My daughter had her first baby this past July, right smack in the middle of a global pandemic. Now she was fortunate in that our infection numbers are quite low so her partner was able to attend the delivery but that’s where the ‘normalcy’ ends. Typical of any first time mother, she keenly feels the isolation of being confined to home with an infant, but the confinement is much more pronounced during a pandemic because she can’t even toss the stroller into her car and wander through a mall or a library to clear her head and get out once in a while. No coffee with a friend. No mommy-baby play dates…..no gathering with anyone, nothing. Her ‘outings’, such as they are, are limited to walks through her neighbourhood with the baby and her dog so I wasn’t surprised to note she was feeling a little blue of late. Who wouldn’t?
To try to cheer her up I suggested we do a road trip to a local seaside community. The drive has a lovely view and there’s a great restaurant right on the water with an outdoor patio so I told her lunch would be my treat for her. My plans for a wonderful day were formulating.
I knew she was excited at the prospect because when I came to pick her up she was all dressed up. Even the baby had on a special sleeper. She was running late when I arrived and needed still to walk the dog so I parked the car and we did the walk together. Once back she wasted no time putting the dog in his kennel and loading up my car with the car seat and stroller. We had limited time because her dog required medication in 4 hours so we needed to hit the road. (ok, cuts the day shorter but I can work with that)
While driving we both noticed the temperature was rapidly creeping up, contrary to the weather forecast, and we both acknowledged that we were over dressed for the humidity. Then the baby woke up, clearly hungry, so I suggested we stop at my house which was on the way. She could feed the baby and we could both change into lighter clothing, so we made the stop.
An hour later, baby changed and fed, I gave her a nice summer shirt to wear, telling her to keep it because it looked good on her (and I knew she liked it) and we started out again on our road trip, well aware that our 4 hour outing would now be reduced to 3 hours. I worried that this wouldn’t be enough time to give her the ‘outing’ she needed but it’s all we had.
The next hour was therapeutic. While I drove the baby slept and we talked, or rather she talked. She poured out her feelings of isolation. She wanted so much to be the same high energy and outgoing person she was known for, but the demands of a newborn baby, the fatigue that comes with it, and the restrictions of a global pandemic, don’t make it easy to socialize, and, typical of a woman and mother, all this made her feel guilty. (why do we women think we have to do it all, all the time?) I confided my own feelings of isolation when I was a new mother (and I didn’t have a pandemic to deal with) and assured her her feelings were quite normal. Every new mother goes through a blue period after childbirth. It’s a monumental change to your life and compounding this change with the restrictions of a pandemic only amplifies it. Talking it out and giving her someone to relate to who understood seemed to take some of the pressure off her. By the time we arrived at the seaside restaurant an hour later, she was laughing and joking, more like her old self, and it’s a good thing cause we’d just have time to eat before heading back home. I made a mental note to plan for more time next time and she commented on how much she was looking forward to a nice lunch on the patio with a glass of wine.
We unpacked the stroller, got baby into it, and walked up to the restaurant only to find it closed. The sign on the door said they were closed every Thursday (who closes on a Thursday?) Disappointed and knowing we didn’t have time to drive around looking for another venue, I spotted a hot dog vendor in the parking lot across the street. (I know, how lame is that? But I promised her lunch and there simply wasn’t time to go elsewhere) We crossed the road and she settled onto a picnic table by the water while I ordered our gourmet lunch, a cheeseburger, a bag of chips and a Pepsi (not quite the elegant lunch I had envisioned) but we made it work and on reflection, she didn’t seem as rattled by this as I was. I had so wanted to treat her to a relaxing day and nothing was unfolding as I’d imagined but she seemed ok with it. We joked about our fancy lunch, marveled at the view over the water and actually ended up having a nice time, despite the circumstances. I was stumped.
Once done we packed everyone back into the car and headed home taking the highway back instead of the lighthouse route because we were already late, and like before she chatted the whole way back. Her mood was lighter and brighter and by the time we got home we were both laughing and joking about our disastrous day.
I was playing with the baby and lamenting all that had gone wrong with this day, vowing to make it right, when I heard her answer her phone in the other room. It was her husband and he must’ve asked how her day outing had gone because I could hear her reply excitedly “Oh it was great! We got a burger from some guy on the side of the road and I got a new shirt!”
And that’s when it hit me. She hadn’t seen the things that had gone wrong focusing instead on what went right. She was actually happy with how the day had unfolded, and I was humbled, because this was when I realized that this had been a valuable lesson to me, on positivity. My mission to help her see the brighter side of her life inadvertently taught me how to see the lighter side of mine. The disappointments of my planned agenda were inconsequential to hers because all she saw was that she got out on a lovely sunny day, had lunch at the seaside, and got a new shirt (ok, a used one, mine, but new to her) and nothing else mattered. Life is good, unpredictable, but good.
How’s that for a lesson in positivity!