Born During Lockdown

My baby’s first action when he was born into the world and placed on my chest was to tug at the face mask I was wearing. And that’s not an exaggeration – I have it on video! He was born in April 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic, and I want to share our story.

First of all; my beautiful, rainbow baby boy L was truly a miracle and I am thankful for his presence every single day. But that doesn’t mean it’s all been smiles and giggles; having a pandemic baby has certainly had its highs and its lows.

At 37 weeks and still working full-time, there was an announcement that all vulnerable categories should work from home where possible – this included third trimester pregnancies. And that was it, I went home from work that day with my laptop and never went back. There were no real goodbyes for colleagues and friends. Little did I know this was just the beginning.

From then came full lockdown and I didn’t see a single soul in person since the day I left work until going to the hospital (aside from my partner – P). In that time there was confusion, anxiety, loneliness. There were ever-changing restrictions on admissions to hospitals. Partners would not be allowed in until “active” labour, they would not be able to stay with you and if they tested positive for COVID they would not be allowed in AT ALL. The thought of being alone at the birth hit me with such a force of anxiety I did not expect that I insisted we both not even leave the house to shop so that we would not be in danger of catching the virus.

At 40+10 I went into hospital to be induced. P left me at the door and we looked each other in the eyes without speaking, knowing the next time we saw each other would be when our baby was coming into the world. Tears streamed down my face as I turned away and headed alone to the induction suite.

Two days (and many contractions) later we were reunited and L was born by emergency caesarean section; he was placed on my chest and tugged at my mask. The three of us shared a beautiful 30 minutes together in recovery until P was asked to leave and I was wheeled up to the post-natal ward; exhausted, bewildered and overwhelmed.

The ward was busy, short-staffed and due to the advice and risks, some would not come close to us even to help with breastfeeding. It’s important at this point to remember that this was the very beginning of the pandemic when very little was understood about the virus and what protocols should be followed. Many people, including staff, were fearful and unsure and this is a story from my side and in no way a criticism of the people who were turning up to work and trying their best. I was discharged with L exactly 24 hours after my C-Section; being home with P to help was far more preferable to being alone, unable to move and at the mercy of the call bell.

The next few months flew by in a blur of nappies, crying (not just L), joy and frustration. We had the time to ourselves to work out how to manage as a family of three, which was wonderful. No entertaining, no interruptions whilst trying to establish breastfeeding and no one giving well-meaning but unwanted “advice”. Some days felt like pure drops of gold in our little bubble of happiness – it was just us. I will cherish these feelings for the rest of my life.

However, with the peace and quiet also came immense sadness. We watched as friends and family dropped parcels at the door and had a glimpse of precious L from a safe distance outside. We saw the weeks pass by as no one could hold our son but us. We struggled with a lack of face to face post- partum support. The well-meaning but unwanted “advice” had escaped us but so also had the valuable insights and help that others could have shared. There were no drop-in medical clinics, no baby groups, no socialising with other mums. I hadn’t even stepped foot inside a supermarket for over two months. We were alone and no one could help us.

Eventually rules began to ease (although very quickly tightened again in the area we live in) and L was able to meet and be held by friends and family. He attended his first baby groups at 5 months old (until they were shut down again) and I began to get a feel of what it was like to be able to show him small snippets of the world. I can’t wait to show him more.

At the time of writing our special boy is 7 months old and the most precious thing in our lives. He is a pandemic baby; born into a world of masks and nods instead of smiles and hugs. He has learned to search in people’s eyes instead of read their smiles. He knows very little of inside places besides our home. But he is here with us and for that we are immensely privileged.

Remember mamas everywhere – it’s ok to not be ok – you are doing your best and that’s all your baby needs from you.