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We’re on the road to freedom! But will it be a smooth ride?

Last week was a huge one for us. We stopped breastfeeding for good and we had THREE garden meet ups – two with new NCT friends who we’ve only previously met virtually, and one with my best friend and her partner who were able to meet Sadie for the first time. The sun shone (before it started snowing again), I drank more than one glass of wine without feeling guilty and things felt more normal than they have for months.

Getting back together with friends in the sunshine feels so good.

Finally, we’re on our way out of (yet another) lockdown, and this time feels so much more positive than the others. The vaccination programme seems to be going to plan, summer is on the way and maybe this time we’ll finally get on top of this thing for long enough to hug our friends, have conversations with strangers in the pub and travel again. At the very least my other half will get his hair and beard trimmed (probably with hedge trimmers at this rate) and I’ll get my eyebrows waxed, which is reason enough to be over the moon. 

So why do I still feel anxious at the thought of lockdown ending? And talking to my new mum friends, I’m not the only one.

As all parents know, nothing’s more precious than your newborn baby. Your natural instinct is to protect them from everything big or small – and for those of us who have given birth at this crazy time, that includes a deadly virus that’s sweeping the world. Thank goodness it doesn’t seem to affect children in the same way it does older adult. But that doesn’t mean you want to take any chances with your new little human. 

All new parents want to protect their little ones from whatever life throws at them, and for us that includes a global pandemic!

So far, all we’ve had to do to make sure our families are as safe as possible is stay indoors, watch hella Netflix and wait for people way cleverer than us to create a life-saving vaccine. With a newborn, when you sometimes get to 4pm before realising you’re not even sure if you brushed your teeth that morning, staying indoors could not be easier. And for all the downsides of not having the physical support I’ve craved, it’s actually been quite a gift to be in lockdown for this crazy first three months with no pressure to meet anyone for coffee, tidy the house for visitors or sign up to dozens of baby classes. Now it’s time to break that spell, I’ve got mixed emotions. 

The main concern for me and my husband is that, in terms of COVID at least, our friends are still young! And that means they won’t be vaccinated for a good few months yet. Most of them don’t have children, have been stuck indoors for months and live (in my biased opinion) in the best city in the world for eating and drinking – so of course they’re going straight out to the pub faster than you can say ‘mine’s a bottle of Prosecco’. And while we’re desperate for them all to meet Sadie and have those precious first cuddles while she’s still tiny, we can’t help but worry about someone giving her the virus. She’s at that stage where she’s trying to grab things and has her hands in her mouth constantly — and you can’t make a three month old anti-bac while singing Happy Birthday (is anyone still doing that?!). 

We’re also worried about bringing the virus home ourselves, so every decision to go to a beer garden or a friend’s BBQ feels huge. Of course we’re desperate for the social interaction, and particularly as new parents we need that time away to remember who we are again. I’d love to go the gym or on a non-essential shopping trip to buy some clothes that I haven’t chosen because of their elasticated waistline and button-down front, but every time I’ll be weighing the risk vs. the benefit. 

Sofa selfies have become our thing! But it’s time to get out and socialise again.

And then there are the baby classes that are due to open up soon. In many ways I can’t wait – both Sadie and I need that support network, and I’m already signed up to swimming and baby massage. But they all come with added pressures – only ten minutes allowed in the changing rooms, instructors not allowed to touch your baby, having to bring your own equipment. For mums who are still new to all this, the added rules feel overwhelming.

As always during this pandemic, the list of ways new mums are unfairly disadvantaged goes on. Other things that have been raised by my peer group include babies being counted in the rule of six (Sadie is literally attached to me 24/7, we really should be counted as one person), nurseries not being allowed to run visits for prospective parents and having to register the birth of our babies from the registry office car park rather than being allowed inside (I still can’t quite understand this one!). 

