feelings/hopes with the one person who is doing this with you. If there is a lesson to be learned by COVID-19, it's the lesson to slow down, and recognize what is really important, to let go of the stresses of the day to day and love and care for each other deeply. That is taking care of you.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

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