pregnancy during a pandemic: the stress of COVID-19, My story

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First Trimester

February 15th 2020.  I’m 4 days late. I know deep down that after 8 months of trying, we are pregnant! I get the stick to confirm… YES!! We’re having another baby!

I was ecstatic!  We lived in that ‘only we know about this’ bubble for the next few weeks. I went through the normal tiredness, feeling sick and lack of appetite but I was doing ok as first trimesters go. 

Fast forward to March 16th 2020. We, like the rest of the nation had been following the story of the COVID-19 virus that had spread like wildfire across the world and knew it would not be long before the UK made the announcement. Today was that day. The Government announced to the nation that pregnant women, along with over 70’s were to stay indoor for 3 months to avoid catching the deadly coronavirus. The Daily Mail printed this news and as you can see below, really emphasised on the THREE MONTHS section of the headline… You know, to really dig the stake further into our already worried hearts!

The paranoia and fear… Pregnancy during a Pandemic is real!

The panic hit me there and then.  I was 8 weeks pregnant and facing my pregnancy during a pandemic!. Nobody knew what this disease meant for us, you saw the whole nation go on complete lockdown. I was too scared to go anywhere. Phill did all the shopping. We didn’t see our family, for fear of them having ‘it’ or even worse, us carrying it unknowingly and passing it on to them!!

I had to call my boss and let him know and then also my family and friends.  All by video or telephone calls. Wasn’t really how I envisioned telling them all, but little did I know that Zoom, Facetime and WhatsApp Video calls were going to become the everyday norm for us all as a nation!

pregnancy during a pandemic
I’ve never looked at my laptop so much as I have this year!

I have to admit though, that when the national lockdown was announced the following week I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did.  My partner was furloughed for 6 weeks, he became the ‘House Husband’ whilst I was working during the day and we would have lunch together every day as a family and enjoy our 30 minutes of exercise also.  It really helped that the weather was amazing too!! But what I really noticed at that time was how much dads miss of their children’s upbringing due to working long hours etc.  He absolutely loved every single day and was devastated when it was all over and we had to step out of our little family bubble.

Me and Ffion on one of our daily ‘one hour’ walks during lockdown

Call me naïve,  but I genuinely thought ‘It’s ok, this will all be over by the time my baby gets here’.  How wrong was I hey? The whole of 2020 has been plagued by this depressing fog! Every news station, every daytime programme, every conversation you hear on the street (actually, every conversation with anyone!) evolves around this stupid, life halting virus!

Apart from the 6 week lock down I found the whole pregnancy experience quite isolating.  I was home every day, not seeing work colleagues, family or friends as much as I would normally so the pregnancy was very rarely spoken about as COVID-19 was always the topic of conversation. Also, this was my second time around, not as exciting as my first to many I’m sure. I had luckily downloaded the Babycentre app on my phone, where I joined a forum of other mums expecting babies in October 2020 and felt that I had a community of like minded women who I could talk to, which really helped on days when my anxiety would rear its ugly head.

‘I best pack my hospital bag then..’

Roll on August 2020, where I started bleeding.  I had a placenta previa and was told this may happen, so wasn’t too concerned and knew that an overnight stay at the hospital was on the cards. 

Now, this is where I have to warn you about how life in the maternity ward has changed since before COVID-19 entered our lives!

You have to go to the hospital alone. You are not permitted to having any visitors at any point during your stay and your partner will have to make do with your version of whatever medical terminologies the Drs have told you (which, let me tell you is like a really shit version of that childhood game ‘Chinese Whispers’!! I could never remember everything and would get stressed trying to remember things when he asked his concerned questions).

