Abigail Turley reached out to the IMHN, to share her story of becoming a mother during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is her account, entitled ‘Lockdown Baby’:
My blood boiled as I listened to my neighbour having yet another family gathering in his back garden. We were at the peak of lockdown and meeting other households at all was forbidden. I held my new-born baby close to my chest and gritted my teeth against the injustice of it all.
Here I was, holding a newly formed vulnerable person that hadn’t even been able to meet any of her family since being born. Instead of celebrating with family and friends, and having my mum come and live with us to help out with her first granddaughter, we were new parents isolated in the midst of lockdown. Kind people dropped off food and gifts at the doorstep and then waved to us from afar, as we stayed hidden in our bubble, trying to shield our baby from this new threat in the world.
I heard the heavy thud of a football being kicked against the fence, and dozens of voices laughing and chatting next door, oblivious of my hormone fuelled rage against them. If only a death stare could pierce a garden fence.
…I hadn’t even hugged my own mum since going through childbirth.
I was physically and mentally exhausted, my body felt completely shattered, and all around us a global pandemic was unfolding. I hoped they burnt their BBQ meat.
I’ve been asked multiple times was it was like becoming a first time mum during lockdown. In a word; lonely. I know that those early weeks of parenthood can be lonely at the best of times, but when baby classes and community groups are shut, nobody is around to weigh your baby and health visitors are nowhere to be seen, the experience is a strange one.
The final few weeks of the pregnancy were dotted with appointments that my husband wasn’t allowed to attend, and it was explained to me by a pair of blue eyes peeping through a visor that if I needed an induction I would have to be in hospital alone until I was in established labour. The fear of a solo birth experience made me want to push the baby out straight away, but the anxiety of bringing a child into a world full of deadly virus made me cross my legs to hold it in!
The night of her birth, I was sent home twice by the hospital because they were ’really trying not to admit anyone at all due to covid’, and so my little girl almost made an unexpected appearance on our bathroom floor (a great story, especially if you get my husband the almost accidental midwife to tell it!)
Even after she was born, 11 days overdue (some effective holding in!), my husband wasn’t permitted to stay with me past 8pm, and we could have no other visitors. After a fair bit of gas and air, I was fairly certain that the masked women walking around in gloves and gowns were part of a Sci-Fi plot involving alien abduction.
The hospital baby photographer was at home with a cough.
I realise now that I have been grieving for the experiences that were stolen from me; for the baby shower that was cancelled days before it was due to take place, for the pregnant bump in full bloom that hardly anybody saw. The maternity leave I had hoped for was one of sofa chats and long brunches free from the constant presence of paranoia and fear.
I had thought perhaps it was selfish of me to be sad about these things that are so superficial. Maybe I should just be grateful that I have a healthy baby? And I am. I am so grateful, and I have wonderful friends and family who were a huge support doing everything they could to make things easier for us.
But I also have a right to feel feelings of disappointment, to be gutted by the timing of life which has led to missing out on so many things that I have watched other new mums celebrate in the past. It’s not selfish to recognise that this has been one of the hardest times in recent history to become a mum.
I have since reached out to other ‘lockdown mums’ in the local area and discovered that I am not alone in this grief. I’m also not the only one feeling guilty for being sad! There’s just no winning, it would seem.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s OK to feel simultaneously thankful holding your precious bundle and also sad that they haven’t been able to cuddle their aunties. It’s fine to feel torn between wanting to get your baby out in the fresh air and also being terrified that someone will be too close and infect them. To feel happy that baby classes are starting up again but worried the equipment might be contaminated.
To feel that you can’t cope with all this added worry on top of the truckload of anxiety that normally comes alongside having a baby.
To all the other new mamas out there going through this too, you are not alone. Although nothing beats a real-life shoulder to cry on, sharing the frustrations of being a lockdown mum over a distanced brew is the next best thing. Now more than ever we’ve got to allow ourselves to feel the feelings and share them with each other.
As the saying goes, “if you can have a lockdown baby, you can do anything!”
(Ok maybe it’s not a saying… yet.)
Words by Abigail Turley, author of adventuresinhumanbeing.wordpress.com
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
For more information on pregnancy and becoming a new parent during the COVID-19 pandemic visit Greater Manchester Mental Health – Pregnancy and New Parents.
Published on January 4, 2021 at 12:36 pm