Scarborough mum tells of the challenges and joys of having first baby in lockdown
On March 16 2020, the day I entered the third trimester of my first pregnancy, Boris Johnson announced that pregnant women were being advised to reduce all unnecessary social contact and work from home where possible to avoid catching coronavirus.
The following Monday, March 23, the rest of the country joined me in being told to stay at home as the first national lockdown was announced.
In the year since that announcement, everyone’s life has changed dramatically. Face masks and hand sanitiser are now a way of life, large gatherings on TV seem a distant memory.
But my life has transformed beyond all recognition – pandemic or no pandemic. I became a mum.
Having a baby is never easy, but Covid-19 brought with it extra challenges I wouldn’t otherwise have encountered.
I don’t have anything to compare it to, not having had a baby without coronavirus around, but it still felt strange going to growth scans alone, and my heart goes out to any pregnant woman who has been told bad news without a partner by her side due to restrictions.
From that announcement onwards I didn’t see my family and friends. No-one but my partner felt the baby wriggling around, I only have one photo of my bump with someone else – my sister. It was taken a week before I gave birth when restrictions eased slightly and we’re standing two metres apart.
When I arrived at hospital after my waters broke I walked, well waddled, to the labour ward alone whilst my boyfriend waited in the car. When I returned to give birth several hours later, I again had to walk in alone, stopping every few minutes to have a contraction.
I will be forever grateful to the cleaner who spotted me waiting for the lift, in pain, and walked with me carrying my bag to the ward, stopping every time I had a contraction. It will have added 30 minutes on to her shift.
My son and I were kept in hospital for a few days afterwards when visiting still wasn’t allowed and my partner had to spend the first few days of his son’s life catching snippets of him on Facetime and in Whatsapp messages.
I had a Caesarean section and found the recovery very painful, and whilst the midwives and labour ward staff were brilliant, I really just wanted a hug from my boyfriend.
I don’t know what it would be like to have a baby in a different time, but I’m sure it would have been better than that. Mental health struggles since giving birth might have been easier to deal with if I could have spent time with more people.
There have been upsides though. As much as we wanted to show off our new baby, thrust him into the arms of friends and parade him round the baby groups, instead we hunkered down at home, as many new parents have done across the world. We got to work out what our family looked like as a trio rather than a pair.
As sad as I am that I don’t have many pictures of our close friends holding my son as a newborn, I am so grateful to have experienced those weeks where it was just us.
Whilst I was pregnant in lockdown I had friends trying to entertain babies without baby groups. As restrictions eased I was grateful that hadn’t been me, I went to baby swimming for a few weeks and relished the opportunity to talk to other new mums about the mundanity of life with a newborn that is utterly tedious to anyone who isn’t currently living it.
Then a second lockdown began, then a third, and I’m still waiting until I can finish the course of baby swimming lessons I started when he was three months old. He’s nearly 10 months now.
I may have missed out on baby groups but a Whatsapp group of mums with babies of similar ages to mine has been a godsend - how lucky we are to have such technology to keep us connected from a distance.
Through the difficult days of isolation and the longing to spend time with others, I remain so grateful to live in Scarborough. I’ve lost track of how many laps of the Marine Drive and Peasholm Park I’ve done with the buggy, but how fantastic to have that on my doorstep. I imagine being a new mum in a flat in an inner city and it would be immeasurably harder.
My son won’t remember his first year – all the things I’m sad to have missed out on are only sad for me. He won’t care he didn’t get to sleep in a pram in a coffee shop whilst I chatted to a friend, that he didn’t get taken to attractions to stare at things he doesn’t understand yet, or that he wasn’t driven around on day trips that held no interest for him.
He, and all the other lockdown babies, spent their first year doing exactly what tiny babies want to do – cuddling and playing with their parents. I only hope as the world starts opening up again that mine starts sleeping a bit better so we’re all rested enough to enjoy it.