Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting in a Pandemic

It’s been a pleasure to support so many expectant parents on their pregnancy and birth journeys. We recognise the last year or so has been even more difficult for expectant parents. Here are some personal accounts of experiences of pregnancy birth and parenting during the pandemic.

Kim’s Story

I’ll never forget having a baby in 2020

It was my first pregnancy and I was filled with joyful expectations: baby showers, bundling out of work with gifts and cards ready to start maternity leave, having my mum and my husband by my side in labour as I had always planned, going shopping for baby clothes and nursey furniture, signing up to a range of baby classes, having a support network of ‘Mum Friends’ to message during those newborn days and introducing my precious bundle to family and friends.

However, I could never have imagined that everything I knew about pregnancy and postpartum was about to change, and I can’t help but sometimes overwhelmingly sad at all that has been stolen from me, due to the pandemic.

There’s the loss of baby showers and all the shared anticipation and celebrations with those closest to me.

There’s the loss of support at appointments and hospital visits when there are concerns with the pregnancy – for me it was reduced movements. Laying in a room, tears streaming down my face, whilst a midwife moved the Doppler across my bump with one hand and held my hand with her other. My husband in his car outside, waiting for my phone call to tell him either that something was very wrong or that everything was perfectly right. Thankfully, for us, it was the latter. Static sounds became strong heartbeats.

There’s the loss of the ‘normal’ birth experience: two birth partners reduced to one; COVID testing occurred in between contractions; husband was sent home hours after welcoming our new baby and no hospital visits from family were allowed.

There’s a loss of sharing my little one with family and friends when she was born and wondering when those I love the most can finally meet her. My little girl will be turning one in the summer and for some of my family, her first birthday will be the first time they meet her.

There’s the loss of making ‘Mummy Friends’ over cups of tea and biscuits at baby groups, whilst my little one interacts with theirs. There’s the the strange feeling of realising that very few people actually saw me ‘become a mum’.

You see, there has been so much loss and grief in this pandemic-tainted journey through motherhood journey and I think it’s ok to mourn that, because the truth is, we weren’t meant to do all this in isolation.

But as always, if I look hard enough I can find some silver linings.

So no, I may not get a whole lot of adult conversation during the day, but get all the smiles and giggles my daughter has to offer.

And yes, the timing of my life seems to revolve around naps and feedings, but I get to see my little girl learn new things and hit new milestones without missing a thing.

Due to lockdown, I got to enjoy a slower pace and take on the learning curves of becoming a new mum slowly and gradually.

This year has shown me how little I really need, when I was so used to having more.

But don’t get me wrong, it has been so hard at times. There are days when I miss travelling, visiting friends and spending time with loved ones. There are times I wished I had more time to myself. Times when I wish I had scheduled events in my calendar. Times when I wish I could take my little one to swimming lessons or Messy Play. Times when I feel the grip of loneliness take hold; when days and nights blend together without much distinction and support systems are scarce.

However, then my baby girl will always do something to change my perspective. She’ll smile at me. She’ll do something for the first time. She’ll giggle at her reflection in the mirror. She’ll look at me like I am the best person in the world.

So really, I guess I should say thank you. Thank you to my beautiful, blue-eyed, little girl for giving me a reason to be grateful for 2020.

Because it gave me her.

Hannah’s Reflections

I feel so grateful to have had a baby and to have a lovely focus at this strange time. Emily is my first child so I don’t know any different-from attending scans and midwife appointments alone to having to social distance in baby classes.

My pregnancy was a chilled time. I work in a care home as an activity coordinator so I was furloughed. It was worrying at first as I couldn’t work from home but didn’t feel it was safe to be at work while over three months pregnant when the first lockdown happened. I didn’t what would happen financially and whether I would then be entitled to Maternity pay. It all worked out and I had plenty of time to prepare for baby’s arrival and spent my days walking and doing yoga so I was very chilled . It wasn’t nice not seeing my family and apart from my husband no one touched my bump and my parents who live up north never saw my baby in reality.

My midwife was lovely and put me at ease at every appointment as most of them I had to attend alone and record the heartbeat on my phone. Doing my birth plan over the phone wasn’t ideal but my midwife discussed everything with me in depth which took over an hour!

In September 2020 I gave birth three days earlier than my due date and was induced and was in hospital for two nights. One night being induced on the antenatal ward and one night with my daughter on the postnatal ward. Not having my husband (my birth partner) there for most of my induction was scary and I was told all the induction information on the triage ward alone. I cried having to decide what to do. I was allowed to meet my husband outside the hospital where we sat on a bench, I was crying and hospital staff brought me water- saying “it looks like you need this”.

I was struggling with back to back contractions so the induction was stopped. I then went from 1cm- 10cm, waters breaking naturally and feeling I needed to push straight away and naturally gave birth with gas and air all happening within less than an hour. My midwife had gone on her lunch break and rushed back to help at the end. It was all within the visiting hours as my husband would have missed it! He was allowed to me earlier as I came from the ward to my own room in advance of all this.

I felt safe in hospital throughout and only had to wear a mask when walking out of my bay on the wards.

My family were able to meet Emily at a few days old and then again at three weeks and six weeks old. Not staying with us but having that special time together. I haven’t seen my side of thye family since.

I have had amazing online antenatal care and health visitor care. I pleaded with the health visitor to visit me more often so I got more visits and phone calls as I was struggling not having much family support. So I saw a health visitor for the first three months. To check in with me mainly.

The support bubble rules allowing us to form a bubble with my in laws has really helped and allowed Emily to know one set of Grandparents and see more faces than just me and her dad.

This time has allowed for a slower pace. Groups have gone from face to face to zoom a few times but we have all made the best of it. I have been able to have quality time. My husband occasionally works from home which never normally would happen and breastfeeding has worked well so far, probably because I can do it comfortably at home.

I feel proud I have managed this, but sad it wasn’t how I imagined my maternity leave to go and it was a worry to be pregnant in this horrible time and keep extra safe. I have had something beautiful happen in a crazy pandemic.

From meeting friends at the end of February 2020 to announce I was 12 weeks pregnant to over a year on and my friend not even meeting my daughter yet. It hasn’t helped I moved away and my close family and friends live 4-6 hours away.

Hoping for lots of reunions soon.

Thank you for your honest words and taking the time to share your perspectives.