2020 is the weirdest year ever lived. Has it been lived at all, or has it been taken from us? I’m not sure anyone really knows. What have we done with it, what should we do with it?
6 months at home, in which time, I created a new life. The pregnancy journey was not what I, or my family expected or hoped for. We are relieved that Baby #2 is here, happy and healthy, the one blessing of this year.
But now she is here, I find myself thinking a lot “What is the world now?” By which I mean, what can I do?
What do I feel safe doing? Where do I feel safe going?
The guidance coming from official channels changes so often, and with it is often confusing. Then there are the people that appear not to care about any guidance in the first place.
I’m not sure anyone can expect the world to go back to how it was before March 2020 and yet when lockdown restrictions were relaxed, so many people just reverted. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that social distancing will be with us for some time, but even in open spaces, where transmission is allegedly less likely, I felt anxious when people did not care to keep their distance.
All I really wanted once Baby was here, was to get Squidge back to a routine that was about her, having fun. She went back to nursery and gymnastics last week and so far seems unfazed by the “new normal”. She knows why people wear masks and why she’s asked to take her temperature a lot. She’s just glad to be able to have fun again.
It’s also a relief that there isn’t the pressure of baby groups this time around. My scar was still very painful by the time Squidge was 8 weeks old and I was frustrated at being home alone, feeling like I wasn’t being a “good mum”. Thankfully, this guilt is lessened so much this time. All a newborn once is sleep, cuddles and regular feeding. I can provide all of this from the comfort of my couch. It enables me to concentrate on the recovery, although thankfully I’m in a lot less pain this time around.
I’ve never been particularly social. I’ve forever berated myself for not being different and I accept that lockdown probably plays into the negative impacts of that. But there’s little point me fighting against that right now is there? The world is not as it was.
But the thing that keeps giving me pause is, the world is trying to open up again. I just do not feel brave enough. Everything I think I might like to do, I automatically wonder if it is worth the anxiety that will arise from every cough and the lack of social distancing. Invariably the answer is no. And whilst Baby #2 is so young, that’s OK. But how long will I allow myself to be so anxious? I believe I have good cause, but I also know that the effects and impacts of COVID-19 are going nowhere anytime soon. So do I really want this to be the extent of my life now? Too afraid to meet a friend for a coffee?
The true answer is no, but I am always pulled back to the thought that just because official channels say it’s OK to do these things now, it doesn’t mean that I have to feel OK about it, for myself or for my children.
It is also worth noting that we haven’t done nothing. Last weekend we took the girls to a local farm. I couldn’t manage the trails with the pram and felt very sad as Squidge went off with her dad to enjoy the animals and I sat in the eating area and fed the baby. I am very aware that the division of childcare is falling the same way since Baby #2’s arrival. It is physically easier for me to care for the newborn and I miss spending time, real time with my firstborn.
So yesterday, I took them both over to the playground on our street. I haven’t been in 6 months. They only reopened the play equipment last month and we promised Squidge she could go back to it when Baby #2 came home. Her dad has taken her, but not me. It was a sunny day and she was so happy to be there. It really felt like we were “together”, which isn’t a feeling I had much while we were at home, simply because it was all about the struggles of being pregnant. We laughed and swung and played and it was so lovely not to just be looking at the same four walls or just focussing on the baby.
There are a few indoor things I miss. Namely coffee and dinner dates. Thankfully, I know the girls won’t care about either of those. They will benefit much more from outdoor play, so I asked the hive mind of Facebook to recommend all the outdoor play areas nearby. I’m really not outdoorsy, living within my comfortable half mile radius an otherwise relying on public transport because I’m not a confident driver.
So instead of tying myself up in knots about not attending baby groups this time around, the challenge is going to be my driving. Because another thing I do not feel comfortable with in a post lockdown world is public transport. Overcrowded, potentially unsanitary. It’s not worth the anxiety, especially when I put so much work into getting my licence in the first place. My intention therefore, is to get Kev and the kids in the car each weekend and drive to one of the recommended outdoor locations. New adventures together, fresh air, exercise and driving confidence. Win win, no waiting for buses involved.
I worry what we’ll do when the weather turns, but Squidge has a rain suit and wellies and the pram has all the rain covers, so I refuse to be beaten by the weather, or my anxieties.
I wrote a list of everything I wanted to do whilst on maternity leave, led by its importance against the stresses of COVID, selfishness and anxiety. This was carthartic actually, because it helped me realise what was important to me. I’d like a night away with Kev, a good dinner and wine, a massage and a good sleep. I’d also like to go see Strictly Ballroom the musical. I adore the film and the theatre so it’s a perfect marriage – and has also been rescheduled for the end of next year, so it gives me time to adjust to the world, whilst giving me something to look forward to, which has been lacking since the baby was born.
But that’s it. The list was so small that I reckon I deserve it all. It’s nice to realise how little I feel I need, or want. It means that even with all this anxiety and concern, my life is full and complete. Nothing like a pandemic to focus the mind on what’s important.
To me, that was giving Squidge her world back so she didn’t become consumed by her little sister. Even though letting her return when the risk is not eradicated leans into my anxieties, it is clear it was the right choice, because she adores her baby sister, still seeming in awe of her existence a month in. The little one doesn’t look at any of us as intently or smiley as she does her big sister. They are clearly very important to each other, which is all I wanted. There’s very little I actually need back from the world for myself.
I mean, we caught the back to school lurgies within a week of Squidge returning to nursery and I’m a miserable ill person. Squidge, of course, is the picture of health, but that’s fine. Gives me time at home by myself, feeling sorry for myself and wishing I could have a glass of wine. But I will, no pandemic can take that from me.
The only thing I think I wish for, that I had before and don’t know if I can get back, is the swimming pool. Squidge loves swimming and I felt so empowered when I took her myself and laughed and splashed with her. I really want her to learn to swim also. So that might be something to investigate for my maternity leave To Do List. I want to get back into aqua aerobics, to be assured that I’m trying in the best ways to take care of myself. I have planned to resume regular physio and massages now, the things I missed so much through lockdown.
I don’t need much more. A coffee shop maybe, to meet friends in, friends I haven’t seen in so long. Or maybe I need to get over my fear of video calls and crack open the wine? That’s half a plan I suppose. The better plan is to get in the damn car.
As soon as I can of course. 2 weeks to go.
I suppose it’s useless to mourn the world as it was. This may never return. And even so, I didn’t feel like I necessarily “fitted”, grieving the fact that I don’t have the energy for long trips or nights out. So maybe the post lockdown world is the perfect opportunity to turn the world into exactly what I need it to be for me and my babies.
Why would I want to be in a bar when social distancing isn’t observed? Why would any sane parent want to go to soft play? No. Let’s go outside, into the air and the colours and jump in some puddles, see some animals,
And if we can’t go out, let’s draw pictures, gorge on homemade cake or play board games. Who says it isn’t enough? Usually, I’d say me, I can’t help but put myself on constant guilt trips. But I didn’t make the world as it is now. This isn’t on me. But it is up to me to make the best of it.
So I don’t apologise for my fears or anxieties. I think society has shown me that they are well founded. But as a result, I finally know I’m not required to be like everyone else to be a good parent. I’m simply required to be a good parent, in the best ways I know how. And if I don’t know how yet, then my energy should and will be spent finding out.
That’s what the post lockdown world is going to mean to me and my girls