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.