Kendall here, sharing some lessons learned from my pandemic pregnancy! Fun fact- Jess told me she was pregnant with her daughter a few weeks after I had my daughter last fall! It’s been so fun to follow along on her journey.
My daughter is 6 months old today, and I simultaneously feel like I just had her and yet can’t really remember a time when I didn’t know her — a feeling I’m sure will continue forever! Being pregnant during 2020 definitely added another layer to the “unprecedented” year. In fact, I found out I was expecting the same week the world shut down in March. Now on the other side looking back, I’ve gained some valuable insight and perspective from the experience that I’m not sure I otherwise would have had.
As this pregnancy was my first, I can’t compare it to being pregnant in non-pandemic times, but all those “moments” you expect to have as an expectant mother definitely varied wildly in 2020. Attending appointments alone, no family members to see your growing bump, meeting your baby for the first time with a mask on… But it also provided an opportunity for ample rest, reflection, and made me reevaluate my priorities and approach to motherhood.
Turns out, there were some upsides to being pregnant in quarantine — not having to buy any maternity clothes (just a few flowy dresses and leggings a few sizes up), getting to work from the couch (I was fortunate enough to be working remote and could rest when needed), and no fear of missing out as nothing was going on! These might sound trivial, but as we all learned in 2020, little joys and trying to find the upside in every situation is incredibly impactful in framing a good mindset!
Pandemic Pregnancy Lessons
For all the GG readers who are currently expecting (eek congrats!!!), I’ve rounded up my pandemic pregnancy thoughts into 6 lessons learned — however, I think they can apply to everyone.
But first a little background…
March 2020 was a life-changing month for me — three times over. First, I learned my husband and I were moving across the country; next, that I was pregnant with our first child; and then, that COVID-19 was on the scene. Just when I was trying to wrap my head around all the new life changes, as you all know, the world shut down (right as we were loading up all of our possessions to drive from Houston to Portland).
Before this, I considered myself a fairly anxious person and certainly would have thought all of this news would have thrown my worrying self into a tailspin. Instead, I never felt more at ease. Sometimes it takes literally everything in your life to be thrown up in the air for a sense of calm to wash over you. I hung on to that sense of peace throughout my pregnancy — and into motherhood — and am so grateful for the perspective it has given me. Here are my takeaways:
Do what you can with what you have
While 2020 seemed painfully slow to a lot of us, my growing belly constantly reminded me how quickly time was still ticking on. No matter how much of our every day seemed paused, life didn’t stop. My pregnancy was another nudge to get out and do things — not knowing how long my body would be up to it. While I wasn’t very familiar with Portland or know many people here, I focused on making the most of each day by safely exploring the city, getting out in nature, and connecting with family members to share updates. In short, doing what I could with what I had.
And this idea very much applies to motherhood — especially during the pandemic. When I start to get upset or think about the things I might be doing with my daughter in normal times, I focus on doing what I can with what have. Plus, babies serve as another reminder that only the little, simple things matter — quality time and love!
Control what you can control
As COVID numbers spiked and restrictions ebbed and flowed throughout the year, it became increasingly clear that there was much out of my control. This was oddly freeing to me — accepting that fact made me focus on my mindset, keeping stress levels low, moving my body, and resting. I limited my news intake and time spent on social media. And focused on striking a balance between being informed and promoting my mental health. 2020 really emphasized the importance of health, even more so for pregnant women. And controlling what you can control is a helpful mindset when the world and your body are constantly changing, pandemic or no pandemic.
Now that we’ve been able to host visitors, several people have told me how relaxed/easy-going I am as a mom, which I take as a great compliment and attribute it to being pregnant in 2020! Things that might have triggered me in the past just don’t anymore. Now when things get off schedule or plans are foiled, I simply focus on what I can control. (Note: this came incredibly handy when I accidentally booked a room at an adult-only hotel and was asked to leave upon check-in!)
Expect the worst, hope for the best
I think this is the #1 lesson that calmed my nerves throughout my pregnancy. After listening to other’s birth stories, I quickly understood that the spectrum of pregnancy experiences is too vast to make sense of. You can do all the research and prep work in the world. But much of pregnancy and childbirth is out of your hands. I didn’t find listening to other people’s birth stories helpful (it’s great if you do though!) So rather than fuss over an ideal scenario, I focused on expecting the worst and hoping for the best.
This paralleled well with COVID too — I prepared myself for the reality that my husband might not be able to be with me at the birth and was happily surprised when he was. I braced myself for certain pregnancy symptoms and was pleasantly surprised when they never popped up. Removing specific expectations, especially when it comes to pregnancy (and motherhood!) has been extremely helpful.
This idea serves me well in early motherhood too. Every time we try something new (our first night outside of the house with her, her first long hike, a long-distance drive, etc.) it can seem scary and overwhelming at first, but I’m always glad we made a point to do it — because it usually goes amazingly and any hiccups serve as lessons learned for the future!
Never underestimate the power of nature
My darkest days in 2020 were quite literally the week or so I spent locked indoors due to the extreme smoke caused by forest fires on the West Coast. Up until then, I could always rely on a beautiful hike, or a neighborhood walk at the very least, to move my body and clear my head. That week reinforced the importance of never taking nature — and the ability to move your body outside — for granted. 2020 also made us all aware of how much there is to do and see in our own backyards. While I’m looking forward to flying internationally again as much as the next person, I don’t want to forget how much there is to see and do in our neck of the woods.
Turns out babies love sunshine and nature just as much as we do! It’s wild to see how a quick trip outside calms my daughter and how much better she falls asleep at night if she’s spent a lot of time outside that day. I’m excited to take her to so many places one day, but for now, she’s just as happy on a towel in the park than an exotic destination.
There is always something to be grateful for
Through all the heartache, fear, uncertainty, and frustration of 2020, I often felt guilty that I was overwhelmed with gratefulness. Every kick, every healthy doctor appointment, every new piece I placed in the nursery, it was impossible not to feel incredibly thankful and optimistic for the future. When the world got heavy (which felt like every other week last year), I put pen to paper and found the silver lining.
I started jotting down little notes to my baby — things I learned and wanted to share with her. When the Black Lives Matter movement revealed the atrocious discrepancies in our legal system, I wrote about what I learned and how I hoped to raise her. When the political world grew more and more divisive, I wrote about the importance of being active in the democratic process. And when COVID spiked to record-breaking deaths in the country, I wrote about the importance of health and telling loved ones how much they mean to you. It was a cathartic exercise and a way I could try to make sense of the year — and try to explain it to her one day.
This takeaway grew exponentially for me during motherhood, too. No matter how tired I am or how difficult the day, I always crawl into bed bursting with gratitude. If nothing on my to-do list gets done, I still have this feeling of immense accomplishment because I have a happy baby in the other room. It’s been one of my favorite parts of motherhood!
The power of seeking connections
From the moment I shared my pregnancy with friends and family, I quickly learned that seasoned moms are so generous in sharing their wealth of knowledge! Hearing from others who have been in your shoes is so helpful anytime, but it’s incredibly encouraging during this era! I wasn’t heading to stores to test gear or attend birthing/parenting classes. And I hadn’t met many people in a new city due to lockdown. So having a network of moms to text random questions was everything to me.
Whenever I felt lonely or overwhelmed last year, I made sure to reach out to a friend to connect. While I didn’t see many people throughout my pregnancy, every text, video chat, and piece of mail truly made me feel not alone. I’m excited to return the favor to every pregnant friend who comes after me — to share in their excitement, give support, and offer any (solicited) advice they might request. We’re all in this together.