While it’s all frustrating and worrying, I like to think we’ll take a balanced approach – we know the old cliché of getting run over by a bus, and it’s true that there are thousands of risks we won’t be able to protect Sadie from. We don’t want to wrap her up in cotton wool, and we need to get out there again as much as everyone else. But there will be some things we say no to because we don’t want to take unnecessary risks. I just hope that won’t leave us and our child feeling penalised by this pandemic yet again. 

UPDATE – SO FAR SO STRANGE

We’re now in May, and have reached the major milestone of being able to meet indoors (thank goodness, because battling the British weather to sit in a wet and windy beer garden with a 4-month-old has been doing nothing for my bid for Mum of the Year). We’ve also marked Mental Health Awareness Week, which feels more important than ever, so I thought I’d give a quick update on how some of the above has been going (albeit a bit late because we’re deep into sleep regression and leap 4…)

I have to start with how good it’s felt to meet up with friends and family again, and for Sadie to see some of the people we care about most – she is such a smiley baby and is really enjoying seeing faces other than mine and my husband’s! My parents are now fully vaccinated and some of our friends are starting to get their first jabs, so we’re cautiously getting back out there. I wouldn’t say we’ve got back to our old life, but we’re taking baby steps!

One of our best days has been a day out shopping at Bluewater. We went midweek to avoid crowds and earmarked which shops we wanted to go to beforehand, but I still felt nervous. What I hadn’t realised is how much Covid has delayed some of the things I would have had to work out how to do with Sadie weeks ago under normal circumstances – driving, bottle feeding outside the house, changing a nappy in a public toilet. It felt totally overwhelming, and I spent the morning looking for any excuse not to go. But luckily the facilities were excellent, we loved taking Sadie on a little adventure, and honestly came home feeling as refreshed as we used to from a week on the Costa del Sol! The change of scenery was life-giving.

My first child-free day in four months felt odd, but lovely.

I’ve also done a few things independently for the first time, which has done my mental health the world of good – going into London for an outdoor brunch with my girlfriends, and getting a much-needed haircut. This must be a hard adjustment for any new mum, but I think the ‘lockdown generation’ parents are finding it even harder. We’re so used to not being able to leave our babies with anyone that we’ve become overly possessive. The kids are going to have a hard time getting rid of us when they’re teenagers and just want to be left alone!

The hardest thing so far has been the swimming classes. Not only are we not allowed to bring pushchairs or car seats inside as the corridor is being used to give extra space to gym equipment and maintain social distancing, we then have full-size tents erected by the side of the pool as we aren’t allowed in the changing rooms. This means carrying all our belongings from one side of the slippery pool to the other at the end of the lesson, dripping wet, with a screaming baby in the other hand. During the lesson, we aren’t allowed to sing along with the songs designed to engage the babies, and the instructor isn’t allowed to get in the water and help us. The whole experience is hugely diminished. 

No we’re not underwater – we’re in our changing TENT?!?!

I’ve also felt the pressure of the diary quickly filling up again. I don’t feel I can go back to the same pace of life we had before, particularly with a new baby, and I’ve already said no to a few things that I normally would have jumped at the chance of doing. I think that will be the same for a lot of people – and maybe it won’t be a bad thing for our mental health to be a bit more choosy about what we do, and spend more time genuinely relaxing at home. 

We’ll see what the next few months have in store – the Indian variant feels frightening, and as we’re not vaccinated yet we’ll still be reasonably cautious for now. But finally, mid-way through my maternity leave, I’m grateful for this little slice of normality.

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Giving birth in lockdown

It’s been quite a while since I wrote anything, because while the pandemic is far from over, my pregnancy is! Our beautiful (and clever) daughter Sadie was born on 6th January – the first day of England’s third lockdown – and is now six weeks old. The only other thing I’ve got to compare a stretch of six weeks to is the school summer holidays when I was a kid – and this has been absolutely nothing like that, if only because it’s been below freezing outside most of the time! But in some ways being locked down with our precious newborn does resemble that feeling – it has the same sense of magic, a freedom in the lack of routine and rules, and being desperate to see your friends again but also wanting it to never end. 

