My 2020 In Review: New Life & New Learnings

I did a massive photo dump on my Instagram stories of 2020, but I realized that this year in particular deserved a bit more of a review. It was a very challenging year because of the pandemic (and y’know, being a new parent during a pandemic) but it was also a year of growth (in multiple ways) and happiness. Honestly, the last 3 years of my life (2017 to now) have been the 3 best thus far. Let me review 2020…

Shortly after the “bottles” of champagne popped for 2020 last year, Maggie was born.

The best part of the year for me.

I’m not going to go into detail about my birth experience since I’ve already spoken about it before, but lets just say it was overall a good experience despite the (unexpected) need for an induction.

I remember when Maggie entered our world, she cried as you hope babies do but only for a second. She then just looked around and took everything in – though I’m sure she couldn’t really see much since her vision was still developing; it still was much more than what she could see in the womb. She could hear us, my husband and I, more clearly than before. It was cold suddenly when she was used to the warmth. Her body was probably overrun with sensations.

The midwives passed her up to me, cord still intact, and she laid on my chest. I was so tired – I laboured overnight and she was born at 11:31 am the next morning. But I was filled with joy and this warm sensation – love. My exhaustion and my hunger faded away for the next hour as I held her and fed her for the first time.

It seems like a far-off memory now in some ways with all that has happened since, but it also still feels like yesterday. One thing I know is that I will never forget that moment and I will always love her just as fiercely as I did that day. And that those first few moments with her helped me set my intentions for the year – however, I had no idea at the time what would be coming.

March 2020: Pandemic.

My husband had taken a few weeks off to be home with us after Maggie was born, which was so needed. It allowed me to rest a bit and just worry about taking care of my baby (and myself). He went back to work in February and we spent our first month and a half on our own – we did walking during the day, lots of nursing and cuddling, and she would sleep and I would stare at her, because that is what you do in the newborn phase. The first few weeks of motherhood are filled with joy, love, and exhaustion – and honestly are sort of a blur when you look back. You don’t “do” much, but at the same time you are doing so much because you’re caring for a new life. You’re re-organizing your life, sorting out your new role; reconfiguring your relationship to include this new person. It’s a bit hectic in ways, but also calm in others. An experience you can only know when you get there.

We tried to keep it low-key for the first 8 weeks of her life, before she had any of her vaccines because I was worried about taking her out (because 2019 had been the year of everyone having measles). It doesn’t mean we never went out – it was the winter after all, so I did actually go and do mall walks with her in the stroller. I liked it because I could walk for longer but there was a change table, nursing room, and washroom available as needed – and with a newborn and as a postpartum woman it’s nice to have these things at your fingertips. I didn’t get good at the whole nursing-or-diaper-changes-in-the-car thing till later.

We didn’t get up to much but that was okay because I was still learning how to navigate new motherhood and a new baby. I liked that there was no rush – as trying as the newborn stage can be, I miss those hazy days cuddled up on the couch cluster feeding in some ways. I don’t in others, because cluster feeding was not fun, but there was something nice about the closeness you had with your baby (and how you could just chill – and I realize this is not what the situation is with any babies that come after #1). I watched a ridiculous amount of Netflix and just spent all day with my baby – I was tired sure and it wasn’t always easy or rainbows and butterflies, but it was still precious time to me. As babies grow, you don’t get all the cuddle time anymore. Or all that time to binge watch television.

March came and we took M for her vaccines – finally, we were free to do some things! I could socialize – something I had been looking forward to since pregnancy. I wanted to join a mom group, have mom friends with babies around the same age. It was just something I had looked forward to doing in my maternity leave.

But all those hopes faded away quickly as they made an announcement we were going into lockdown.

COVID itself seems like another blur, or the lead up to it at least. I remember watching the news a lot as the announcement of the first lockdown in Canada creeped up, and I remember still watching the news a lot in the early days – thinking, this can’t last long. Waiting everyday for the announcement of things going “back to normal”. Oh boy, how naive I was.

When the lockdown was announced, my husband got laid off. Everything felt uncertain – we didn’t know how long this would last, how long he would be out of work. We now had a new baby and only minimal income but the panic over that hadn’t hit yet. The announcement of CERB was a relief, and to be honest I was happy to have him home with us since the extra support was always appreciated.

From spring to summer: The golden days of the pandemic

Like I said, COVID was a bit of a blur. My husband was home for months before he eventually was able to secure another job – and it took him awhile to find another job that worked for him and our family (months actually). These months were rough financially – I was on maternity leave so my pay was… sad, to say the least. It would have been OK with my husband still working FT and had we not had to dig into some savings to pay rent and such as he lost his job. We struggled a bit but we kept looking to Maggie as that beacon of light at the end of the tunnel she was our ray of sunshine everyday, even when she was not so sunshine-y haha!

We decided to make the best of our situation. We somewhat foolishly spent money on redoing our patio when the pandemic first started because tax returns and because it was our first few months living in our house (we moved in November 2019 when I was around 34 weeks pregnant). We had some regret about this as the pandemic went on and the lay-offs continued, however we were also very thankful we made our back patio functional because we ended up spending a lot of time out there enjoying the weather as it got warmer. My husband grew this crazy garden with way too many cucumber plants and every type of hot pepper. We got new patio furniture and a fire pit so we could enjoy the space in the day and at night. On a nice day, I’d set Maggie’s playard up out there and we’d all just hang – it was our haven in the city.

