I was 26 years old when I gave birth to our first daughter. She was born a week late and weighed in at over nine pounds. My doctor had repeatedly told me, every week leading up to the birth, that she would be seven pounds, tops. We had some complications during the birth, and she was put in the NICU to be monitored for 5 days. She required a feeding tube inserted through her belly button, as well as breathing treatments administered around the clock.
The rug was pulled out from under us, and we found ourselves stunned, facing a situation we never imagined possible.
The gamut of emotions was vast, but mostly I felt crippling fear. I had no control. Things were happening so fast, and it seemed every doctor or nurse we talked to gave us conflicting information. One minute they said she would be fine. Then another nurse would tell us that they didn’t actually know if she would be fine and we’d have to speak to a doctor on Monday.
Needless to say, by the time we arrived home with our baby girl, any vision I had of those first blissful days together as a family were shattered. My idea of normal was replaced with a constant state of apprehension and anxiety.
Within hours of being home we began having trouble getting her to nurse. She struggled to eat and I felt like a complete failure. I wondered if we would ever find our new normal and if things would ever feel right again.
During this uncertain time in our country, I have drawn so many parallels to that time in our lives. The wondering. The fear. The misinformation. It didn’t take long for me to remember back to that dark time and recognize those same feelings are brimming at the surface yet again.
The COVID-19 virus has wreaked havoc on all of our lives. Our jobs, schools, families, children, and neighbors have all been affected. And for many of us, we share a similar fear or apprehension surrounding the what-ifs. None of us knows what the future holds, and that can be terrifying.
Back when we were working to find our new normal with our newborn, my husband began to do regular “check-ins” with me. He would ask me randomly throughout the day to rate my feelings and emotions on a scale of 1-10. I would give him my number for that hour (or sometimes minute) and explain why I chose that number.
If I said 2, it might have been because no one was able to give us definitive answers about the long term effects of our baby’s challenging first days, and I was terrified for her future.
In another moment that same day, I might have said 8 because she napped well and I felt rested enough to handle whatever came our way.
(By the way, that baby is almost 16 years old. She is compassionate, brilliant, musically gifted, and about to get her driver’s license.)
I soon began to turn the question back on my husband, and for the first couple of months we had regular check-ins with each other to offer support in one of the most challenging times in our lives.
I didn’t realize what a gift that small gesture was. I was trying to be strong and brave and act like I had it all together. But inside, I was a mess. Being able to share what I was feeling without fear of judgement, or worry that he would try to just swoop in and fix it, made each day so much more bearable. Naming my feelings and acknowledging them as valid was exactly what I needed.
Maybe you’d like to do that during this uncertain time with the people you love? Check in with your family. Call your friends and see how they’re doing. On a scale of 1-10, how are they holding up and why?
It’s shocking how little effort it takes, but the impact can be tremendous.
So…on a scale of 1 – 10, how are you feeling today?
Maybe you’re a 2 because you find yourself unable to work and have no clue how long this situation will last.
Maybe you’re a 5 because while your kids are playing nicely today, you worry about what things will look like on Day 13 when the wheels are falling off and no one can stand the sight of each other.
Or maybe you’re a 9 because you realize you’ll finally get to finish watching all of the Love is Blind episodes on Netflix and no one should judge you for it.
Your feelings are valid, no matter what. And you’re not alone. These are uncharted waters and we’re all just trying to figure it out. Let’s simply be there for each other, and we’ll all get through it together.