Picture perfect – our gorgeous Sadie Rae.

It’s been an intense time – turns out babies really do cry a lot, poo a lot, feed constantly and sleep very little. But now we’re getting used to our new life, I wanted to write about how giving birth in a pandemic really was for me after all the worries and fears of pregnancy. 

The last few weeks leading up to the birth were pretty stressful – we moved house and decorated the entire place in a week, had a Covid scare that meant we had to self-isolate over Christmas and found out baby was in a breech position so had to come to terms with the idea of a C-section. But I feel very lucky to say that I had a really positive birth.

There were some strange parts of course – the first time our daughter saw our faces they were covered by masks, I was given a Covid test as soon as I entered the hospital, and we were behind a curtain the whole time on the maternity ward as mums were encouraged to stay socially distant rather than share the camaraderie of what we’d just been through. But the always amazing NHS staff went out of their way to make things as safe and special as possible. My surgical team in particular I can’t praise highly enough. 

The reality of birth in a pandemic

Personally, I also didn’t feel the lack of partners on the maternity ward. I was lucky that a C-section meant my husband could be with me the whole time, and we stayed together in recovery for quite a few hours afterwards. But I saw other women struggling – one woman in particular in the opposite booth to me had had an exhausting birth and had a very hungry, wide awake baby. This being her second baby, she knew how much easier it had been for her first time around when her husband could stay the night to share the load. She was desperate for some help so she could get some much-needed sleep, but sadly the midwives didn’t have the resources to take the baby and give her a break and by the morning I could tell she was really struggling mentally. 

That’s the extent of my hospital experience as, amazingly for having gone through a C-section, I came home just 24 hours later. At the time I was thrilled, but in retrospect I feel I was discharged too early. There was a definite push to not be on the ward longer than necessary, and I was very aware of the risks to myself and my newborn baby with Covid cases at an all-time high. But I can’t help but wonder (Carrie Bradshaw style) if those first few days would have felt less overwhelming if people had been able to get closer and give us more time. I’ve found breastfeeding particularly challenging and it turns out Sadie had a tongue tie – would that have been spotted earlier in normal times, for instance? 

The back garden – about as far as you can go with a newborn when it’s snowing in the middle of a national lockdown

We also haven’t had regular weigh-ins, our six week check up with the doctor was a phone call, and neither of us have had any social interaction which can’t be good for her development or my mental health. My NCT WhatsApp group has been an absolute godsend, and the health visitor and community midwife visits thankfully still went ahead – but I still felt uncomfortable having people coming in and out of the house during the harshest lockdown we’ve experienced so far. It’s the same old lockdown story of making impossibly difficult choices and compromises.  

Spring is coming, and hopefully with it some light at the end of the tunnel as Boris announces his long-awaited roadmap out of this lockdown. I’ll be spending tonight’s 3am feed shopping online for garden furniture so we can finally have at least one household of friends and family round to meet the baby! But I want so much more than that – to take her to baby swimming classes, have a coffee with my new mum friends and even feel safe to take her inside the supermarket when we run out of nappies (which is All. The. Time.)

We’ve all got Covid and lockdown fatigue, and there are so many groups of people out there who need support now more than ever – my heart goes out to them all. But let’s not forget about maternal rights in all of this. The problems for pregnant women, new mothers and babies are far from solved. 

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Shopping when no shops are open…

I’ve actually surprised myself with how well I’ve coped with being pregnant in this crazy pandemic. Being made to attend scans alone, not having access to antenatal classes, working from a laptop for months while that pesky relaxin wreaks havoc on my aching back – all taken in my stride. But I’ve had two or three major meltdowns that have all been caused by the same simple thing – shopping.

