Our Pandemic story – 2020

I woke up yesterday with an overwhelming sense of sadness. It may have been because we hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks, it may have been because I was so engrossed in ongoing COVID-19 coverage, the Black Lives Matter protest, resulting riots and feeling of helplessness and sadness that I’m still having trouble putting words to, or perhaps it was that we’d been confined to our home since March 16th. My guess was that it was all of the above.

I laid in bed as my husband and son got up. I needed just a little more sleep. Sleep is something that has not come easy in our house the last two years, and the precious nights filled with quiet moments and calmness were short lived. Nighttime has become a very stressful time for us since my son started a(nother) sleep regression. The anxiety begins before we even make it up the stairs because we know the pending sequence of events waiting for us and ultimate meltdown to end the evening. Our routine that we’ve worked very hard to perfect has been thrown out the window. Once my son finally makes it to bed, it’s only be a matter of time before the cycle starts over and he emerges a good 10-15 times, each leading us closer to another round of meltdowns. Articles on getting your toddler to sleep state that you must have more stamina than your child and for God sake you must always remain calm. Calm. Telling a sleep deprived parent to remain calm when her sleep deprived son refuses to sleep and fights every step of the way. We are giving it our best shot.

Back to yesterday. I felt deeply. Everything. I was paralyzed. I had to sit with my feelings and take them in because there was literally nothing else I could bring myself to do. I cried, I slept, I tried to tune out everything from the last night’s, week’s, and even month’s events that I could. But there was one thing I couldn’t avoid – the constant movement of my daughter inside my belly. I’m also eight months pregnant and until now I haven’t been able to bring myself to share with anyone but close friends and relatives. I’ve been watching everyone else during this pandemic share their thoughts and experiences, but I’ve been very secluded in my journey. I’m not sure why exactly. This pregnancy has been different in every way than my first child. We were planning my son’s arrival and we were 100% sure in our decision to have him. We anticipated him with excitement and the normal fear that every first-time parent faces, but this one was different from the beginning because we weren’t sure the road we wanted to take. While our son was a blessing, our experiences were far from what we envisioned. We struggled the first year and a half. It was the exact opposite of what we expected our first years as parents to be. Did we want to go through that again? Could we physically and mentally do it again? What if we didn’t? Would our son grow up to be a spoiled and selfish? It didn’t really matter what we thought because the decision had been unknowingly made and we were headed down the road of parenthood once again.

Being pregnant with a toddler at home while trying to work full time during a pandemic with minimal sleep is no joke. My husband and I are both considered essential workers and have set up offices at the house. I called dibs on our home office and he resorted to the dining room table. We made the choice to take our son out of daycare because it didn’t feel right for us to be at home and safe from whatever this unknown virus was while sending our child into public daycare. Thankfully my mother-in-law moved here a few months prior to be closer to her grandchild, so it was the perfect opportunity to grant her wish. At first we thought it was great. We were working all hours of the day and night when we could and we’d spend a little extra time waking up and getting ready in the mornings before making the drive to grandma’s house. We’d start dinner early and make lunch during the day. I’ve made more batches of homemade cinnamon rolls and desserts than I can count. But the novelty soon wore off. Both my husband and I were busy; I was busier than I had been in months and he remained busy as well. Trying to balance meetings and calls and expectations soon took a toll, on all of us.

Two weeks ago I had to take personal time away from work. I couldn’t give my full self to both my family who needed me and to my stakeholders at work. I made the choice to take time out for my family. My husband has been taking on much of the responsibility that had previously fallen on me; drop-offs and pickups at grandma’s house, the shopping and all errands. It was taking a toll and this weekend was a breaking point for us; for me. I cried a lot. There’s still so much to be done for the baby’s arrival and I’m not ready. I have so many projects at work that I cannot leave hanging right now. How am I going to bring a child into the world amidst a pandemic, riots, and polarizing hatred among us? It was more than I could bear.

Yesterday afternoon I finally got up and took a shower. I had to leave the house. I called a girlfriend and asked if she could meet me and just talk. I needed an outlet; someone, anyone who wasn’t my husband, son, mother, or relative. I needed contact with the outside. I shared with her my fears, my anxieties and how we’ve been dealing. She was the voice I needed to hear. A voice of calm reason and no judgement. Empathy and reassurance. I was ashamed to share with her what we’ve been dealing with – how despite our best efforts things were falling apart at home. Our son refuses to sleep, he refuses to leave his father’s side, and he constantly cries – OVER EVERYTHING. On top of that he has latched onto his father and I’ve resorted to being the hired help, minus the paycheck. We are all running on empty, both physically and emotionally and I was ashamed of that; feeling like I’m not able to provide for my son, for my husband, and already for my unborn daughter. I am drowning in the guilt.

