‘Giving birth during lockdown’ is not a post I ever thought I’d write, let me tell you that. I haven’t shared much pregnancy content this time around (although you can read lots about my first pregnancy here!). There have been a number of reasons for this, partly because this has been a stressful experience with lots of scares, but most predominantly because I have been so incredibly unwell and just had no desire or motivation to talk about it any more than I already was in real life. Now, though, that he’s safely delivered and I’m well and truly recovering, I’ve finally got the headspace to talk about what it’s like to give birth during lockdown.
‘Stay Home’ in the Third Trimester
I had just under two months to go until my due date when the UK announced ‘total lockdown’. I use that term loosely, as our lockdown was a lot less strict than some other countries, but it was a shock to the system nonetheless. At that stage, I remained hopeful that it would all be over by the time Arlo was born – after all, we had about eight weeks to go and who ever heard of not being able to leave your house for two months!? – but as time went on, it became clear that it wasn’t going to happen.
As much as I don’t want to turn this into a ‘woe is me’ post, I have to acknowledge that this was a really difficult phase. I had planned to have three weeks at home before his birth, dividing my time between days out with Isla to spoil her before her brother’s arrival and doing some serious baby-related shopping and nesting on her nursery days. All of that went out of the window, along with all the plans I had made to help us cope in the days and weeks during and directly after his birth. There would be no nursery days for Isla to have some normality, there would be no help from family, no visits from friends – I didn’t even get to say a proper goodbye to my co-workers before leaving them for the best part of a year. This caused me a tonne of anxiety, which I felt I couldn’t voice – after all, there were a lot of people who had it much worse than we did right now.
If you’re finding yourself in a similar situation at the moment, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to grieve the loss of the way you thought those newborn days were going to be. It’s okay to be upset that all your carefully laid plans have gone to shit, even if your life is, comparatively, not too bad right now. I read a post a while ago which said that someone else having it worse than you doesn’t mean you’re never allowed to be unhappy. Someone will always be in a worse situation, and it’s neither helpful nor healthy to use that to invalidate every negative emotion you have. Sometimes, it’s okay to just be sad.
After a lot of tears, stress, worry, back and forth, and fantastic support from our midwife, we finally managed to work out a plan that we were okay with. I started feeling like we’d be able to manage again, even though the hospital restrictions in place were still making me horrendously anxious about what would happen if anything didn’t go to plan.
Giving Birth During Lockdown
Exactly four weeks ago, I woke up at 4.30, in the early stages of labour. We planned to stay at home for as long as possible. But since absolutely nothing in this pregnancy went to plan, we found ourselves rushing to the Maternity Assessment Unit just over an hour later. Jake and Isla had to sit in the car while I was seen as there was no time to organise childcare that fast, and when they established that I should stay in, but could give birth in the Midwife-led Unit as planned, Jake took Isla back home until his mum arrived and then was finally able to join me.
Only a few hours later, labour stalled, and we were sent back home, which was hugely disappointing. It’s always said that second babies arrive much faster, so I had naively assumed that I would be holding my little one in my arms very soon – being told that it might be another 12 hours of pain was disheartening. After labouring at home for the afternoon, with contractions getting increasingly painful but no closer together, I couldn’t bear it anymore and we went back to hospital.
Once again, I had to go in on my own while Jake waited in the car. Walking from the car park to the MLU on my own, in labour, with no-one to support me or hold my hand every time a contraction hit was honestly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I arrived at my destination in tears and unable to even talk. Luckily, the midwife who opened the door was the one looking after me in the morning, so I didn’t have to explain anything. A quick exam established that I was in active labour and Jake was once again allowed to join me.
From this point on, things became a lot more ‘normal’. We were able to have a water birth as planned, and the only things that were different than usual was that the midwives wore PPE and I had to have a coronavirus swab. Nothing quite like having a swab stuck up your nose while in labour.
After birth, Jake was able to stay with us while we were in recovery, and if we had qualified for an early discharge after six hours, he wouldn’t have had to leave at all. Unfortunately, Arlo and I had to spend some time on the maternity ward post-birth, so Jake had to drive home at 4AM when we were transferred. Hospitals are doing everything to minimise the separation time from partners and family, and we were discharged just after 4PM, so overall only spent a little over 12 hours on the ward. I imagine this is substantially more difficult and distressing for women who have to remain on the ward for several days or longer – and it means partners miss the first days of their baby’s life.
Newborn Life Locked Down
Perhaps the strangest part of giving birth during lockdown has been the first week at home. The plan was to have help from family, for my mum to come and stay, to have some visits from close friends, and for Isla to have a good balance of spending time with her new brother as well as her usual nursery routine to make the transition easier for her. Instead, we were all stuck at home, all the time. The mum-guilt has been real, it’s impossible to spend enough time with both children at once and I just feel awful about it. It’s also been both difficult and strange to not have family around us at all, when they would usually have been here the entire time. It’s made me realise how much you rely on them to hold the baby, make you a cup of tea, or entertain older siblings. I really struggled with baby blues, establishing breastfeeding, and mastitis all in the first two weeks and it was completely overwhelming.
Of course, we coped with giving birth during lockdown, and we’ll continue to cope with newborn life. In a strange way, it’s been lovely to just be home, all four of us, with no expectations. It’s also meant that Jake’s been home with us for longer than expected (although the loss of income that comes with that is another story…). Now that we’re nearly four weeks along, we’re starting to find our groove and everything is starting to fall into a routine (well. Routine-ish). But I’ll always be a bit sad that he was born at such a strange time, that our families and friends weren’t able to see our newborn, that they probably won’t see him until he’s much older, and that so many of the plans we had were taken away.