Shopping for your new baby is one of the things you look forward to most. None of us can resist the cute outfits and toys, and we can spend hours testing out the essentials like prams and cots. But with non-essential shops closed during lockdowns, and additional restrictions in place even when they have been open, it’s been nothing like I imagined it to be.

How cute are these Star Baby Wraps? Recommended to me by a lovely mum friend, and ordered online of course.

Thankfully we managed to book a personal shopping appointment at a fantastic pram warehouse over summer where they went out of their way to help us, even letting us test how the prams folded into the boot of our car. But for everything else I’ve had to spend hours poring over photos and reviews online, then clicking a button and hoping what I’ve ordered is safe/appropriate/high quality enough for the start of my firstborn’s life. A baby bath, Moses basket, changing mats, a multitude of babygros and muslins – the DPD delivery man must have us saved in his Sat Nav favourites by now!

It’s also taken away the chance for us to save a bit of money and buy second-hand. Nearly new sales have been cancelled alongside everything else, charity shops are closed, and I’ve been too worried about the risks of spreading the virus to use Facebook Marketplace. I’ve not been around friends and extended family for them to offer hand-me-downs, or had a baby shower with a fancy baby list. And I dread to think of the premium I’ve paid on all those deliveries!

Yet another delivery… Really pleased with the quality of these changing mats ordered online (can you see a colour theme developing?!)

Shopping for maternity wear has caused me even greater anxiety. I’ve always been more or less the same size (apart from the first few months at uni when the fatal mix of £1 alcopops, only knowing how to cook five meals and a boyfriend who lived next door to KFC took its toll). I’ve loved watching my body change shape as Baby Mac has grown, but I’ve struggled with how to dress my new body.

I’ve mostly ordered online, but when shops have been open my experiences have been terrible. Most retailers never managed to get fitting rooms open, which baffles me. How is it easier for them for you to take something home, into a potentially COVID-ridden environment, and then take it back for them to deal with than it is to keep a rack of clothes that have been tried on and clean them all at the end of the day?

I’ve been trying to make things like floaty dresses I already own work for as long as possible to avoid buying too much in lockdown

Topshop even had their photobooths open – presumably so they could continue to make money from groups of teenage girls cramming themselves in to immortalise their Saturday outing to Bluewater on Polaroid – but couldn’t manage to clean fitting rooms between uses. And a well-meaning sales adviser in Marks and Spencer told me just to buy the next size up and not waste money on maternity wear anyway, completely reading the room when I was already close to tears.

Part of me has thought, ‘Why bother?’ We’re barely leaving the house anyway so I don’t really need lots of nice outfits to wear to work or out socially. But fashion is a big part of who I am, and feeling good in what I’m wearing gives me confidence and boosts my mood. It might sound trivial, but for me it’s a really important example of how even the smallest things have felt like a slog for many expectant mothers this year, and how the build-up of those things can really impact prenatal mental health.

I’ve made sure not to miss out on the novelty purchases at least – it’s got to be done!

With two months until my due date I’m still facing lots of shopping dilemmas. How can I buy well-fitting nursing bras when I can’t have a fitting? What toiletries should be in my hospital bag? Should I stock up on nappies now in case we all go mad and start panic buying again? So please any tips, do share – I’m relying on the wisdom of other mums to get me through!

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Why are we accepting under-par pregnancy care?

This week, I should have had my 25 week appointment with my midwife (how are we more than halfway through the pregnancy already?!). But I was told weeks ago that it wouldn’t be happening, as hospitals cut down on the number of face-to-face maternity visits during the pandemic.

In fact I’ve only met my midwife (let’s call her Emily) once, at just nine weeks pregnant, for my booking appointment. Back then, all my concerns were about whether we would make it to the 12 week scan problem-free. I had no idea what questions I wanted to ask, what symptoms might come up in the following weeks or what support I needed.

