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.
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.
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?
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.