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 shares what life with a newborn and a toddler has been like during lockdown. What she’s missed and found hard, as well as the positives that have helped her family of four during the pandemic.
As I’m writing this, Wilf has just turned five weeks old and he's yet to meet our family or friends. This isn’t something I ever imagined would happen. Surely it's a given that once you’ve had a baby, you get to share the joy as everyone eagerly awaits their newborn cuddles. But this time around that hasn’t happened.
Instead, we’ve locked down as a four, our house becoming a mix of a home, Andy’s office and Theo’s pre-school, as we’ve made every effort to make the best of it during this surreal time.
Decision to self-isolate
Towards the end of my pregnancy, prior to lockdown officially beginning, the three of us made the decision to self-isolate in order to keep as safe as possible before the birth. My parents also did this, something that we are so grateful for, so that they could look after Theo when I went into labour. This meant Andy could be with me and equally we could let go knowing Theo would be happy.
This was the right move for all of us and something that midwives had supported at my appointments too as we prepared for the birth. Naively, or perhaps because I was hopeful though, I then assumed that because my parents had locked down when we had, we would all be safe and therefore they could meet Wilf when he was born. Even if it was just a quick meet before we then isolated for two weeks to ensure Andy and I were symptom-free having been in hospital.
But that wasn’t the case. Instead, we were advised by the midwife at the hospital to collect Theo, head home and keep to the four of us: Wilf was vulnerable as a newborn.
"Having just given birth and experiencing a huge mix of emotions, I really struggled to hear this. It wasn’t easy at all, but I knew it was the right thing to do."
In this strange time, Wilf was introduced to family and friends virtually. We held him up as the screen was kissed and people gushed over his newness. Then there were window meets where drinks were poured and toasts were made, as faces peeped through the glass and we celebrated. Of course, this isn’t at all what I imagined our early days with our second child would be like.
"To this day, as the weeks have gone by, I struggle with the fact that we won’t get those very early days back. But there’s so much ahead instead – and that’s what is worth focusing on."
Lockdown with a newborn has been full on, largely because there hasn’t been the freedom of seeing people or doing things that we usually would. But what has been more full on is having a newborn and a toddler, irrespective of lockdown!
Lockdown life with a newborn and toddler
At three, Theo is wonderfully bursting with energy, spirit and questions. He doesn’t stop... ever! Regardless of sleepless nights or the fact I might be feeding or we're taking it in turns pacing around trying to soothe Wilf, Theo still needs us and our days with him are full.
Without lockdown, we would be seeing family and friends, and so the intensity of the situation now does make it tough for us all sometimes. I often feel like I’m missing out on time with Theo and equally, there are often times where I wish time would slow with Wilf. I might be feeding while finding toys or fetching snacks, and so there definitely aren’t the endless amounts of newborn snuggles and lazy afternoons with a box set that I remember from first time around!
There are times that I therefore feel guilty for not devoting enough time to just Wilf, and also then to Theo, perhaps because I’m not always the one to read him a bedtime story any more.
"But these challenges aren’t because of lockdown – they are because I am a parent, a new mum of two, and because mum guilt is a real thing. It’s just that lockdown makes it all that bit tougher at times."
At so many points I’ve been angry and upset about this pandemic and all that I feel has been snatched away from us. While it’s nobody’s fault, and while I fully understand why we should all follow advice, it’s still hard.
Not all doom and gloom
But it’s not all doom and gloom and, in fact, in many ways, lockdown has given us so many new opportunities and positives. For that reason, it’s definitely making us stronger too, even though it might not seem it at the time.
In our early days, we have had so much time to nest as a four and to settle into life with our newborn. Andy and I have become a stronger duo who tag team devoting time to our boys, propping each other up when we’re tired and laughing off the exhaustion or chaos. We’ve not been inundated with visitors who we’ve crammed in seeing, and Andy has had so much more time this time around than just two weeks of paternity leave.
While working from home has brought about a whole new set of challenges for him, we’re thankful for the bonus days we are having together. He doesn’t have his long commute to work from Southampton to London at the moment. Instead, he is around to support me, to enjoy lunch together as a family and to be around for bedtime.
"So while it’s so hard not seeing family or friends, and so hard missing out on things we enjoyed in those early days the first time around, we know that there are many silver linings to this cloud too."
Challenging early days with a newborn
I think I had probably forgotten how tough those early days are with a newborn – the broken nights, the pacing around the house, the eating one-handed and never quite managing a hot meal. But that’s because the good far outweighs the bad, and a bit like the pain of childbirth, there is so much that we are programmed to forget.
The other week, Wilf’s reflux had made him so inconsolable that despite three hours of feeding and winding and rocking him one evening, he still wasn’t happy. Andy, who was working to meet a deadline at the time, had resorted to wearing Theo’s ear defenders so that he could try and focus; after he too had been doing everything he could to soothe our little one.
In the end, I did skin to skin, holding Wilf tightly as he cried, and eventually he settled and went off to sleep. I could have easily cried too – we both could have – but instead we had a little laugh to ourselves about the sudden madness of our lives and our new juggling act. Then we ate chocolate which of course helped to make everything that bit better.
"There aren’t as many moments of calm that there are first time around, and of course we are missing our family and friends dearly, as well as the freedom that lockdown has denied so many of us. But instead, we’ve embraced all of the simple things in life and we’ve allowed time to slow down."
Special moments and fond memories
The other week, after the restrictions were lifted, we ventured beyond our village to the New Forest. We walked and explored, we hunted for dinosaurs (Theo is obsessed with Jurassic Park at the moment), we climbed fallen trees and we chatted all the way. Theo whizzed around on his bike and Wilf slept soundly in the carrier. It’s during moments like this that we forget about the lack of sleep, the tantrums or the fact that we miss those close to us.
"It’s all about putting a spin on what we have – being thankful for these simple moments and making the best them, knowing how precious these times are."
Of course, our first experience of having a baby was very different, but this time around we have the joy of our first ‘baby’ doting on and being smitten with our second. It makes us melt. And although lockdown heightens so many emotions and makes the madness harder, it also makes the good really quite special.
I know in years to come we will definitely look back on these early days with some very fond memories, even though they aren’t quite what we thought they would be.
We'll share more from Hannah over the coming weeks and you can follow her blog on Instagram.
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