My pregnancy journey has been three years in the making. My husband and I first conceived in 2016. We were ecstatic (and terrified). Sadly, that pregnancy miscarried at just under 10 weeks. The path continued with a chemical pregnancy in 2017 and another miscarriage in early 2019. In the Fall of 2019, we again became pregnant and held our breath for 12 weeks waiting to see if this baby would “stick.” Alas, it did! We sailed right into 2020 feeling optimistic and making grand plans for our baby-to-be.
At the time, we could not predict what 2020 had in store for the world.
In January 2020, at around 16 weeks pregnant, I begin to hear the buzz about a virus that was spreading quickly in Wuhan, China. There were rumors that it had been spreading for a while and that the inception timeline reported was not exactly…correct. I started paying more attention to international news outlets. This new strain of Coronavirus seemed relentless. The United States would see its first reported case very soon. Of course, in the back of my mind, I was thinking about how this might affect the remainder of my pregnancy. It’s common knowledge, I think, that pregnant women tend to be more susceptible to respiratory viruses because of their mildly suppressed immune systems during pregnancy. I definitely began taking all of the recommended health precautions at the time. Easy decision. Keeping my baby inside the womb as long as possible (to complete gestation) was my ultimate goal, especially with a new and mysterious virus wreaking havoc on the world. During pregnancy, I prepared for any possible health outcome for which I could think to prepare.
The impact I didn’t consider at the time? My postpartum mom life.
I didn’t overlook every aspect of postpartum life. I definitely considered the fact that I might be working remotely for the foreseeable future (luckily, I have the privilege of doing so), and I almost completely took daycare off of the table. It was already a reality that COVID was stealing my pregnancy limelight. However, it was a blow to realize how COVID-19 might continue to leech my (and many other mothers) postpartum life, particularly the ability to develop the all-important and completely necessary “mom tribe.” At first, being a first-time mother, I didn’t think about finding “mom friends” much at all. Sure, I had read about the importance of finding a “mom group” after your baby is born. Leslie Anne Bruce writes a very impassioned chapter about the importance of finding your “mom tribe” in her book, You are a F*cking Awesome Mom, and I soaked up every word, but it didn’t truly sink in… until now.
Finding your own group of mom friends is so very important because they are going through what you are going through right now. They are feeling your pain, your exhaustion, your anxiety, and maybe even your postpartum depression. Especially in this COVID-19 era, Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders may be exponentially heightened by…well…you know, life. I mean, we not only have had the recent physical (and maybe emotional) trauma of giving birth, then follow that with our hormones plummeting, and sleepless nights watching our newborn breath while they sleep, we now have to wonder if our closest loved ones might introduce a virus that can potentially decimate the health of an entire household. We aren’t inviting our parents over, let alone venturing out to meet strangers at new mom events trying to build our cohort of moms. I suppose you could if you want to take your chances out there, but even if you are that laissez-faire with the virus, you most likely aren’t allowed to hold, much less attend, such events because of the possibility of group spread.
Where does that leave new moms?
As I said, I am a first-time mom, but it’s not just first-time mothers that need a mom group to commiserate with, to lean on, to laugh with. All mothers need support. How are we supposed to build our mom communities when we can’t have contact with one another? As I said, I hadn’t given much thought to finding mom friends before. In postpartum life, I had resigned the fact that I could even try to build one and I even shrugged it off as, “Oh well, this is what being a COVID mom looks like. We just have to do it on our own.” What I didn’t realize, was that I did have a mom tribe.
In my trying to conceive journey, I was using the Ava Watch. When you do conceive, if you’re on Facebook, you have the opportunity to join the private Ava Pregnancy Group. This group is great for quick questions and for the use of its search function to look up previous posts that may address your questions, but it is easy to feel like a faceless lurker within the group. There is zero intimacy with our interactions even though we talk about pretty private topics. What does happen though, is that someone in the group will create a separate, much smaller, private group for mothers that are expecting in a specific month. In my instance—June 2020 Mamas. I was invited to this group.
When I joined the June 2020 group, I was looking for support from women who were at a similar stage of pregnancy. Somewhere we could talk to one another about pregnancy woes and triumphs that maybe our partners or those around us might not understand. The June 2020 group served that purpose, and so much more (I mean, we shopped each other’s registries when all of our baby showers were canceled because of COVID). As we all began to have our babies, we discussed how much we appreciated this group throughout our pregnancies. As pregnancy turned into postpartum life for all of us, we started talking to each other even more. We were no longer just relying on each other for baby-related affirmation (which we still do), but we were talking about our lives. We were confiding in one another that we wish our partners did a little better, talking about our travel plans, continuing to talk about the worries of COVID-19 (which only became more real when a couple of us had exposure scares and one of our wonderful ladies ended up with a COVID positive babe).
We talk to each other about everything. In any given day the questions can run the gamut of:
My baby’s poop was weird—picture in comments, what do you think?! My baby slept all day today—is that normal? My baby didn’t sleep at all today—should I be worried? I am ready to have sex again, but it’s only been 4 weeks—is there any reason I should wait? How many times do you bath your baby each week? Why am I crying constantly? I just want to hide from everyone—does this make me a bad mom? I let my baby cry for a few minutes while I jump in the shower—am I a horrible mother? My mother-in-law is angry with me because I won’t let her (or anyone else) meet the baby yet—should I give in? I am going back to work soon and I am losing it—any advice? I am going to take a 7-hour road trip with an infant and a toddler—am I insane?
At about 6 weeks in, as I was texting with a friend who is due in October, thinking about how she and I are going our own little mom tribe, I realized that I already have a mom tribe. A mom tribe that I was completely overlooking. Possibly because I was taking it for granted or maybe because I didn’t expect women that I have never met to emit the type of closeness I envisioned to be required to make up a true mom tribe. Really, I have a mom tribe of 116 women. I have a virtual mom tribe in my June 2020 Mamas Facebook group.
I had found my group of mothers.
Not every woman comments or posts, but that’s okay. Lurking on the page and reading what others post is just as helpful in your postpartum life. Having never met a single one of these ladies in real life (and come to find out a couple of them live within 5-50 miles from me!), I can confidently and proudly say that they have become my mom tribe. Yes, a virtual mom tribe, which may seem emotionally removed, but a mom tribe with all the perks and benefits of an in-person mom tribe nonetheless. Of all of the things that I feel like COVID-19 took away from my pregnancy and new mom journey, finding my mom tribe was not one of them. I just found it in a less traditional avenue. We were kismet.
Please note: You do not have to be an Ava Watch wearer to get into one of these groups. This was just one of my personal experiences. I have also joined June 2020 Mother’s online groups that did not evolve from an Ava Pregnancy group. I have joined COVID-19 Maternal Wellness groups and I have joined plenty of safe sleeping and feeding groups. It just so happens that the June 2020 Mamas group of women that I speak of in this post had a profound connection.
About the Author
Brandon Adler is an Assistant Professor and Librarian specializing in legal information and information literacy who is passionate about equal access to information and great cocktails. She lives in New Orleans with her husband, daughter, two cats, and a dog.