This is an article I never thought I would write. Once I felt the stirring to write it… I admit I put it off. It brings up a lot of raw emotions inside me. But because I see the need, I find it important to share this part of my journey. And if you or one of your loved ones were hospitalized during the COVID-19 nationwide shut down, this article is for you.
As our country began to shut down due to COVID-19 over the latter part of winter and the beginning of spring, one aspect of the shut down brought up flashbacks to my life 5 years ago: Hospitalization.
Five years ago, I was pregnant with our second set of twins. We had moved across the country the year prior, putting us far away from family. And when my daughters’ water broke at 30 weeks, I found myself stuck in the hospital an hour from home for four very long, lonely weeks. While some aspects of my hospitalization were different and less-restrictive than those hospitalized during the pandemic, I broadly relate with the situation.
Mamas who were hospitalized for any reason during the pandemic quarantine, you navigated a challenging circumstance. (Or if your husband/child/parent/close loved one was hospitalized… I can see this deeply affecting you.) You endured a tumultuous time, and perhaps no one has acknowledged that fact.
Perhaps not even you.
While I was allowed to have visitors during my hospitalization, my husband and kids visited only a handful of times. Our home was an hour south of the hospital where I was admitted and my husband still had to work in the midst of my stay. He simply couldn’t drop by when he felt like it.
My pregnancy was a hard one from the beginning. Blood clots, risk of miscarriage, bed rest, placenta previa, and an early water breakage were only some of the concerns. I vividly remember waking up one night in pain and bleeding due to the placenta previa. As doctors and nurses swarmed into my room, there was mention of prepping the surgery suite. Tears streamed down my face as I realized I might give birth without my husband by my side.
The Gravity of the Situation
For some of you, that was your reality. You underwent birth, surgery, recovery, illness, pain, difficult news… alone. For that, I am deeply sorry. While it couldn’t be avoided, I know your experience felt “off.” Support systems are a vital part of our human existence. We need our people around. And when they can’t be around in times of crisis, joy, pain, or life changing events, that can have a profound effect on how you process that time in your life.
No one sits you down and explains how to deal with times like that. And sometimes when we are in the midst of them — and for some time after — we are on auto-pilot. Numbing out. Unable to grasp the gravity of the situation.
Take Time to Process Your Hospitalization
I wish I could sit down with you and hear your story. I wish I could tell you encouraging words that you specifically need to hear. While I won’t dive more into my hospital stay coupled with my twins’ NICU stay, I will tell you it took me a while to recognize the fact that I needed help processing those weeks. Even though everything turned out ok. Even though I was well cared for and the doctors and nurses were excessively kind. And even though I know God used that time to grow me… I still needed help to heal my brain and heart.
When I began meeting with a counselor, she told me my brain did not know how to accurately process that time in my life and marked it as traumatic. In time, we worked though those days and God has graciously brought so much healing to me. Does that time in my life still bring up painful feelings? Yes. But I am able to talk about it without falling apart and I can cope with those feelings in a healthy way.
As someone who has walked a road that is similar to hospitalization in isolation, I am concerned there are many people, mamas especially, now walking among us with wounds on their brains and hearts from their experience. We are made to live in community. God puts people in our lives to walk alongside us in good and hard times. Not having those people with us, in person, while experiencing a whole different environment can be… well, traumatic.
If you were hospitalized for any length of time — for any reason — during isolation, I encourage you to take some time to sit with your thoughts and feelings. Consider if processing that time with the help of a counselor is the right step for you.
If you are close to someone who experienced a hospitalization during isolation, you can help by allowing them the time and space to speak freely about their time. Sometimes, just listening and allowing them to process out loud makes a huge difference.
You don’t have to fix anything. Just be there.
Deal with the Pandemic Aftermath
The ripple effects from our various experiences during the pandemic isolation time will be realized as we get further away from it. Everyone processes differently. But I encourage you to take the time to actually do the work of processing. Personally, I process my thoughts and reactions best when I’m running, writing, cleaning, and ironing. Your way of processing will most likely be different than mine and whatever it is, take the time to do those things.
May we be mamas who model vulnerability and place a high importance on our mental health. Our kids are watching and when they see us actively pursuing health and wellness, we tell them it’s ok to not be ok, but seeking help to heal is also important.
You are a strong mama. I know because you came through and you’re ready to look your past square in the face. Exhale. Roll up your sleeves, take a good look around, process what you went through. Walk into healing. Everyone’s journey towards healing will look different, but I hope you are encouraged and empowered to take the next step that’s right for you. I’m praying for you as you do.