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 talks about pregnancy second-time round and how coronavirus changed things plus her tips and advice for other mums-to-be
Pregnancy and a pandemic isn’t easy. I’ve often wondered whether it’s harder for first-time mums because of the unknown, or whether it’s harder if you’ve already had a child like me because naturally you’re comparing everything to the first time.
In truth, it’s hard for everyone - and not just mums, but partners and families too.
"What should be such a joyous time can instead be filled with worry and fear."
Feeling lost and anxious
When lockdown was announced, whilst I completely understood why, I couldn’t help but feel gutted. With six weeks until our due date, our support networks were suddenly snatched away from us, forcing us to get to grips with the everyday challenges of isolation: keeping our pre-schooler entertained without actually being able to go anywhere, whilst my husband worked from home and I juggled being an entertainer/cook/snack-fetcher/activity-creator, all whilst growing a baby.
Heavily pregnant, not only did I feel tired, but also now anxious about the birth given the pandemic. At first, I panicked – and cried a lot.
"But I knew I had to change my thinking. Rather than feel disappointed about all of the things I now couldn’t do, I embraced all that I could."
Blessing in disguise?
In an effort to find the positives, look after our mental wellbeing and make the best of it, as parents we both learned to fill our days differently. We engaged in our little person’s world by spending hours doing things like making dens, growing vegetables together and making car garages from cardboard boxes – all without having to be anywhere else. We could just enjoy the moment.
For that, we are thankful for lockdown, as we’ve learned to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life so much more. Whilst this isn’t at all what we would have wished for, the timing at the end of my pregnancy was in some ways a blessing in disguise for us both.
Reassurance from antenatal care and NCT
For most of my pregnancy, midwife appointments ran as normal, but towards the end, things changed. I would have to wait in my car until I had a phone call, then to be greeted at the back door of the surgery by a midwife who was in a gown and mask. It all felt so surreal.
The appointments themselves were filled with reassurance and I came away each time feeling relieved that my pregnancy was progressing well and we’d be able to have the natural birth we hoped for. However, with ever-changing advice, it was important that we also stayed up to date with maternity services in our area too.
NCT was also great source of trusted information that offered reassurance throughout my pregnancy. I was able to re-visit what I'd learned during the NCT course we did with our first child to help feel prepared the second time around.
"NCT also helped me form a great support network with other mums, which is so important."
Planning for the positives
It was easy to get caught up in social media posts and news stories, but I know that I, in particular, had to be careful that these didn’t scare me. Planning for the positives – a birth partner present and a straightforward birth – like many other women, was extremely important to me. I made sure I focused on this, rather than the fact that visitors wouldn’t be allowed to the hospital, including my son.
I remember going for a growth scan at 36 weeks which meant stepping out of my isolation bubble for the first time. Experiencing that hospital environment, I’ll be honest, was quite terrifying at first – doing it alone, seeing midwives masked and gowned up, the black and yellow tape around to enforce the two metre rule. It was all so odd and so clinical.
Yet, strangely, I actually came away from this feeling more positive.
"It mentally prepared me for what was ahead and I told myself to just focus on the reassuring eyes behind the masks."
Little did I know that because of a very quick labour and delivery in my car by my husband (!), I would in fact spent very little time in a hospital anyway.
Hannah's tips for other mums-to-be
Staying positive and keeping calm throughout my pregnancy allowed us both as parents to just go with it, which is so important in these uncertain times.
Being prepared and willing to adapt are really important, and I would advise any expectant parents to do just that – be open to change, be calm and be strong.
Do what makes you happy
And do whatever else makes you happy or keeps you grounded too. For me, throughout my pregnancies, I have practised yoga and hypnobirthing, which I found to have worked wonders – I would therefore highly recommend this to new mums, particularly during these stressful times.
Also, just talk. I found that if I said my fears out loud, talking through my worries with my husband, or even family and friends, it helped me to face them. It’s sometimes a lot easier said than done though.
Be kind to yourself
And finally, be kind to yourselves. A pandemic during your pregnancy is no doubt something you ever imagined, as I kept saying, ‘you couldn’t write this script’. So it’s ok to feel sad or angry or worried, and it’s ok to have good days and bad. But just try to remember, as we often told ourselves, once that little life makes their entrance into this crazy world, they wouldn’t in fact know any different.
We'll share more from Hannah over the coming weeks and you can follow her blog on Instagram.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.