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.
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
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?
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.