In this series, we share stories from different mums and dads-to-be about their experience of pregnancy, birth and parenthood in the pandemic. Here Hannah looks back at having her second child in lockdown, the challenge of being a family of four in these strange times, her lows and how's she now embracing her new normal.
Looking back, as we now begin to ease out of lockdown, it seems surreal to think of what we've been through these past few months. In the middle of March, if someone had have told me how the months ahead would pan out…the ups and downs of becoming parents for the second time around during a global pandemic, I don't think I'd have believed them.
"It's certainly been a whirlwind of good days and bad; of incredible highs and challenging lows."
Frantic shoppers and a speedy birth
Second time around, despite having an inkling of what was to come, we weren't hugely organised and in fact were incredibly chilled, hence the very speedy car park arrival of baby Wilf on the way to hospital!
Before lockdown officially began, I remember thinking one weekend that I should probably pack my hospital bag. This was at the beginning of March. With two months until my due date, this felt like enough time, and off to the supermarket I went. This was at the point where people were panic buying and shelves were being emptied - but we all really had no idea of what was to come.
It was a scary experience being sandwiched among people. I was mindful of my growing bump, as I tried to find things that were on my list with frantic shoppers around me.
"I had no idea that this would be my last trip to the supermarket for months; to this day in fact. I had no idea how things would change for us so much and so soon too."
Ahead of the birth, we decided to self-isolate before lockdown officially began. This meant being at home all of the time, relying on online deliveries and making do. Doing the food shopping was a task in itself, as the supermarkets got to grips with the chaos of online orders. Planning for meals and necessities was necessary - not something, we usually did to be honest.
Our deliveries were sporadic at first and like most of the country; it became near impossible to buy baking ingredients or cleaning products. At first, I didn't quite know how we'd manage, but luckily, things calmed, and we found our way.
Filling the early lockdown days
Initially, the thought of being at home indefinitely was incredibly daunting. It's one thing being able to have the freedom to go to places and see people, but quite another to be confined, especially with a little person at home. With Theo, our three year old, also off pre-school, I wondered at first how on earth we would fill our days.
"I thought I would forever be clock watching. While this was the case sometimes, for the most part, time flew."
Our spring was blessed with gorgeous sunshine, which meant being in the garden and creating our own adventures for the day. We built dens, made car garages, had picnic lunches and did painting outside. We baked treats and made smoothies. We lapped up our hour’s walk each afternoon.
It wasn't as bad as I imagined and, in fact, it was wonderful to have bonus time with Theo before the baby arrived. Of course, there were days that were certainly more challenging, particularly as I got more tired and the novelty of Theo having us both home wore off. But, in comparison to the early weeks, with a newborn too, they were a breeze!
Life as a family of four
For the two weeks after Wilf was born, we were in a euphoric bubble as a new family of four. Despite not being able to introduce our newborn to family and friends, we made the best of window meets and video calls. And also had time to nest and get to grips with life as a family of four.
Wilf slept most of the day and Theo was in awe of being a big brother. Andy was on paternity leave, which meant we could spend the days tag-teaming time between the two boys.
"We'd got to grips with lockdown and we were feeling like things were as under control as they could be - as much as they could be with two children, that is!"
Two weeks in though, Wilf became colicky. Of course, this timed perfectly with Andy's return to work (at his dining table office). I then found that my days were filled with bouncing, feeding and soothing Wilf, who most of the time lived in my sling, as this was the only way he would settle. Theo was a dream at understanding, and the novelty of the new baby was definitely still there. But, as the weeks went by and Wilf also developed silent reflux, life got harder for us all.
Feeling trapped and frustrated
Being at home suddenly felt like being trapped in a cycle of ongoing screaming and frustrations. Andy and I were learning to divide our time between two boys but in challenging circumstances. There were no parks open for Theo to go and burn off energy, friends or family to meet with and chat, or even the freedom to be able to be spontaneous and just go out.
"Combined with very little sleep or respite, it was tough. Tougher than I realised at the time."
In the moment, we just had to keep going. There was nothing we could do about the situation so we just made the best of it. We filled the days with finding activities at home to keep Theo occupied all the while trying to find our way with Wilf. All we could do was keep positive and stay strong. That was a lot easier said than done at times, and I certainly shed my fair share of tears.
Making the most of life
Looking back, my heart sinks now when I think about those tough, lonely days of not seeing anyone, not sharing the joy of our new bundle. Hours of pacing in the evening and soothing the screams thankfully now seem like a distant memory. Like magic, Wilf has turned a huge corner and is so calm and contented (though I know now that babies and children like to keep you on your toes, so who knows what tomorrow will bring!?).
Being at home, each day I would try think of different activities to keep Theo occupied. Some days we bake, do a craft activity or I'd attempt some early maths or phonics or some kind of science learning (channeling my inner teacher!).
"I'd also just play with him, which is something that I've learned to do so much more in lockdown, and something I've enjoyed so much."
I'd also involve him in little jobs - be it helping chop vegetables for dinner, load the washing machine, or empty the dishwasher. I found that he loved a job and being helpful, despite the fact that it probably created more work for me! Keeping busy at home meant keeping happy, and so that's what worked for us.
I soon learned though that I had to be totally guided by him - some days it was pointless trying to do an activity or play a game because he simply just didn't want to, so it became a battle instead. If that was the case, we would abandon ship and it would be onto something new. Then when Wilf came along and liked to spend the day in my sling, I found it was much easier to just go with the flow all of the time.
"This has definitely been my mantra throughout lockdown - to be guided by the little people at home and to try and not get too disheartened when things go pear shaped!"
For us, we turned a huge corner when we first began to see family and friends, albeit distanced. I found it did wonders for all of our wellbeing to interact with others and to venture beyond our home. Garden meets, picnics and walks were all enjoyed with a breath of fresh air, as we began easing out of lockdown to find a new normal. This was when I began to feel human again, and interestingly, this was also when Wilf became so much more settled too.
Embracing our new normal
Andy seems to be busier than ever working from home. Now that lockdown has eased, it's so much more manageable for us because I can get out and about with the boys more. Andy gets a quiet house and equally I feel better for having had a change of scenery. Despite Theo constantly asking if his Dadda is working today or when he will be finished, he too has got to grips with the fact that Andy is around but needs to shut himself away to work.
"It's quite the juggling act at times but we've found a way to embrace new routines."
There are days when Andy would probably prefer to be able to have time to himself on his commute to London, or not be working at a desk up in Wilf's little room (the dining table office got a bit hectic with two kids!). There are also days when I wish I could freely go out and do things with the boys - the park, the farm, a day on the beach - without having to worry about the 'nasty germs' and all that we must do to avoid them. But we know that much like the months that have gone by, these are just challenges that we will get over in time.
It would be wonderful to greet our family and friends with hugs and not have to think through the logistics of spacing and distancing with each get-together. But we've found ways now to adapt and not fuss over what we can't do, and instead enjoy what we can. Lockdown has certainly taught us different ways to live, as well as a lot about ourselves.
You can follow Hannah on her blog on Instagram.
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