Firstly can I say, you’re all coping amazingly. Yes you, reading this. Even though you might not think you are, you are. I know this as I am going through a similar thing to you and I think I am also coping. Just about. I’m 39 weeks pregnant today in the middle of a global Pandemic. I am so excited to meet my new little one, but not a day goes by when I don’t irrationally feel like I have somehow picked the worst time to have a baby. There have always been worse times to be pregnant (a few notable historical examples spring to mind), but this has not been easy on any of us growing and birthing small ones, especially for you first timers.
Because….you know…..Coronavirus. And frankly everyone, I’m with you. It utterly sucks.
I am sure for many of you, like me, this has not been the pregnancy you wanted or expected. Many of you haven’t had the physical presence or the support you expected, whether a parent, sibling or doula. You may have had limited face to face time with midwives, appointments and scans may have been cancelled (although thank fully that seems to have been for a short period of time) and you haven’t had access to the antenatal classes or social groups you had wanted to join before or after birth. When you go for your scans or hospital appointments you are going in alone and without a partner. As someone who has experienced pregnancy loss, I fully understand just how hard this is for many of you.
On the non medical side of things, there are no baby showers or goodbye’s from work where you leave with an armful of adorable pink, yellow or blue adorable little things (although I have seen some amazing ‘drive through’ and socially distanced showers creatively thrown), newborn photo shoots to plan or family parties where your new little one can be introduced to their family and friends. You can’t even really go out and shop for them and anyone trying to buy newborn baby grows online knows, you don’t have much choice. All of it, all of it sucks. I know this. I’m in the same boat.
Some of you will have had a worse time. Loved ones will have been taken from you. You may have been seriously ill from Covid yourself or had family members seriously ill. I know, believe me, that it goes way beyond just a lack of baby showers. This has been bloody serious. I remind myself of this whenever I read a new study or look at the death toll – oh look, only 104 today! Only. If that had included my parents would I ever use that word again?
My biggest issue I have had with Covid-19 has been its newness. We are so used to having many of the answers but no-one really KNOWS with this do they, especially when it comes to pregnancy and Covid? We know this on the MVP committee. No-one can supply a lot of the answers. Hospitals are doing their best to keep infection rates low. It’s hard on everyone and no-one is happy with the result from patients to clinical staff. We all struggled at the beginning with emerging research based on ridiculously small study groups on the effects of Covid-19 on pregnant women. For some of us it put us in an impossible position in regards to work or organising childcare, others decided to shield completely.
Being stuck in a house while pregnant, home schooling bored kids (or in my case, a caged toddler who just wants to go to soft play and see her friends) has not been what I imagined. I started my maternity leave early from work due to Covid which was not in my plan.
Turns out I really miss my colleagues. I miss people. I miss my mum and dad, although mercifully as we were with them during lock down we stayed with them for the duration of that strict time. I want to hug my brother and my nieces and nephews. When I can I will be doing some very good quality hugging of all my family and friends. I’m gutted they won’t get to have newborn snuggles with this one. Looking at the baby in the garden from a metre away is just not the same.
Luckily I have had my work with the MVP to get me through it all. I have two Chairs who have been utterly amazing and the three of us have thrown ourselves into supporting the women of Oxfordshire alongside the incredible Wendy and her team at the JR and with all of the Oxfordshire birthing units and community teams who have inspired me in their devotion to their vocation. I am so proud of what we have all done and having you all there to share and suggest and guide that content has been very important. In a funny way this pandemic has made us all going through this a community.
I have twinges of sadness that my daughter won’t be coming in to see her new brother or sister in hospital. Heck, my husband will only be allowed in for an hour if I have to stay in! I’m not hugely happy he will have to wear a mask through my labour but he seems stoically ok about it all and pointed out at least he is going to be WITH me during labour.
It seems a small sacrifice for the safety of everyone around me, albeit not one I’m joyful about.
Aside from people around me being masked (which I would have to say I am slowly getting used to) I cannot see my labour being hugely different to my daughter’s aside from not having as much access to M&S food and, of course, being assessed without Rich there, which raises some anxiety I will admit. However. We have done a lot of talking, a lot of research and a lot of planning and we have a strategy for my coping which, if not our number one choice, we are at least happy with. This birth, research has been key for me. My birth plan is clear and I know what I want and do not want so I can be confident with the choices I have made when I go in.
I worry something will happen to stop my husband being there of course and I’m not dead keen on going in for my induction outpatient procedure and possibly the second stage the next day alone but…. We’ll manage. We have a plan. We’ll use the phones a lot. We’ll video chat. He’ll be there for me. Just not, you know, THERE for me. Which also sucks. But I get why. Do I like it? No. Do I want that? No. But it is the way it is and we’ll get through it. The staff know how we all feel, they really do.
So, to other new 2020, soon to be 2020 and soon to be 2021 parents , I would like to say we’re going to be ok. If you’re feeling worried or concerned, call your midwife or use the Call the Midwife line and get reassured. They are there to answer any question no matter how small. As one midwife said to me ‘there are NO silly questions when it comes to pregnancy and birth’.
You can do this Oxfordshire. WE can do this.
If you have used Oxfordshire Maternity services since the start of March 2020 we’d love you to fill in this survey: https://forms.gle/ThmkLGXUsaEKzC4E9
If you would like support please find some links to some fantastic groups below:
- Check out out Youtube page (just don’t laugh at me on camera) and watch some of our films.
- Join our Bumps and Babies 2020 group on facebook
- The Motherkind Cafe is a post-natal wellbeing and emotional support group for mums in Oxford. At the moment they are running Zoom meetings and would love to hear from you. You can follow them on facebook here
- MUSH is a great app for finding other parents in your area. You can post to find a group or you can join in an existing one.
- The Dad Pad is a good resource for partners who also want to connect with those around them.
- Ante natal classes like the Daisy Foundation and NCT are private charities where you can meet local parents online and take part in ante and post natal prep classes.
- Look online locally. Vice Chair Claire joined a ‘Preparation for Birth’ zoom class and is now part of a lovely group of mums on What’s App through that. Other providers will have similar forums available alongside their classes. You could try yoga, meditation, mindfulness or a number of other things.