Don’t get me wrong, Emily’s lovely, and I’m sure she – like the rest of our wonderful NHS – is giving her everything to keep doing a miraculous job in a really rubbish time. I get the impression she’s exactly what I need too – cheery, unfazed and seriously laidback. Her advice at our one and only meeting reassured me; exercise if it feels right – ‘birth is a marathon after all, may as well train for it’, don’t worry too much about the onslaught of food advice – ‘unless you literally live on tinned tuna, you’re going to be OK’, and other useful gems.

The really fun symptoms have started to kick in now – my first nosebleed since around 1997! I’ve missed being able to check in with my midwife on whether these things are normal or if I should be worried.

But what I wouldn’t have given for a bit more of that advice along the way, especially as more disconcerting symptoms like nosebleeds and hip pain start to materialise. There are obviously good reasons why first-time mums usually get additional appointments at 16 and 25 weeks – to check on ours and our baby’s health when our bodies are being put under strain we’ve never experienced before, but also to put our minds at rest. I’ve found I’ve been quite anxious during the couple of weeks leading up to scans and appointments – being able to listen to a heartbeat or have a midwife measure your growing bump would have made all the difference.

The 16 week appointment should have taken place over the phone, to at least give me a chance to ask questions that were starting to crop up as I got my head round this whole growing a human malarky. But for some reason coronavirus seems to have stopped us from being able to keep to an appointment schedule, so instead of an allotted time I was told to expect a call between 9am and 5pm – as if speaking to your midwife is like waiting in for a DPD delivery. In the end, Emily didn’t get round to calling until three days later, when I was caught completely off-guard and didn’t really ask anything at all. ‘Great thanks, see you in three months – bye!’

Working from home in a small flat is already challenging, but waiting for calls from the midwife that never come just adds more stress to the situation.

On the few occasions I have been to the hospital it’s been eerily quiet – as few women as possible in the waiting room, all wearing masks and sitting apart, while partners wait anxiously in cars outside. Every so often there’s a bit of drama when a partner tries to come in and gets kicked out – it took my husband back to his uni days getting escorted out of clubs for drunken behaviour on the one occasion he did make it inside the birthing centre.

This has been my hospital experience so far – eerily quiet and lonely, without the buzz of excited couples sharing these life-changing moments together.

The amazing #butnotmaternity campaign has focused mainly on the involvement of partners at scans and during birth, and I 100% believe their presence is vital every step of the way. But for me, and many other pregnant women and new mothers, it’s about so much more than that. It’s the missed appointments that make you feel like your pregnancy doesn’t matter. The antenatal classes and baby groups that still can’t happen face-to-face and rob you of those vital friendships you were relying on to keep you sane. The reduced number of hospital visits leading to mums missing warning signs and stillbirth rates rocketing in countries across the world.

I’m determined to focus on the positives (I’m going to need that training for hypnobirthing, right?), and in some ways having to do this on our own has made me more relaxed, allowing me to trust my own instincts more and only consume the information I really want to seek out. And being in waiting rooms full of women doing the same thing, calmly but fiercely bringing this Lockdown Generation into the world, has only renewed my affection for the sisterhood.

But our superwoman strength will only get us so far. We need the government and NHS Trusts to prioritise maternal care every step of the way. It will be one of the worst legacies of this pandemic if they don’t.

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Pregnancy, a pandemic and Prohibition

I can’t lie – I like a drink. I turned 18 in 2005, when binge drinking was still cool and clubs were doling out all-you-can-drink Blue WKDs for a tenner. Since then my drinking habits have thankfully changed, but I still love the social aspect of drinking – whether it’s that first wine of the weekend with workmates at 4.30pm on a Friday, a glass of champagne at a wedding or an espresso martini after a meal with friends (dessert and coffee in one, it’s a genius/deadly move).