Maternity wards and the ‘Traffic Light System’

After the first assessment at the day unit, you are then placed in the ‘amber ward’.  This ward is for all patients who have had their Covid-19 test and are awaiting their results.  All amber ward patients have a designated toilet and shower and are told not to leave the ward at any time. If food or drinks are required you are to buzz the care team and they will bring them to you. The first time I was in this ward I felt very strange. What if I had it? What if I didn’t have it but someone in there did? All the nurses wore masks, everything was deep cleaned like you were dirty and you just got a sense of how serious this situation is (I’d been locked up for months.. It really gave me a reality check, that’s for sure!)

(What else do you do when you’re along in hospital? Of course! You take lots of selfies)

If you have the all clear, you are then moved green ward, where you have the freedom to walk around a little bit more and get a cup of tea without having to ring for assistance.  There are only 4 beds used out of the 6 available in the ward as the middle two are taped up like some sort of image from a crime scene (I assume this is due to the 2 metre rule… Which makes no sense if we are all clear of the virus and are not allowed out of the maternity ward or even visitors? But hey, maybe that’s just me).

The mood on the wards

But the one thing that really upset me about those prenatal visits I had at the hospital (there ended up being a fair few visits due to my bleeding) was that almost every patient had their curtains drawn. I assume there is always one that is feeling very poorly, having a nap etc but these curtains were drawn 24/7!! It was the biggest “DON’T TALK TO ME” I had ever experienced.  Why weren’t us pregnant mumma’s interacting like we used to? Then as time went by I realised what was going on. You could hear muffled telephone conversations behind those curtains and it was heart breaking to hear those scared, frustrated voices telling their loved ones that they were lonely, that they missed their kids at home and worse… They didn’t have a clue when they could go home.

I completely got it!  I found the more visits I made to the hospital the more depressed I was becoming. I didn’t want to talk to that woman opposite who was also having a shitty time.. I was scared enough without hearing her horror story! I wanted my partner! I wanted to cuddle my daughter on my sofa whilst watching Bing! See? That’s how desperate it got!

I became that person who instantly drew her curtains. I was becoming more and more subdued with each visit. The nurses and carers were lovely and tried their best to be reassuring but they couldn’t allow visitors and that’s all we wanted. A sense of normality in this weird and worrying time.

Time for my baby’s arrival!

I was told to come in again due to the water around my daughter decreasing and by this point I was constantly crying. I genuinely couldn’t stop. My two year old was really confused as to why her mummy kept disappearing for days on end and I knew she would be passed from pillar to post as my partner still needed to work.  It was emotionally draining.  I was just hoping they were going to give me good news and tell me my c section would be brought forward by a few weeks! 

I got my wish! Two days later little Veronica (Ronnie) made her appearance into the world and all was right in the world. I wrote an in depth post about her arrival in my blog ‘My Pandemic Baby is Finally Here

I had to spend the next 6 days in due to complications with my daughter and for that whole time I had not one visitor! So in total I had 8 days at the hospital. I was placed in my own room as Ronnie wasn’t with me for 3 nights and then when she was discharged from SCBU she had Jaundice so required the special lighting for a few days.

Ronnie having a little sunbed holiday

During that time I went through all the stages of after birth. I had the first trip to the loo after a c section (Ouch!!), the constant bleeding, the baby blues (actually glad no one was around for that one to be honest) and then the painful recovery of a c section. All this, on my own! With only virtual moral support from my partner, friends and family.

Tips to keep as upbeat as possible whilst alone in hospital

1. Take an iPad, Kindle or a book! Honestly, if you do find yourself in a situation like mine and not with your baby for a day or two these will keep your mind busy. Trust me! I had downloaded all the streaming sites such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and iPlayer before I went in. I know this sounds a bit extreme and you shouldn’t plan for the worst case scenario but I knew I’d be in for at least 3 days anyways due to having a planned c section, but I had a feeling that something may go wrong and I’d be in longer (I was in 6 days with my first born so was feeling pessimistic rather than optimistic).   However, another top tip! Don’t watch comedies!! Especially if you have had a c section! Have you ever laughed when your stomach muscles have been torn apart? Not advisable… You make a really weird noise and it hurts! haha

2. Call friends and family as much as you like.  They all say “call me anytime” but we very rarely do, do we?  Well, I did this time. I called my friends and cried. I cried and cried actually and admitted to them that I felt like my mental health was deteriorating with every passing day I was in that small, isolating room.  I did this because I didn’t want to burden my partner and mum with it all every day, it just wasn’t fair.

