Amy Tolmie

In this series, we share stories from different mums about their experience of pregnancy, birth and parenthood in the pandemic. Here Amy talks about having the water birth she wanted and juggling life with a baby and toddler plus the highs and lows of being a new parent right now.

It was only in mid-March that it became apparent that coronavirus was a significant issue for us in the UK. By that point, I was eight months pregnant so it was only the last few weeks of my pregnancy that was affected by it. 

I was concerned about labour though, that my husband might not be able to be with me due to having to look after our toddler. I was sad that I probably wouldn’t be able to have a water birth. And just generally unsure of the safety of going to hospital in the peak of a pandemic.

How were your antenatal appointments?

I only had one routine midwife appointment during lockdown at 37 weeks. It was at my doctor’s surgery, which was closed for everything else. 

The midwife was wearing a mask and gloves but did all the normal checks so it really wasn’t much different.

"What we did do was talk about how little we all knew about what was to come and that I couldn’t be too fixed on my birth plan due to changes in what the hospital were offering."

What advice would you offer other pregnant women?

Try to not watch or read too much news. Focus on you and your little one, and staying as calm as you can.

"Stress isn’t good for you or your baby so surround yourself with messages and people that will help you to be as positive as you can about your pregnancy and labour." 

Also, hold things lightly...it seems that things are returning to a bit of normality now with home births and water birth re-instated in some maternity units. But there could be a second peak and things could change at any time. 

Don’t be too fixed on having a certain kind of labour - not that you can be too fixed on it anyway - pandemic or not!

Can you tell us about your birth?

I was at 38 weeks and five days and felt what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions in the morning... I had gone to 42 weeks with my daughter so just assumed I’d be the same with this pregnancy. I dismissed the tightenings, and it was only that afternoon when they were still happening that I wondered whether actually it might be labour! 

I eventually called the maternity unit at 7pm and they said it sounded like labour and to wait until contractions were 2/3 mins apart to come in. They were getting closer together so I made the decision to ask my parents to come and be with my toddler. I called later on and was obviously progressing with labour and contractions had started to get painful, so they said to come in and asked if I wanted a pool. 

We got to hospital at 10pm. A midwife examined me at 10.30pm and I was at least 9cm, if not fully, dilated. She said that baby would come soon! It was a surprise to hear that as my first labour was 43 hours and very much a marathon. 

Thankfully, they had asked on the phone if I wanted the pool and it was all ready for me. I was happily surprised about this, as I had assumed all water births were off due to the virus. I got in the pool at 10.35 and had a few puffs of gas and air. Baby then decided he was ready to come and with just a few pushes he was out, born at 10.40pm. 

"I was so grateful for such a good birth, especially considering it was right at the peak of the virus (first week of April), and that my husband could be there."

He stayed with me the whole time - we stayed overnight in the room I gave birth in. As the ward was so quiet he got to stay the next day too until we were discharged in the afternoon. We stayed in for extra monitoring for baby’s breathing.

How’s life with your new baby? 

He’s doing really well. We’ve had to go back to hospital a couple of times for different issues but he’s putting on weight and feeding well so that’s the main thing. Life with a newborn and a toddler is interesting! It’s been so lovely seeing our toddler welcome her little brother and that part has been wonderful. 

My husband is working from home so although he is fairly busy, there is some flexibility and he can get our daughter up in the morning if I need a lie in with the baby or can sometimes help out during the day if I really need him to. That wouldn’t happen if we weren’t in this crazy season, but then again I would be having friends and family regularly visiting normally and they would be helping share the load. 

"It’s been so hard not seeing family and friends. That has been the absolute worst thing about giving birth in a pandemic."

I’m so sad my parents have missed the early days with their grandson and my sister too. It’s been hard not being able to share this time with them and friends too that had been journeying with us and looking forward to meeting him. 

It just feels like we’ve been robbed of that. I am, of course, so grateful for our good health and know people have it so much worse than we do. We respect the need for lockdown and social distancing so will follow the rules, but think it’s ok to acknowledge how rubbish it all is too. 

How are you managing social distancing and staying at home with a baby and a toddler?

We’re relying on Amazon and ‘click and collect’ shopping to avoid having to go anywhere and risk picking anything up. In terms of staying sane at home... we've found a couple of online groups that are good for my toddler, and thankfully the weather has been good so the garden is a life saver. 

We’ve got some nice walks near us so I take the baby out in a sling/buggy and my toddler is on her scooter so that’s been good, but doesn’t always work with feeding/nap times and being organised enough to get out!

What are your tips for new parents in the pandemic?

Be kind to yourself! Try and get some rhythm or routine but try not to be strict or too rigid with that. I’m generally really laidback, but to give yourself some sanity it’s good to have certain things you do to get through the day, especially if it’s a rough day for whatever reason. 

"Whether rhythm/routine for you is about your baby’s awake time, making a cup of tea and having a treat or making a call to someone each day - plan things that are good for you all and your mental health especially."

If you'd like to share your story of pregnancy, birth or parenting in the pandemic, we'd love to hear from you. Get in touch by emailing content@nct.org.uk

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

Interactive, engaging and social, our live online antenatal course is a great way for you to meet other local parents, and get essential unbiased information and knowledge about pregnancy, birth and early days with your baby.

Read the NHS stay at home advice.

The NHS website has a specific pregnancy and coronavirus page, which has all the latest information and guidance about support services.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Midwives and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have produced information on coronavirus for pregnant women and their families

The Department of Health and Social Care website is being updated daily with guidance and what the government is doing about the virus.

Click on the following links for guidance on self-isolation and social distancing in Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, French, Gujarati, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Urdu and Welsh.

For more information about coronavirus in various languages see here.

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