Alcohol is so much a part of everyday life for many of us in the UK that I imagine it’s difficult for a lot of pregnant women to give up alcohol for nine months (even longer if you cut down while trying to conceive or plan to carry on abstaining while you breastfeed). But it felt especially tough in the middle of lockdown, when most of the nation were drinking more than ever to cope. Stats suggest a quarter of people said their drinking increased at the height of lockdown, with one in 5 of those saying this was a response to stress or anxiety.

Making do with soft versions of my favourite drinks has been tough – but a fancy glass and great views help!

Facing endless nights in on the sofa, not being able to enjoy a bourbon and Coke (a drink my husband introduced me to) in front of one of our favourite boxsets was tough. Something I struggled with even more was how to differentiate day from evening when working at home. I know a lot of friends opened a bottle of wine at 5pm to try and ‘own’ their personal time. And now, facing the uncertainty of whatever lies ahead as the dreaded second wave arrives, and having been stone-cold sober for four months, it’s feeling more difficult to not have an evening drink or two to fall back on.

Having said that, in general I’ve found it easier than I anticipated to stay on the wagon, probably helped by not having as many social gatherings to attend (and how sick I felt for weeks!). At a time of reflection for so many of us, it’s made me reassess my relationship with alcohol. Do I drink because I genuinely enjoy it or because it’s expected? While I’m no longer downing drinks to rugby chants and having shots poured down my neck at Freshers’ events, do I still succumb to peer pressure to have ‘just one drink’ on days when I might not fancy one? And if I use it on occasion to switch off from a stressful job, is that an acceptable way to unwind or a coping mechanism I need to cut back on?

While I’m not saying I’ll never go back to alcohol (I’m already planning my first medium-rare Sunday roast with large glass of red wine after baby’s arrival), I’ll definitely think twice about whether I want to drink as often as I did before.

It would be MUCH easier to make that lifestyle change if pubs upped their game with alcohol-free alternatives. There seem to be plenty of 0% beers on offer for designated drivers, but no non-alcoholic wines. Surely they’re missing a trick here – how many women up and down the country are trying to hide pregnancies for months?! Yet another area where women aren’t thought about as a target market (although I’m well aware women drink beer too – I just happen to prefer wine).

Blacklock’s recreation of an Old-Fashioned made after-dinner mocktails feel grown-up

Some restaurants, on the other hand, have been incredible – shout to Blacklock’s ‘Off the Sauce’ menu which offered a really good attempt at a non-alcoholic Old Fashioned, Hawksmoor’s ‘Temperates’ which let me try a clean version of my favourite house drink Shakey Pete, and 14 Hills’ EverLeaf Spritz which, although it still had the price tag of an alcoholic cocktail, was great at giving the vibe of a real celebration drink on my birthday.

Inside the house, I’ve found some great alcohol-free alternatives – here are the best of the bunch:

Seedlip Grove 42

This is the one we’ve probably all heard of, and the first non-alcoholic drink I reached for in the supermarket. We enjoy spirits in fancy bottles that we can display in our kitchen, and this one really fits the bill. It’s been great over summer for making a gin and tonic replacement, and I’m keen to try the others in the range. The Seedlip website also offers some good virgin cocktail recipes for when you need something a bit fancier.

McGuigan Zero Sauvignon Blanc

White wine is my go-to, so I’ve tried a few dealcoholized versions. As a fan of Riesling, Leitz Eins Zwei Zero has been a great find (available from Waitrose), but this Sauvignon from Sainsburys is a better all-rounder. The only thing I’ve found missing from fake wine is that urge to have the second glass – one is definitely enough!

Nosecco

Is there anything better than a glass of pink fizz on a sunny day?! It’s great that there are now more adult versions of Shloer available, in proper popping bottles that give you that celebration feeling. To be honest I found this a bit sickly sweet without the dryness of the alcohol to offset it, but it’s great for a special occasion.

Nogroni

At £12 a bottle for two servings, this really is up there with the price of normal cocktails, but if you like the bitter, herby taste of Negronis then it’s a really good attempt at recreating that. Again from the Seedlip family, stick it in a fancy tumbler and you’re well on your way to the perfect autumnal mocktail.

