• Rhyena Halpern

Got the Sheltering-at-Home Pandemic Blues?



Today begins Day 9 of 21 of the Bay Area’s official Sheltering-In-Place edict. It feels like Day 493. Right?


When I get ahead of myself and cringe at the thought of surviving three weeks- to possibly three months! OMG!!- stranded at home, I try to remember to breathe slowly and deeply. Last night when I was having one of those moments, I thought about the only experience I have ever had that comes close to self quarantining.

Surprisingly, I remember that strange, long period of confinement with fondness.


When I was newly pregnant, I had heard about women being put on bedrest and it always sounded abhorrent to me. I didn’t think I could stand it. I would go nuts if I had to endure such an edict. I could not imagine such a fate. So…


When I was 22-weeks pregnant with my twin daughters two decades ago, I was put on bedrest for pre-term labor. I had what the very male medical profession call an “incompetent uterus” due to funneling of the uterus. That is when the cervix opens up inside the uterus, which could prompt pre-term labor. I would need to be on bedrest until I delivered my babies.


I was ordered to keep my head as low as my hips. I did it for 12 weeks to the day. I got up only to pee and every three days I was permitted a 5 minute shower. I sat up to eat but other than that I was flat down.


But it is amazing what you can do when you have to. And you know what? I began to like bedrest. What had seemed abhorrent, impossible, insane to me at the start became an odd refuge. I got into it. It was my calm before the storm of having- most probably pre-mature- twin babies.


My first day on bedrest I bought a new laptop computer.I researched everything about caring for premie babies, about breastfeeding premies, about labor and delivery. I joined online support groups and found out how other moms survived bedrest and multiple births, I wrapped my mind around how to relax into a lot of crying by premature newborns. I learned about their medical needs and their developmental delays.


My life in my bedroom became very peaceful. My Significant Other left me food before he left for work. Then the day stretched out in front of me. I had time to meditate and relax, unheard of for me. I spoke on the phone with dear ones incessantly. I had day visitors galore. People brought me yummy food. They sat with me, having driven or flown in for the day, and I was so grateful. And I baked those babies in my human oven. I talked to them and sang to them about baking these sweetest cookie girls. My body was theirs. I prayed for their well being.


Once a month I went to the obgyn. That was my big outing. The goal was to get past 32 weeks when the babies’ lungs were far better developed and could survive out of the womb easier. And I did it, going into labor just a day before they were 34 weeks along. My water broke and that led to my 41-hour labor, replete with yells for Dr. Kevorkian to end my misery.


(My girlies were small at 4.1 lbs each, but otherwise fine. They were in the NICU for two weeks which was a blessing of sorts. I got to rejoin the vertical world. I got to get cribs and car seats and changing tables and diapers and bottles. I got to walk a bit and recover some lost muscle. Before I knew it I was bringing those munchkins home. It was an amazing and odd and precious few months.)


So here is the thing. We do things we believe are not possible all the time because we have to, because there is no other choice. We survive and sometimes even thrive. So we can do this self-quartanine. We can find ways to take care of ourselves and each other and not go too insane.


We can find new ways to play with our kids at home, and new ways to work remotely, and ways to be of service to those in need in our neighborhoods. We can luxuriate in a book and help keep local restaurants and businesses alive. We can break through self isolation with our phones and reach out to others via FaceTime, Zoom, Facebook, etc.


We have to hold on financially and trust that the debt relief will help the working masses and small businesses. If we are secure financially, we have to help others financially. We know the food banks are faced with a sudden huge increase in need. We know that if we get too anxious we can talk ourselves down with deep breathing, a good cry, a glass of wine with a friend virtually, or hitting a cushion and screaming it out.


This is a time when we might turn into an anxious ball of fear, plagued by what horror might come through our door. But, this is also a extraordinary time of enormous reckoning. We are making lemonade out of lemons everywhere! Nurses, doctors, food bank workers, grocery store employees are all being recognized as heroes. Neighbors are shopping for the elderly who are infirmed. The homeless are getting resources, delayed for years in better times. Even banks are making allowances for those whose income suddenly dissipated. Its a whole different world than the Great Recession, where everyone was on their own, screwed over by those same banks.


Perhaps our collective consciousness has evolved in this past decade. Overall, we are rallying together, motivated by the essence of our humanity, the goodness we have within inspired by crisis. We are cooperating in lines at grocery stores and washing our hands thoroughly without complaint. We are largely (somewhat? a little? maybe?) relieved of the burden of political divisiveness, such a constant companion these past years, moved by the sincere desire to contribute to the collective good.


We are free to imagine how we might leverage this unity to reverse global climate change, solve our health care crisis and other modern evils. And we will suffer some devastating losses and there will be more mistakes and unacceptable consequences. Its human ingenuity that is the real hero, as women sew millions of masks all around the country, masks that our federal government cannot supply. There is no limit to our creative problem solving!


We re-assert our resiliency, practice generosity and compassion, as our best selves face upwards toward the sunshine! Take heart! We can do this quarantine! We will survive and we will thrive!


Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Canva

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Covid 19, Resilience, Childbirth, Pregnancy, Compassion



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