I'm Here: Alexandra Smith - On becoming a 1st-time mother during a Pandemic

On Friday, March 13th, 2020, I headed out to the 1029 in Northeast Minneapolis with my coworkers for what would (unknowingly) be our last Friday lunch outing of the year. I sat belly-up to the bar with a secret I had just shared with my manager (@Sonja Peterson) that morning – I was 8 weeks pregnant. As I sipped my water and listened to my friends chat about the coronavirus that was taking hold in the United States, I knew I wouldn’t be returning to work on Monday. I distinctly remember them talking about sports. “What would become of Sports Center if no one way playing?”. I however was overcome with fear. It was time to start making decisions for 2 and I was not comfortable potentially exposing myself and “Baby P” to a deadly virus at work. I made a split-second decision to tell this close-knit group my exciting news and they were, apart from one of my closest friends and Sonja, the only people I got to tell in person. I cherish the hugs, well wishes, and words of encouragement I received this day more than they will ever understand.

This got me thinking about how grateful I am for my work family and their support over the last year, but I will return to that thought!

I first want to say, to everyone who has given birth during the past year, I see you! We have transformed into completely new versions of ourselves in virtual isolation. I sit here in my bedroom/office in South Minneapolis pondering how strange this is – to be a person that no one knows.

I read an article in the Atlantic last week that spoke about matrescence – the process of becoming a mother. It is a hormonal, emotional, and psychological shift that is likened to the magnitude of change that happens during puberty. Whoa! During these first few months with a baby your entire identity shifts, and as much as we don’t like to admit it, how we feel about ourselves is often based on interaction with other people. I found myself looking for validation as a mother much like I found myself looking for validation in general as an awkward middle school-aged girl – a feeling I never dreamed of experiencing again. It’s hard to shake this awkward self-doubt when your life has been shrunk to the walls of your home, your significant other, and a tiny demanding stranger you are now responsible for raising. So, to my fellow new (pandemic baby) mothers, YOU ARE DOING AN AMAZING JOB!! You are exactly who your baby needs you to be and someday everyone else will see that too. Keep your head high and please reach out to me if you ever need to talk to someone.

I see you too, dads - or anyone who has welcomed a child in the last year, whether or not you are a birth parent. The isolation of pandemic parenthood may hit you slightly differently (thank you hormones), but nonetheless, it is a wound that stung from the beginning and continues to feel like a bruise that won’t heal. I hope that you find healthy coping mechanisms. This blog post serves as mine!

If you have made it this far, thank you for participating in my therapy session, haha. I make jokes when I am uncomfortable, and I feel extremely exposed right now. So, let’s wrap this up on a high note!

This past year, while lonely and isolating, hasn’t been all bad. I will still continue to be sad about every milestone my child reaches without an audience to cheer him on, but I have certainly enjoyed some Covid-mama silver linings. The first being that working from home has allowed my significant other (Sam) and I to experience every first, every day. I sometimes get sad about the idea of sending our son to daycare and missing out on these experiences, but at the same time, long for my sense of self.

This feels like a good place to thank my mom who dropped everything in order to live with us since my maternity leave ended. I know how lucky this makes me and know that any of what I stated above would not be possible without her help. She is the true hero in this story. Sam’s mom has been amazing as well. I am grateful to have two great role models as I figure out who I am as a mama to our beautiful boy.

I have also said “goodbye” to jeans, “so long” to makeup, and embraced the power of a lunch nap. The latter I will miss very much when we return to the office! I no longer stress about missing the bus or worry that what I packed for lunch is not healthy enough. I learned to love my pregnant body without the fear of scrutiny from others. I threw myself into redecorating my home, made an amazing scrapbook for my baby, and tapped back into my inner crafty side. I connected with Sam on a deeper level and learned that my heart really does have room to love more! So so much more!

Speaking of the office – while I have not seen many of my coworkers in person since March of last year, they have been, and continue to play, a huge role in supporting me through my pregnancy, maternity leave, and beyond. This may seem only natural since I have spent more time with them (via zoom) than anyone else outside of my home in the last year, but they have truly gone above and beyond. From asking for belly pics and sharing in my excitement, to answering my type-A questions regarding baby gear and packing hospital bags, I cannot thank them enough. They have picked up my slack on days when I cannot seem to balance the work/mom life, sent food when I hit a rough postpartum patch, and maybe more important than anything else, fully embraced the ridiculous amount of baby pics I send them! The warm heart emoji reactions in slack and their kind words help this mama feel seen. The tech team and specifically the Program Management + Learning Services team at SPS is a special place to learn and grow. I think it took becoming a pandemic parent to fully realize this. I can’t wait to give you all a hug upon our return to the office, which I hope is soon, but not too soon :)

Theodore “Teddy” Hayes Palecek – thank you for making me a mama. I love you!

Photo Credit Rebecca Carmel Photography

“I’m Here” is an initiative that SPS Technology launched to strengthen our culture, improve diversity, and become a more inclusive organization. We feature “I’m Here” stories to share experiences and perspectives from volunteers across our teams.

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