I keep wondering if other moms of young children are experiencing what we are. Is there someone, anyone, out there on this lonely island feeling the pressure, guilt and defeat we are feeling? I have searched articles: Parenting During a Pandemic, Disruptive Behavior During a Pandemic, Toddler Anxiety During a Pandemic. Anything I could find to alleviate this sense of isolation. Maybe, like me, these moms are too afraid to share their struggles and open themselves up to the judgement they’d face. Maybe they’re feeling the shame I feel every time my child’s meltdown enters its second hour as I sit by feeling utterly defeated.

Instead of searching for that other mom my friend suggested that I share my experience and be the voice other moms are looking for. Maybe by sharing my story others will come forward and feel that they can talk about their struggles. If not, in the very least it’s an outlet for me to share the constant barrage of thoughts going through my mind.

We all have our struggles. They may look different, but we are all facing some sort of adversity. As restrictions are loosening up we are slowly taking steps to resume our “normal” life. Though I can’t say what normal will even look like in the days ahead, we are working toward creating a new normal for us. It won’t be perfect and I’m sure there’ll be more tears, but we will make it through. We are making it through.

12 thoughts on “Our Pandemic story – 2020

  1. We will keep you and the growing family in our prayers. God will never give us anything we can’t handle I know that for sure. We love you all and pray the days will get better, sleep will overwhelm the little guy and you will have a safe delivery of your daughter. Hugs to all.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and story. You are not alone. I don’t have young children, but the same thoughts are in my head. Both of my kids have young children. I pray every day for things to ‘return to normal’ for all of us. There is no ‘book’ to life, just do what feels natural and works for you. Your words will mean a lot to other people. I applaud you for speaking up on such a tough subject. And, congratulations on your new baby. Hopefully all the turmoil will subside. Hang in there Nicole. You’ve got this!

    1. Thanks, Lynne. I’m a researcher and I swear if you could see my Google search history you’d probably laugh at the crazy questions I put in. Looking back I do laugh, but how great would it be if we all had a manual? I appreciate you taking the time to read and provide support. I hope you and your family are doing well.

  3. Nicole, I saw your post on Twitter. You are definitely not alone out there. It will get better. The days and nights are relentless for parents of young ones right now. I have a 6 month old. When you are sleep deprived, everything is 1,000x harder. I took the boys on a hike in Tahoe yesterday on 4 hours of sleep because I was up before 4 am with the baby. We hadn’t been away from house in months really but the boys have been so hyper and I have been sooo … tired. I too have had a hard time keeping up with store trips and keeping house cleaned, working, and all of that. I don’t really have the answers but what works for me is to be kind to yourself right now. My house is just not going to be clean so I’ve toned it down. Some nights we’re going to have top ramen and ice cream, so be it. We should meet up sometime when and if you are comfortable. Hugs!

  4. Love you, dear Nicole. You are incredibly brave to share your story. Thank you. The challenges of life these days are just not fair. I just sent your story to my daughter Katy, who is experiencing the sleepless toddler, a new pregnancy, and deep sadness for our country’s condition. Tears flow. I would like to help you in anyway I can ~ organize for your precious daughter, shopping, or just sitting and listening. You have been a bright light in my life and it saddens me when I know your light is dim. Sending so many blessings to you, Nicole❤️

    1. Ryrie, thank you for always being such a great supporter of me. I always enjoy seeing pictures of you and your family, especially those grandbabies. Just knowing that I am not alone has been a huge relief, and taking the time to get my thoughts out of my head has been therapeutic; scary, but also a relief. Thanks again, Ryrie.

  5. Thank you for sharing this Nicole! The past few months have been hard on me as well and now that I am back to actually going into work and not working from home I have found it even harder for me to give my all to my daughter and work. I am struggling with my patience of it all; Aubrey’s schooling, stress of work, employees and their safety; it’s all been so tough that I too am taking an intermittent leave (mainly because I don’t have any childcare) to give myself some time to clear my mind and gain back my relationship with my daughter. These past few months have been even more harder on her and I have neglected to understand in full her emotions with it all.

    We will get through this, we are strong mothers. Congrats on expecting your daughter soon. Once you gaze into her eyes you will forget all the worries and find your inner peace. She will bring such joy and love to you all!

    1. Thanks, Cari. I’ve been watching your posts and I love seeing the virtual travels you two have been taking. She seems like such a bright little girl and you should be proud of her and you! Good for you for taking the time needed to get yourself in a better place. It’s a tough decision, especially as a woman, to choose between work and family, but family always wins. Hang in there friend. You’re right – we are strong and we will get through this.

  6. Love you, Nicole! You are an amazing mom, wife, and friend. Even the strongest need to stop and breathe. Thank you for sharing your story. I can’t wait to hear more! You have a gift for writing and you are undoubtedly helping so many others who are experiencing similar situations. (And yes, a gift… stop the self deprecating laughter!) I miss you, and can’t wait until we can get together to vent about the frustrations of the world and laugh about our crazy encounters. Take care. ❤

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