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 Ben tells us what pregnancy was like for him and his wife, how the pandemic changed (and didn't change) their birth experience plus his tips for other dads-to-be.
Once we got to the third trimester, my anxiety regarding labour and birth started to build. Will my wife be OK? Will my baby be OK? Will it be painful? Will it be scary? How can I support them?
Any mum or dad-to-be will be familiar with these questions; they're perfectly normal.
Pandemic rumours about care
On 24 March, my wife, Jodie, and I welcomed in the 35th week of our pregnancy. There's nothing particularly interesting about week 35, it's not a milestone. It was, however, the start of the UK's second day in COVID-19 lockdown.
As well as working through the normal pre-labour worries, we were now faced with a pandemic induced rumour mill: "Mums aren't allowed partners or support in the labour suite any more", "all antenatal and postnatal care has been cancelled", "the hospitals don't want you, they ship you out straight after birth" were just some of the things we now had playing on our mind.
"The truth is things did change, but not as drastically as we (and others) had initially worried about. There were differences, but they were minor".
The first notable change was that I (as a dad-to-be) was no longer able to attend any antenatal appointments. I was disappointed as so far I'd attended everything else, but fundamentally it didn't change our care.
Hospital care was a bit different. In week 38, we had to attend Burton Hospital Maternity Assessment Unit (MAU) as Noah (then bump) was having a bit of a lazy day. Despite how routine this is, it's still a worrying experience for an expecting parent, so when we arrived at Burton Hospital MAU and I was asked to wait outside this didn't go down well. Again, in hindsight, it wasn't that big a deal.
Our birth experience
When we returned to Burton for the big arrival the experience, initially, was much the same as above. As Jodie was assessed I was asked to wait outside. However, when we were finally transferred to the Delivery Suite everything felt very normal. We unpacked our bags and settled in for the main event with no notable differences other than we weren't allowed to wander around. We were even offered the birthing pool.
"The midwives were wearing masks, visors and gloves but the care, support and attention was no different. Midwives came and went freely, nipping in for a chat and a check up on a routine basis. If you avoided the news you wouldn't have thought anything was any different!"
When the beautiful moment came and Noah was placed in Jodie's arms, still nothing felt different. We kissed him, cuddled him, put his nappy on... It was very normal. After a few hours, Jodie and Noah headed back to the MAU for some more checks before we were eventually allowed home. All. Very. Normal.
Ben's advice to other dads-to-be
Try and remain level headed during the later stages of pregnancy and throughout labour
Your partner is about to go through one of the greatest physical experiences she'll ever face. Your support, care and faith in her will be invaluable.
Swot up! Know your stuff, show you care, be involved
Read all the books, follow all the articles... Ask the midwife the challenging questions. Show that you're interested, show that you care, it will help give your partner confidence that you know what you're doing when she's dedicating herself to the mammoth efforts of labour.
Find out about support from NCT
We attended an NCT Signature course in March to help us prepare for the birth and parenthood. The course was a great opportunity to meet couples who were at a similar stage of pregnancy to us; to hear their experiences and learn from their lessons.
We found the whole thing really reassuring - to know that we weren't the only people asking daft questions or worrying about the basics. It also really put our mind at ease about the birth. Being told how it actually is - rather than expecting a soap opera style waters breaking deluge followed by absolute chaos - really helped us prepare and get in the correct mindset when the time came.
"The network and friendships we developed was perhaps the most valuable aspect - we have a WhatsApp group which is a great sounding board when things aren't going to plan!"
Don't place too much faith in your birth plan!
It's really important that you have one, but it's also important that you don't become wedded to the perfect birth. What will be will be: be flexible and support your partner whatever happens.
Thank you NHS
Postnatal care has been slightly different; we had a day one visit from a midwife but everything subsequent has been either on the phone or by request. We had to ask for a two week appointment to check that Noah had put some weight on, but the majority of routine care was, and still is, done over the phone. This isn't too much of an issue as Noah has done well and we knew that we could get support if it was needed.
In summary - everything felt pretty routine! It was sad that I had to miss out on some antenatal appointments but from Jodie's perspective everything was standard. Thank you to our midwife, the staff at Burton Maternity Unit and our fantastic and courageous NHS for allowing everything to stay so normal!
You can follow Ben's story on Instagram: @the_ordinary_father
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 email@example.com
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.
For more information about coronavirus in various languages see here.