I’ve been sitting on this post for a while but it felt appropriate to post it at the end of mental health awareness week.
The world is struggling right now. Everyone has had their limits pushed and the ground has shifted beneath us all. The saying “it’s ok not to be ok” is bounding about and it is true. None of us are truly ok in this unprecedented time.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. I was told this many times when planning and carrying Scarlett. I was reassured by my village of people, that they would always be there. Yet my village has disappeared. I can very firmly say that when I chose to have a baby by myself I never ever imagined that I would be flying completely solo.
People keep telling me that I’m not alone and I appreciate the sentiment but I am. I am physically on my own with a baby and I’m not going to lie, it’s bloody hard.
We have been shielding for 64 days now. That’s nine weeks of not going further than the few roads around where we live. Nine weeks of no physical contact with anyone but each other. Nine weeks without a break from each other.
I have 3 chronic pain conditions and am on immunosuppressive injections to manage one of them. This means the NHS and government advise me to isolate completely. I’m not even meant to go for a walk but we have done that for both our well beings. The general advice is rubbish quite frankly. There is no consideration for parents of small children and certainly no thought whatsoever for single parents. The advice given is that people you live with stay “3 steps away” now I have big boobs but I’m pretty certain I can’t breastfeed and social distance at the same time!!
I’ve always been happy in my own company and don’t especially like going out. I’m a home bird. But I’ve never felt lonelier or more trapped than I have over the last two months. It’s like when you have a newborn, people are there to start with but it gradually gets less despite life still being hard work. Lockdown is the same. Everyone was in contact lots and full of helpful offers for the first couple of weeks but we’ve all sunk into our own bubbles now. Understandably, but some of our bubbles aren’t full of adult conversation. And sadly my bubble is very much missing any baking!
We’ve had a lot of time to reflect over the last couple of months and here are a few of my musings.
It is going to take me a long time to recover from lockdown. This is something so many aren’t aware of. My life won’t bounce back to normal. My physical and mental health have been battered in this time and it’s going to take a lot to rebuild them both.
My health was a concern of mine when I planned to have a baby alone but I didn’t worry about it much because I knew I’d always have help and support when I needed it. No one imagined this. Physically I need treatment. The medication I’m on is barely touching the surface of my pain. I need to see my physio, osteopath or chiropractor. I need a massage, I need physical treatment to help my body heal. Months without treatment could set me back years.
My Inner Strength
My mental health has always been fragile. I can manage it mostly as I’ve had to for 20 years. It is true that people who don’t struggle don’t truly understand it. Those who are “new” to mental health worries also don’t really understand the bigger picture of life long anxiety and depression. Take the control away from someone. Shut them away. Turn off half the world. That’s enough to make anyone wobble a little, history or not, we are all battling at the moment. Add into the mix a very demanding, sleep avoiding baby and I’m actually pretty proud of how I’m coping. There is a lot of pressure out there to be productive in these times. I feel guilty and lazy and stressed about this, I can’t do the things of my list, I certainly can’t learn a new language, I can’t renovate the flat, I can’t even write despite how much I desperately want to. I have to just get through each day. A few weeks ago I really struggled every morning to see how on Earth I’d get another day. But somehow I’ve managed. Scarlett is fed and clean and happy. And I am sometimes fed, occasionally clean and mostly happy.
Time Is Precious But…
I am cherishing this time with Scarlett despite how hard it is. There have been many time’s since she arrived, before then even, where I have told her it’s just us, just us against the world. The last nine weeks it has been just us. The two of us, the constant. And when it’s bloody exhausting it is also wonderful that we are all the other needs. I am grateful I am not isolating completely alone. I do have physical touch. Sometimes too much, like this morning when Scarlett and the cats were all over me!!! Go away!! I’m cherishing it. It is precious. I will look back and be thankful for the time with my baby girl BUT that is not to say I cannot wait for more in our lives again.
Scarlett Is Just Fine
I’ve stressed a LOT about being a good mummy during lockdown. I mean I obsess over it anyway but this has put it to an extreme level. To start with we had just begun some sleep training, that in itself is a whole other blog post, so that was pressure on us. I am constantly worrying about Scarlett’s development and how to help her reach her potential. As an anxious, perfectionist educator my poor child doesn’t stand a chance of being allowed to go with the flow!! I have done a great variety of sensory activities: hair gel in bags, jelly, poms poms, water play, a selection of games involved pouch lids and toilet rolls! I have concluded that actually Scarlett doesn’t give a toss about any of this. She wants to read her books, use mummy as a climbing frame and sing and dance lots. She is 14 months old and focused play is just not something she needs masses of right now. So I’m letting her potter and it can’t be doing her that much harm as she has nearly 40 words in her vocabulary and can identify colours!! I’m trying not to put pressure on us.
I’ve Found My People
I’m sure a lot of you will feel this one. Lockdown has made me realise who my people are. Who is there in whatever form we can manage right now. We all have so many people in our lives and this period of time has taught me who I really need and who I really want in my life. There have been no “drinks nights” or family quizzes. I don’t have group chats going on every night. I just don’t have friends who do that. Social media has been a godsend of support so I shan’t hear a bad word about it. My friends on twitter have checked in on me far more than a lot of my real life friends. As we emerge from our homes in the weeks to come, I know who I want to see.
In conclusion, before I waffle on some more, life is pretty tough right now. I’m saying I’m not ok, but I will be. Flying solo is exhausting and draining physically and mentally but I have the best copilot in the world.
Stay at home. Stay safe. And check in on your single parent friends!!