Like Carrie Symonds, Boris Johnson’s fiance who gave birth this morning, I know exactly what it feels like to be pregnant and have a baby during this unprecedented time.
Before the severity of the pandemic emerged, my pregnancy had been a busy one, with a business to run and an active three-year-old to look after. It was a far cry from the luxury I felt being able to just look after myself during my first pregnancy, but I was enjoying it and was looking forward to our family becoming four.
Then lockdown hit and suddenly I was often floored by feeling utterly useless. There was no happy news being reported and just doom and gloom coronavirus everywhere.
I can remember how my anxiety and fear would rise as I scrolled through post after post on social media, whether it was the latest Covid-19 conspiracy theories or petitions for fathers to be present at the birth of their child in reaction to news that they might not be allowed.
Each one heaped a further sickly layer of panic on top of the usual raging hormones that being 36 weeks pregnant brought.
Eventually, I avoided the TV and deleted Facebook off my phone. I even left some of my Whatsapp groups as I couldn’t listen to people joke about coronavirus.
My pregnancy and birth care was consultant led as I was having a planned c-section due to a tricky first birth. However, lockdown meant that I didn’t have the usual appointments with the midwifery team and I often felt like I was struggling alone, with no one else to relate to or garner advice from about being so far along in my pregnancy in the middle of a global pandemic.
I was also worried I wouldn’t be able to have my fiance by my side in the hospital due to the constantly changing advice and advancement of the pandemic, which was taking a grip on the country. No health care professional I spoke to could tell me what would happen as they’d simply never been in this situation before.
It can be scary enough giving birth, let alone on your own, and the thought terrified me.
There was also pressure to keep things normal for my three-year-old son, who would usually have been at nursery or with his grandparents, but had to stay home with us due to lockdown restrictions and social distancing.
Previously, I’d fantasised about having two whole weeks of putting my feet up before our baby was due: organising drawers, nesting and washing babygrows. Instead, I was struggling to find size one nappies and toilet roll, and avoiding all contact with anyone but my own small family.
Being so heavily pregnant, I couldn’t turn to exercise or wine to chill out, and my usual spa-like bubble baths left me feeling bereft with not much room in the tub to fully relax. So I began to busy myself about the house, making inedible cakes (apparently you can’t just swap self raising flour for plain, who knew?) and I made a few sock monkeys that wouldn’t look out of place on an episode of Raggy Dolls.
Slowly, these tasks helped hold my focus and fought back any negative thoughts that crept into my head.
Even so, as the date for my c-section drew closer, I couldn’t help but worry that it would be cancelled even though it had been classed as essential surgery. At the same time, I also felt extremely nervous about going into hospital. My main concern was that I didn’t want to catch the virus and be unwell after having major abdominal surgery.
When the day arrived, my fiance was allowed in theatre for the operation and I specified he be the first one to hold the baby as I knew he would have to go soon after.
It took more than an hour to get our little girl out safely and stitch me back up. Afterwards, my fiance came with me to the recovery bay for about an hour, before we had to say goodbye as I was rolled down to the postnatal ward.
While some people might have found this upsetting, all I felt was relief. It was as if all my panic and fear had gone out of the window now our baby was here.
I felt I was in good hands and I was expected to be discharged the next day, so knew it wouldn’t be too long before my fiance could cuddle our daughter again. In the meantime, I FaceTimed him and sent a constant stream of selfies and pictures of me and our new baby girl, Tiggy.
With no visitors allowed on the wards at all, they were lovely and quiet and I took the time to concentrate on getting to know my new little addition.
I was walking around (slowly) a few hours after the operation and, as expected, was discharged 24 hours later. A lovely midwife carried my newborn out in her car seat to my partner who was waiting by the outside door to take us home. I got her to take some pictures for us too, as we missed the classic ‘leaving hospital’ shot.
We’ve been back home now for four weeks and although I do feel a twinge of sadness knowing that close family and friends haven’t met Tiggy yet, it’s important to keep to government guidelines in these weird times.
I had the essential midwife visits at home after the baby was born and each midwife had full personal protective equipment (PPE) on, which included aprons, gloves and masks. I’ve also been able to call my health visitor if I have any questions. The only thing we haven’t been able to do is register Tiggy’s brith as all the registery offices are shut.
Despite social distancing, we’ve definitely felt a lot of love for our new baby. We’ve had all the usual presents and food packages, only this time they are left on the doorstep. Plus, being on lockdown means I don’t have to regale my birth story to every visitor, nor make 6,000 cups tea!
Right now, I am in a lovely little baby bubble getting to know my newbie – and improving my cake baking skills. The quiet time has also been invaluable for making my older child feel part of the process of becoming a family of four.
I am putting together a time capsule for my little lockdown baby which will include the letter from Boris, newspapers, letters and food receipts – we have never spent more on food than we are now! I have also had a doorstep picture taken by a local photographer friend, so a copy of that will also go in there, along with some babygrows and Tiggy’s hospital name bands.
While I’ve taken her on some short walks in the pram to get out of the house, it does feel weird that our little girl hasn’t been cuddled by anyone other than us.
It makes me wonder if she will be a clingy baby as we are all she’s known for weeks now. But hopefully we can start socially mixing with grandparents closer than two metres soon, especially as I know they are definitely not going to want to pass her back once they have hold!