The Transition from Maternity Leave to Quarantine

How new mothers can practice mental hygiene during the quarantine

I recently welcomed my beautiful baby boy in the midst of so much uncertainty. While I am truly grateful for the newest addition to our family, I can’t help but feel anxiety with all the changes that are happening in the world right now. Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically affected our way of life, but also it can have an impact on a new mother’s mental health.

For some, quarantine started in March, but for others, like myself, “isolation” started when maternity leave kicked in. The notion of maternity leave isn’t the same for everyone. Life with a baby is definitely a blessing, but at the same time, it is quite an adjustment. It can be a period of time to disconnect from daily social obligations to tend to baby, but on the other hand, it can be a stressful time. Without a proper support system, that stress can spiral out of control, and perhaps even lead to postpartum mood disorder.

Perinatal Mental Health refers to the mental health during pregnancy and the postpartum period that occurs mostly in mothers, but can also appear in fathers. Quick fact, approximately 50-80% of mothers experience the “baby blues” during the first 2 weeks of postpartum, whereas about 10-20% of mothers experience postpartum mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or OCD disorders.

Now imagine throwing in a pandemic in the midst of all of these new adjustments. From social distancing to strict “stay-at-home” orders, this maternity leave has certainly been a challenge. With my first child, I would easily go outside for strolls, meet up with family and friends, and even planned a vacation to utilize my “kids-fly-free-under-the-age-of-two” privilege.

This time around, I’m more so fixated on keeping baby inside (aside from the occasional trail walks), giving a side-eye to the person who coughs while at the grocery store, and stripping out of my “outside clothes” every time I step out for essential needs. Instead of introducing baby to close family members and friends, we’re planning zoom meetings, and making spontaneous WhatsApp video calls with grandparents so they can feel involved with new milestones, and dressing him up in his “going-out” clothes because he’s about to outgrow everything. And while I can make light of my situation, for other mothers it can be quite a challenging time. From one mother to another, firstly let me just say this: BREATHE. Oftentimes as mothers, we tend to feel bad for speaking up about our mental health because there’s always a person offering unwanted advice and invalidating our feelings. Sis, it’s okay to admit that you’re not okay and acknowledge when your tank is empty. Yes, you’re a mom, but that’s not your only identity.

While the stressor of what we are all dealing with as far as quarantine goes sucks even more because we have someone completely dependent on us, please know you are not alone. Motherhood is about a sense of community and knowing that it takes a village. Postpartum depression is real and this pandemic would make anyone depressed but it’s important to focus on available resources to ensure that you don’t continue feeling this way.

Counseling, medical treatments, and social support are common effective ways to combat perinatal mental health, but while we brave through this quarantine small changes in your day-to-day can have a major impact in the long run. Here are a few changes that can be made to really maximize the importance of mental health while being on leave during this pandemic:

  • Meditation and mindfulness

  • Dedicated and uninterrupted time to yourself to spend it however you please

  • Getting outside, even if it’s for a couple of minutes, fresh air can really make a difference (practicing social distancing of course)

  • Leaning on a support system by not hesitating to speak up

  • Delegating tasks and house chores so everything doesn’t fall onto your plate

  • Sleep: those power naps really go a long way

  • Being mindful of eating habits while putting an effort in for more nutritious options

  • Unpopular opinion: a good cleansing cry can also put things into perspective and allow you to build the mental capacity you need to move forward

As mothers, it’s important to acknowledge when we need a break, especially now more than ever. So remember through motherhood comes community and connection and even when you feel most vulnerable just know that you are not alone.

Love & Light,