In my blog “The 5 Most Frustrating Lessons in Life”, I wrote about the fact that we have limited time. With the recent COVID-19 events, it may feel like time has taken on a different meaning. Some of us may find ourselves wishing this quarantined time away, and others may relish the pause in obligations. To me, this current situation feels like being pregnant without a due date.
CONGRATS YOU ARE PREGNANT BUT IT COULD LAST YEARS!
Think about it. If a doctor said to you… “Congrats, you are pregnant but we have no idea when you will have this baby. It could be weeks, months, or years.” Yikes! You may have a lot of questions and feel very upset by the news. Being part of the human races means you like to have some idea of how long things will last. Therefore, not knowing when something will happen can throw the most positive person into a tailspin.
Women are typically pregnant for about 40 weeks but if you were given the disturbing news of not knowing when your due date would be, you may ask yourself…
- How long will I have to carry this extra weight?
- When will I feel the joy of motherhood?
- What if I have complications and have to go on bed rest, will that last over a year?
- Wait a second, I dislike being pregnant, are you telling me this could last longer than anticipated??? I did not sign up for this, I just want the baby!!! THIS IS NOT FAIR.
Even if you love being pregnant, you would still want to know when you will meet your little bundle of joy. This is also true for what we are going through now, we have no idea how long we will be asked to live in isolation. It is unnerving not knowing a definite end date. The edges of time feel a little fuzzy in this situation.
In addition, pregnancy also brings up a lot of different feelings. Fear, excitement, joy, sorrow, and more. Similarly, this current health crisis will bring up different feelings for different people. Not everyone is happy about being pregnant, just like not everyone is unhappy about being at home all the time.
Other feelings you might have right now:
→ I have all this time now but I can’t spend it the way I want! Like someone put a hold on your bank account after you won the lottery.
→ Too many obligations have been thrown my way, such as working from home, caring for kids, domestic chores, and homeschooling. You are craving time for yourself, but like toilet paper, it’s a scarce resource.
→ The lack of structure and not knowing what to do next is making time feel like looking at a Monet painting up close, a big old mess that makes no sense. WHAT DO I DO NOW?
→ The days feel like weeks, the weeks feel like months, and time is moving about as slow as a sloth chasing a snail.
How do we handle metaphorically being pregnant with no due date? Below is a breakdown of a timeline you may go through when social distancing, which are similar to the three trimesters of pregnancy.
The First Trimester: Denial and the heart
There may be a period of time during early pregnancy where you don’t know you’re pregnant or you simply can’t believe it! This is similar to how you may have felt early on when COVID-19 started to change your routine. Denial or disbelief is often in our bag of tricks when a drastic change takes place. You may not fully grasp how much this could turn your world upside down. In fact, the common signs in early pregnancy are similar to what you are experiencing in the beginning of this pandemic.
Pregnancy: Extreme fatigue. Pandemic: It’s so hard to focus! Everything has been rearranged in your world — who moved the cheese? It may be hard to sleep or you may be sleeping more than normal.
Pregnancy: Nausea with or without throwing up (morning sickness). Pandemic: Your body may feel extra anxiety and that could make you feel physically sick. Additionally, perhaps you are hypervigilant about feeling sick due to fear of the virus.
Pregnancy: Cravings or aversion to certain foods. Pandemic: You attempt to socially distance yourself from the refrigerator but find it excruciatingly hard. You are not on a normal schedule and are eating out of stress or boredom.
Pregnancy: Mood swings – Random crying is a part of your daily routine now! Pandemic: Mood swings – Random crying is a part of your daily routine now! – NO CHANGE HERE!
Here is the good news:
In this stage of pregnancy, the heartbeat begins to form. You can channel that positive energy of the heart by doing some of the following activities:
- Start the day with a grateful mind and heart. If you see all the things you have, it’s hard to miss the joy in life. Write down these statements as the first thing you do each day.
- End the day by writing down three good things that happened during the day. Who or what is responsible when GOOD things happened to you?
- Create a connection to the world! Close your eyes, imagine you are sending your good energy out to others and expand this energy to anyone in the world that needs it. Think of energy as a light that will spread to anyone that needs extra support.
The Second Trimester: The honeymoon phase!
In the second trimester the discomforts of early pregnancy should ease off, but there are a few new symptoms to get used to. With our current situation, this is the phase where you start to accept the situation but that does not mean you are feeling totally fine. You may still mourn your previous life.
Pregnancy: Leg cramps or back pains. Pandemic: You may be getting used to living in isolation but that does not mean sharp pains won’t show up and cause you discomfort. When feelings come up, feel them! Try not to stuff them down.
Pregnancy: Growing hunger! Pandemic: You may find your patience tested during this phase as you get hungry for your old life. Show yourself some self-compassion, it is okay to mourn how things used to be. Let yourself cry when you need to.
The good news:
During this phase of pregnancy you often get to see your baby on an ultrasound for the first time. In other words, you may see that you can handle the situation because you’ve been forced to figure out how to make the best of things. Just like your baby is growing rapidly in this analogy, remind yourself that personal growth happens in times of challenge.
Practice being non-judgmental of yourself and others. Take note of your judgments throughout the day. These can be judgments of other people or yourself. Take those judgments and re-frame them into positive statements. For example, if you think to yourself, “Why am I so disorganized?” Re-frame your judgement into a statement such as, “I was not prepared today because things have been a little hectic at home, but I can take this opportunity to figure out a better strategy.”
Avoid things like the news, negative people, or TV shows that are depressing or violent. See where negative messages are coming from and try to push the pause button or turn them off all together. Be informed without overloading yourself with the fear that comes from the news.
The Third Trimester: Nothing lasts forever, right?
Pregnancy:Travel restrictions take effect during the third trimester. Pandemic: Ummm, travel restrictions have been going on for a while…
Pregnancy: You are pretty uncomfortable and ready to have your body back! Pandemic: You are ready to have your “normal” life back and looking forward to going out into the world. To look at the glass half full, you may have gained a sense of gratitude for all the freedoms you had. Hold on to that gratitude and practice it daily.
The good news:
You will have a baby soon (maybe you don’t know when, but soon)! This last stretch can be the hardest part because you are so anxious to move on to the next stage. The next stage has its challenges also, so try not to wish away what you have right in front of you!
Invite joy into your life! Go play a fun game with your kids, watch a comedy show so you can laugh, go outside, or connect by phone/video with a loved one. There are some limitations you have, but you can get creative with how you cultivate joy everyday.
Fall in love with the slowdown:
When thinking of pregnancy, think about slowing down and being with loved ones. You just don’t have the energy to go out all the time and the baby you are growing requires extra rest. Think of this as a great time to reflect and re-evaluate what is most important to you. Rephasing the situation, can make this time take on a different meaning.
In conclusion, even if we are not given a true end date to this situation, remind yourself that nothing lasts forever. It may last longer than you like, but finding ways to get the things you need to emotionally survive is a great thing to focus on. Fighting the situation could cause yourself unnecessary suffering. You are stronger than you know, but if you need help reach out! Many counseling practices are using video therapy to help during this difficult time.
Regardless, we will all be in this together for the same amount of time and we will be happier if we focus on what we can control. Once the pregnancy is over your life will be altered with new blessings and challenges. Accept the new challenges as opportunities to grow. When you look in the rearview mirror, you will find a life well lived.
ONE STEP AT A TIME!