Erdinger Alkoholfrei Weissbier

As I’ve already said I’m not a fan of beer, so this is my husband’s pick! Me being off the sauce has definitely led to him drinking less too, and he’s tried a couple of low alcohol beers to keep me company. This is his favourite, and is an isotonic drink too so apparently has some health benefits! I think this one will definitely come in useful when we get nearer Baby Mac’s due date and he has to be ready to drive to the hospital at a moment’s notice…

Did you give up alcohol completely when you were pregnant or still enjoy a glass every now and again? And how easy or difficult did you find it, especially during lockdown? Leave a comment and let me know.

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To hug or not to hug? Add that to your list of pregnancy worries…

I’m starting this week’s blog with what feels like a guilty confession – I haven’t hugged anybody yet. I mean I haven’t been social distancing from my husband (the results of that are obvious…), but since March I haven’t had any physical contact with friends or family. And although the two metre advice is still in place, from what I’m seeing day-to-day on social media it’s starting to feel more and more like most people are returning to a ‘normal’ social life.  

Eating out is our favourite thing to do – but is taking Baby Mac out on the town OK?

Even starting to go outside our flat again over the summer felt like a big decision for me. It took me longer than most of my friends to head to the pub, go to a restaurant or go shopping for anything that wasn’t essential. People have been really understanding, even when I’ve physically backed away from them hugging me, and in some ways being pregnant is a great get-out for avoiding the things I might not have felt comfortable to do anyway. But I’ve been questioning why I feel this way when others seem to be less worried, and although I’m naturally cautious and may have struggled with coming out of lockdown in normal circumstances, pregnancy has definitely heightened the feeling.

It’s already a time when we’re made to second guess every choice, and to feel like if anything goes wrong it will be our fault. Don’t drink that daily espresso, certainly don’t drink that glass of wine. Avoid red meat (but make sure you get enough iron); exercise for sure – but don’t get out of breath; only sleep on your left-hand side at all times (if you’ve never tried that, it’s bloody difficult).

So imagine being in that headspace during COVID times, and there’s no wonder many women’s anxiety levels are through the roof. Here’s a list of just a handful things I’ve done in the past few weeks that I’ve worried about afterwards:

  • Got on a train
  • Taken an Uber
  • Gone to a restaurant
  • Gone to the supermarket
  • Stayed in the same house as other family members

And things I haven’t done that I really wish I’d felt able to do:

  • Hugged my parents
  • Taken a summer holiday (even a staycation)
  • Tried on maternity clothes in a shop
  • Gone to the gym
  • Travelled to work
Getting back on the train has been difficult – but loving using my Baby on Board badge!

Those who are already parents tell me that the worry starts here and never stops, and of course the natural instinct to protect my child is kicking in and telling me to be cautious, which is no bad thing. But I strongly believe that I, and many others in my position, would feel a whole lot better if we had clear guidance, backed up by scientific knowledge, from the government and Public Health England.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be putting together a ‘manifesto’ for what I believe the government should be doing to prioritise pregnancy and postnatal care during the pandemic. And high on that list is producing clearer guidance for expectant mothers. Then maybe I could get the answers to just a few of the questions I have that I’m not sure have even crossed one senior politician’s mind in the past couple of months (maybe it would be different if more of them were women?):

  • Has any more research been done to determine whether pregnant women and unborn babies are more vulnerable to COVID, and should we be taking extra precautions?
  • Are grandparents in a vulnerable age group allowed to hold their newborn grandchildren when we come home from hospital?
  • If we do go to a restaurant or travel abroad and are contacted by Track and Trace to self-isolate, what happens to any scans and appointments we should have in that time?
  • When can we expect antenatal classes and baby groups to re-open, which are absolutely key to our preparation for parenthood?
  • And just when will our partners – many of whom live in the same house with us and carry the exact same risk to others – be allowed in to support us for the entirety of birth?
We’ve been eating and drinking outside wherever possible (and yes, this did taste as good as it looks)

In the meantime, it’s down to individuals to decide what they do and don’t feel comfortable with. I hope that in the coming weeks I’ll feel happy to get physically closer to the people I’m emotionally closest to. But until then we’ll keep meeting up for delicious meals and outdoor drinks, video calling as much as possible and finding ways to let each other – and Baby Mac – know how much we care, even at a distance.

