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.
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!
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?
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.
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!