So if like me, you are blessed with some great friends.. Call them!! Just hearing their voices, off loading your feelings and hearing about gossip from the outside world makes a huge difference to your mood. Trust me!

3. This is the hardest, but also the most important advice I can give.  Mingle!

Make sure you try and talk to the other mums on your ward.  If you notice their curtain open a little bit and you are getting up to make a brew then ask them if they would like one bringing back.  I did this after a few days and me and another new mum ended up chatting most of the day.  As I said, everyone is in the same boat in there as we are all scared, exhausted, missing family and friends and wishing we weren’t there. But we were, there was no getting out of it no matter how much we moaned.  So, give them a smile as you pass their bay, offer to get them a drink, ask them what their baby is called and if you are a nosey cow like me… Ask them about their birth! You’ll be surprised how many mothers want to tell someone outside of their circle about the birth and another new mum is the best person to speak to as they have literally just gone through it all too!!

And so…

If you are a very lucky so and so. You will have your baby vaginally and be home in a few hours. If you’re lucky you’ll have a planned c section and then be home in a day or two. But this is more of a ‘be prepared’ blog.  Once you are in hospital it’s hard to get things in so take everything in with you on Day 1!

It’s not all doom and gloom. There were a lot of positives in being in for a week. I got to sleep… LOTS!! I also got a shed load of support with my baby from the midwives and health care workers who would help with feeding when I was too weak to.  Being in my own room was isolating, but it was very convenient when I wanted to cry out loud when I was in agony, snore when I slept without feeling guilt, watch my programmes as loudly as I wanted and facetime everyone without worrying about the other mums. 

It also felt like me and baby were in our little bubble for those few days also. I really felt a strong bond with her that week which I will forever be grateful for.

#BUTNOTMATERNITY – Dads matter too!

The #butnotmaternity campaign has been really gathering momentum recently, with pregnant celebrities such as Kate Lawler raising awareness on her Instagram account.  The Guardian recently wrote an article addressing this very damaging policy and it’s effects on new mums and partners:

What this means for all the Dads out there..

The experience for my partner was also very distressing as he was not allowed to attend any scans, hospital appointments or even visit me when I was in hospital. 

The day I was scheduled to have my baby, I was told to ask him to come to the hospital as soon as he could. Which he did. He was then stuck in his car, in the car park for 4 hours waiting.  Luckily he brought his lunch box from work with him! haha.

He was then allowed to come in to the labour ward, but asked to dress in his blue overalls and to wait until I was almost ready to be operated on.  Due to complications this meant he was sat in an empty corridor for 45 minutes with no updates or drinks etc.

He witnessed the birth, was able to have 30 minutes of skin to skin with Ronnie whilst I was still in theatre being stapled up and then we had 10 minutes all together in the recovery room. Then he was gone.  Now, if Ronnie hadn’t had ended up in the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) for 3 days he would not have seen either of us then for 6 days.  However, the SCBU department allow parents to visit as often as they like but again, we were not allowed to visit at the same time.  It’s crazy!! There, I said it!

Whatever your views on the rules and regulations that the Government have implemented upon us this year, you have to admit that this rule has to be one that needs addressing and soon!! My time has been and gone and we have to just accept that now, but this pandemic could go on for another 6-12 months. Imagine how many more babies will be born in that time (especially all those ‘lock down’ babies!!… There were a lot of announcements in July wasn’t there? haha).

Anyways, all I have to say at this piont is that Dad’s matter too!!

Shout out for all the dads out there missing out on so much

Thank you for reading

Lots of Love xx

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