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Becoming pregnant for the first time…in lockdown

The timing couldn’t have been better – or worse. Just eight weeks after the UK went into coronavirus lockdown, on the VE Day Bank Holiday, I finally got the two solid blue lines we’d been waiting to see for so long. I did another test to make sure, and another (how many of us don’t believe our luck on the first one?), and each one said the same thing – I was pregnant with our first, much-wanted baby…in the middle of a global pandemic.

We knew about the pregnancy from very early on – but had to take a few tests to be sure!

Firstly I want to be clear that I know how lucky I am. I didn’t have a period for over a year when I came off the Pill, and was eventually diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). We knew conceiving would be harder for us, and were about to start taking Clomid tablets to help kickstart regular ovulation when lockdown started and the fertility clinics closed. So I am acutely aware of how heart-wrenching this time must have been for couples waiting for IVF, going through miscarriages or struggling to conceive. But falling pregnant in the middle of a pandemic that brought the world to a standstill is something we could never have planned for, and it’s been a mixed bag of emotions.

There have been lots of positives, for sure. Those first tentative weeks dealing with nausea 24/7 (whoever named it morning sickness was seriously underplaying it), questioning every new symptom and trying to keep the biggest thing that’s ever happened to you a secret was 100 times easier while working from home and not being able to socialise. Nobody questions what you’ve got in your wine glass over a Zoom call! And the pregnancy bubble that my husband and I have been in has brought us closer together than ever.

It’s much easier to hide a pregnancy over a Zoom call – but nowhere near as much fun to break the news over video

But I’ve missed having my friends and family around me so much. My parents live five hours away in Yorkshire, so we had to tell them over video. I’ve let other friends know through WhatsApp and Facebook, and broke the news to my workmates with a very awkward Teams call! Even the people I have told face-to-face haven’t been able to give me a hug. There’s no-one to comment on my growing bump, or impart words of advice in the office kitchen. It feels like I’m missing out on the chance to bask in the glow of my first pregnancy.

As we’ve started to move into a ‘new normal’, and it seems everyone on Instagram is glamping in Devon or hosting a garden party for their mum’s best friend’s dog’s 5th birthday, it’s been hard for me to judge what I’m comfortable doing now. Are pregnant women still classed as more vulnerable? Am I already a bad mum if I start going to restaurants and planning staycations?

I’ve also struggled with the huge difference in care pregnant women are receiving right now, with appointments that would usually put a first time mum’s mind at rest happening over the phone or not at all. I work for a girls’ rights charity so I’m always aware of policies that affect women not being a priority. But it’s staggering to think that we can now go to the pub, work out in the gym or have a Primark shopping spree, but partners still aren’t allowed to attend the scans that will show if their baby is healthy.

My other half wasn’t allowed in to the all-important 12 week scan. Thankfully Baby Mac is a great wee poser!

And who knows what the next few months will bring. Will we be in the dreaded ‘second wave’ by the time Retch (as we’ve affectionately named our little puke-maker) makes their way into this crazy world? Will I miss NCT classes, a baby shower, even having my husband there with me as I give birth?

So over the next few months and beyond, I’ll be charting my experiences of navigating this life-changing time for me, while we continue to live through ‘unprecedented times’ out there. And if you’re in the same boat or know someone who is, please get in touch and share your experiences – us preggos need each other now more than ever!