We did small home improvement projects on a very limited budget, because honestly what else were you supposed to do during a nationwide lockdown?! Our house became more of a home over the months we were off together with the baby – not just because we made changes to the inside, but also because our family was blossoming within. “Just the 3 of us” was something we got very used to in those months.

We also tried to get away from the house when we could do so – safely. We went to the family cottage a lot – didn’t do any shopping up there, did it all at home and brought up what we needed. When things were looking a bit “better” in July, we did one outing to Huntsville, ON for Canada Day weekend and got take out from one of our favourite little breweries and sat outside and ate it in a park. Maggie loved being up north – she loves swimming, so we got her a floatie she could use in both the lake and my aunts pool (where we spent our other outdoor time).

When my husband went back to work I tried to walk twice a day with Maggie – we’d just go where ever felt right that day. Sometimes I’d drive somewhere and we’d walk, other times we just got more familiar with our neighbourhood. Being outside was a nice change of scenery from the house and great exercise for me. Some days we tried to do things like go to Terre Bleu lavender farm – anything we could do safely outdoors at a distance.

We were lucky in this time to also do a virtual mom group – sure, it wasn’t the same as meeting in person but forming the connections and socializing was really nice for me, even at a distance. As months went on, we were actually able to meet up socially distanced in outdoors settings too! It was nice to get a *taste* of the maternity leave I had dreamed of this way (you can read more about my experience with this group & Mommy Connections here).

Summer honestly, was wonderful. Even though the pandemic limited us in many ways, I can say some of my best memories from last year come from summer. Being able to get outside with Maggie was wonderful, and just getting away from the city to the serenity of Muskoka. Even though everywhere was quieter now because of the pandemic, there was still a stark difference between the city and cottage country that I appreciated. It was nice to get away from the constant hand sanitizing when you were in nature and not entering anyone else’s space.

Fall and the holidays put a damper on the vibe though…

I love fall, and appreciated a break from the heat when it came. Some days it was too humid to be outside for long with Maggie, so even some cooler mornings or afternoons were appreciated.

Unfortunately, with fall comes Thanksgiving. In Canada it’s in early October so it comes pretty fast since September only ever feels like it’s a few seconds long. I knew that people were getting lax about the distancing guidelines in the summer because cases had dropped so much and many restrictions were lifted in our province. As a result, I had already begun to fear for the worst as colder weather neared and so did holiday gatherings. Oh, and kids going back to school. I knew that kids needed normalcy, so it’s not as if I was against it, but I knew it would bring change in the feeling of peace the end of the summer had ushered in.

Shortly after September came, then October, and numbers were rising. Yet nothing was being done. I couldn’t understand? I had a lot of anxiety at the beginning of the pandemic about being around people. I remember spending some nights in bed with my husband worrying about if we had a sore throat because the humidifier wasn’t on last night or because we had COVID. This anxiety was starting to resurface.

Rising numbers meant Thanksgiving for us was nothing and Halloween was me dressing Maggie in her chicken costume at home.

I was just thankful that she was small enough not to care. My heart truly went out to people with older children who probably felt so lost and confused – why weren’t things going back to normal? Why do we have to go to school but we can’t play with our friends like we used to? There would have been some very difficult concepts for a kid to wrap their head around in 2020.

December and now

Our region eventually went back into what they called “lockdown” but was definitely not. Many things functioned as they did before our region entered the grey zone. And as our region closed down, people rushed to do their holiday shopping in an area that was still open. It was not well planned nor well executed.

Just before Christmas, they announced that on the 24th of December, the province would officially lockdown again. Only “essential” services would be open, yet my husband who is a cabinetmaker still has to work. Makes sense. I was still anxious – I still am, on January 1st, 2021.

You can guess that our Christmas was pretty quiet, like the holidays that preceded it. I did appreciate this though – if I’m being honest I worried all year about having to go a bunch of places on Christmas with a baby – so as much as we missed the gatherings, I was thankful that we got lots of one-on-one time with Maggie on her very first Christmas. She got a play kitchen and now “cooks” breakfast every morning in her strainer with a fork haha!

I love watching her imagination at work – one of my favourite pastimes of the past few months actually is laying on the floor while she plays. Watching her, listening to her chitter chatter to herself, asking her questions about her surroundings. She points to things now and mimics us a lot – today she started doing the “shh” symbol to the dog because I did it. She says mama and dada, walks like a champ, and she loves her animals.

This year has been a bit of a mess, but we’ve been so lucky to have Maggie. She is my sunshine on a cloud day (or year).

Getting to watch her grow, learn, and explore has been easily the best part of my year. Having a family of my own. Watching my husband become a dad and love her endlessly. Becoming a mom myself – though some days it feels like I have it on lock, and other days not so much (but my husband is there to remind me I’m doing a great job).

So, if this year has been difficult for you – I’m sending you love. You are allowed to feel whatever you need to feel about this year. It’s been a friggen year, that’s for sure. I do hope that every single person has something – anything – positive to hold onto though. Maybe you got a new addition to your family too, a new friendship (even long distance), a new pet, or something material that has made it just a little bit easier to cope (like a Nintendo Switch!). Maybe you’ve just learned to appreciate the small things a bit more. How nice it is to spend so much time with your family – it could be anything. Whatever makes you happy. I just hope you have something.

For me, the year has been not without its challenges, but still amazing. I know this won’t be the case for everyone but guess what? It’s 2021 now, so lets say our goodbyes to 2020 however we need to, and get started on a new year. Hopefully, it will be everything we want and more.

If you want to know more about Maggie’s year specifically & her development, please refer to my ongoing Maggie Monthly posts which you can find here.