Pregnancy in a pandemic

When I first found out I was pregnant, I was more than a little apprehensive (understatement alert! Check out ‘A positively un-positive result’ for my actual reaction.)

My journey of pregnancy-acceptance had barely started when the entire world came to a grinding halt at the hands of a worldwide pandemic: Covid-19. Initially I had no idea how this would impact my pregnancy journey as a first time mum-to-be.

Now, 39 weeks on and in a mood of reflection, I can say that it has been a roller-coaster of uncertainty and hesitation. There have been lots of lows (loneliness and lack of connection) but also a couple of highs (weight gain without witnesses!)

For those who have been pregnant in this pandemic- I applaud you! And please note – this is not a criticism of the measures taken by the NHS who have been amazing.

First, we’ll look at the downsides:

1. Loneliness

Did the word ‘alone’ need to be in red capitals?

The biggest impact was loneliness. Throughout the pandemic partners were unable to fully be in the pregnancy journey. Sadly for this first time Dad-to-be, he was re-positioned to the outskirts of the experience; unable to join midwife sessions, scans or hospital visits, and despite best endeavours, we weren’t permitted to Facetime during appointments.

Infact, aside from our 12 week scan, the first time that he got to see our baby and hear her heartbeat was at 32 weeks during a ‘Born to be a star’ 4D scan (courtesy of Window to the Womb.) Even this was almost out of reach for as all 4D scans were stopped during lockdown, leaving us one day between clinics reopening and me being too pregnant to be scanned!

2. Lack of personal interaction

‘Welcome’ to reception

As if the loneliness of the experience wasn’t enough, the introduction of masks, distancing and scarcely scheduled appointments made the prospect of pregnancy incredibly sterile and removed the opportunity of personal interaction.

Each consultant, doctor, midwife and advisor was masked (rightly so) and sat as far away as possible. When checking in for appointments you’d often have to stand in the centre of a waiting room and call your name and personal details out to the receptionist at high volume.

In one instance at a midwife appointment, a young mum arrived for her appointment with a young toddler in tow. She was refused entry and told she’d have to reschedule her appointment as she couldn’t have a guest visiting with her.

These physical boundaries made it very difficult to build trust or feel relaxed, adding another layer of isolation. Infact I’ve been seeing my midwife for 9 months and I don’t think I’d recognise her without her mask on!

3. Social experiences

As social creatures, we humans love to take advantage of social experiences, with millennial’s famed for their need to gain meaningful experiences over substantive possessions. Well, you can certainly say goodbye to that desire if you’re pregnant during a pandemic!

Aside from the removal of social encounters; NCT classes to Zoom, abolition of the Baby Shower and closure of stores (say goodbye to trialling that pushchair or baby sling.) If you are trying to improve your Mum network, and do find that one mum who is willing to brave the pandemic and meet up, be prepared for mega-awkwardness when it happens!

Can you touch the baby?
Should you wear a mask?
Can you even look at it?

Joking aside, each pregnant person or new mum responds differently; some enforce self-imposed quarantine throughout whereas others continue daily routines. For me, I continued working and networking, but completely respect each persons prerogative.

4. Fear of the unknown during labour

While much normality seemed to have resumed in my run up to the birth, the ever-changing government and medical guidance as a result of the pandemic were rather disconcerting. Add to this the Mum-network rumour-mill and it was hard to know what to expect.

From tales of birthing restrictions including suspension of birthing pools, removal of birthing partners, refusal of visitors through to aftercare delays; no health visits, no birth registration service and recommendations to prevent family to stay distanced, it was hard to know what to believe and what to trust, adding another layer of fear of the unknown during labour.

I am, of course, a balanced individual, and so this blog wouldn’t be complete without sharing the upside of pregnancy in a pandemic.

So, let’s take a look at the upsides:

1. Working from home

The decision to impose lockdown and only allow people to visit their place of work if they were critical was very tough to accept at first. However, as my pregnancy progresses I realised that working from home had it’s benefits.

There was no need to invest heavily in that amazing new maternity wardrobe (Fabletics leggings and a tank were the new wiggle and stiletto.)

Removing the need to travel to and from work (usually around an hour and half a day) meant more time for much needed baby-baking rest.

2. Weight gain without witnesses

Perhaps the biggest silver lining was the ability to gain weight without witnesses! Don’t get me wrong, when I did see people there was certainly a look of horror in their eyes at the sheer size increase (okay, a slight surprise at an announced pregnancy), but still I could ‘enjoy’ my enlarged stature with minimal stares!

What become abundantly clear throughout, was that as a pregnant and mum-to-be community, we’re all in this together. That pained yet acknowledged look from behind the face mask is an expression we’ve all worn at some point in our pregnancy journey.

I’m hopeful that things will return to ‘normal’ soon (good news – dad’s can now go to scan appointments), but in the meantime, let’s stick together and take advantage of the online platforms available in this new virtual world.

Loadsalove, jess x

PS. Why are you telling me this?
I shared this blog because I realised that what should be an incredibly exciting time was suddenly laced with loneliness. I think it’s important that others don’t feel alone and that we talk about the impact and the importance of our partners feeling part of the journey. If you’re feeling lonely about your pregnancy journey reach out on here or via our Instagram page.

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