March 23rd 2020, a date that will go down in the history books as the day Boris Johnson enforced a National Lockdown on the UK. Something many of us have not seen in our lifetime and hopefully will never see again.
I remember the announcement so vividly. There I was, on my bed, watching TV whilst the Prime Minister outlined the plans for a National Lockdown emphasising that the whole nation, apart from vital key workers, must ‘stay at home’. It was in that very moment it dawned on me that the fast-approaching arrival of my precious rainbow baby would not be anything like I had imagined when getting that glaringly positive test result 7 months earlier.
I was 36 weeks pregnant, so close to the finish line, but now the dreamy final weeks of pregnancy and the labour that I had envisioned were being stolen from me. To say the least; I was emotional.
Pregnancy during a global pandemic is not something I would ever like to experience again. The anxiety that I was already enduring was even more heightened when this unknown virus took such a hold. I was now confined to the four walls of my home when I should have been out and about making the most of the final days of my pregnancy, showing off my baby bump to enthralled family and friends whilst preparing for my daughter's impending arrival.
For 17 days I saw myself pregnant in lockdown before a trip to the hospital and one growth scan later (alone whilst my husband had to wait in the car) prompted an early induction of my precious girl. I had to sit there alone whilst the doctor explained the plan, It was so daunting, I felt so isolated. I just held on to the thought that my beautiful, precious daughter, seen only briefly in scans, was about to be born into my arms.
The doctor went over the plan of action whilst sadly informing me that Basingstoke’s delivery ward was full. Gone was that secret hope I’d had of having my baby in the same delivery room as my boys. Instead it meant a trip to Winchester for the birth, but not before we returned home to collect the hospital bags.
Now those of you who have met me before will know I have two older children, both of which needed childcare whilst I was away. Can you imagine asking your Mum to babysit and feeling like a criminal when she arrives at your house, worried your neighbours might think you are breaking the lockdown rules? Well that was me, not only was I anxious enough that I was about to have a baby, but that ridiculous thought had to enter my mind. Nether the less, Mum arrived and off we went to Winchester to welcome our little lady into the world.
Thankfully, my time in Winchester Hospital was as close to ‘normal’ as they could possibly make it. Masks were worn by the lovely midwives, but Daddy had been allowed to stay for my entire visit apart from overnight; fine, I could deal with that.
And so, on the 10th April, Isabella was born, safe and sound at 6lb 2oz and delicate as ever. However, this was when the anxiety really set in, watching her sleeping confirmed how vulnerable she was and that I was not just protecting myself and my older children anymore. Now, I was also protecting this tiny little person right in front of me, who depended on me more than anyone else.
The care and attention I received in hospital was second to none and I had an incredibly positive birthing experience, something I had been petrified would be impacted by COVID-19. I even bagged myself an entire postnatal ward to myself. I mean, how cool is that?
I am eternally grateful to the staff we had the pleasure of dealing with; I cannot even begin to comprehend how it must feel to work under such pressure whilst a potentially deadly virus sweeps the world.
The time came to take Isabella home and she met her big brothers who were absolutely besotted by her. She also met both her Nannies, which technically shouldn’t have happened but who can stop or deny them of their first sight of Isabella as such a tiny baby. This time wouldn’t come again and with both parents having isolated for over 14 days previously we simply had to bite the bullet, but it wasn’t without worry.
Looking back it seems absolutely ridiculous now to feel such a way, but how else are you supposed to feel, there isn’t a guidebook on pregnancy and birth during a pandemic (maybe I should write one).
That was it then, no more visitors, no more cooing over this precious tiny bundle by anyone other than us.
It was just us 5, at home, together
Don’t get me wrong; it has definitely had its positives. We have had the gift of all this extra time as a family to get to know Isabella and be together, without having to worry about anything else.
Steve especially has had a much longer paternity leave than we ever intended, giving him so much more time to bond with his brand-new daughter. As for the boys, we have had 5 whole months to be with them when they would otherwise have been at school; that will never happen again, much to their dismay.
Despite this I do still find myself bitter with the thought of those things we missed out on. Nobody else got to meet Isabella until she was much older, my dad still hasn’t held her and she’s now 4 months old. Registering her birth didn’t happen until she was 3 months old and the entirety of my maternity leave has been spent with some kind of restrictions in place.
BUT we have each other, the children are all healthy and happy and we are finally getting to experience some of those ‘firsts’ that we missed.
COVID-19 has sadly impacted us all in very different ways, and we are all fully entitled to mourn whatever it is that we have lost whether that be a precious family member, a cancelled wedding or a pregnancy dream. This is mine, expressed in words.
Stay safe, but enjoy life – you only get this time once.