After an amazing holiday to kick off 2020, my husband and I were excited to come home and start a family. Then the pandemic hit and life as we know it changed. However, like so many people, we thought the Covid pandemic would over soon – certainly by the time I was ready to give birth anyway. Oh, how wrong I was. From having baby scans alone to no antenatal classes, it was very much a case of teaching myself as much as I could about giving birth and breastfeeding. This is my story of pregnancy, labour, and life with my new baby during lockdown.
2020 started so well
It started off great. We had decided the time was right to try and start a family. We had a big holiday swimming with pigs in the Bahamas. Then Covid hit.
Almost overnight the world had changed, but we didn’t want to let that change our plans and in May, I fell pregnant. I genuinely believed we would all be back to normal well before the time I had my baby and would have never believed someone telling me I’d be giving birth during another national lockdown!
Almost overnight the world had changed, but we didn’t want to let that change our plans and in May, I fell pregnant.
We had to tell my work ASAP, as I had been working on ICU with Covid positive patients, which meant telling family a lot sooner than planned too. We didn’t want colleagues knowing before relatives so told our parents via video calls.
A few weeks later we then hosted our weekly family video group quiz, the answers spelling out ‘We are having a baby’!
Appointments alone with a Husband in the car park
As this was my first pregnancy, I can’t compare the antenatal care through covid with how it would have been in ‘normal times’. However, I did notice what I felt were massive gaps in the care I did receive – mainly education.
I remember arranging my dating scan to attend alone, wondering whether everything would be OK, and wondering how I would cope without my husband if it wasn’t alright – an added worry to an already anxious wait. He was sat outside the hospital in the car waiting. It felt like hours in the waiting room, wanting to take my mask off as I was too hot and feeling really nauseous. Then I remember feeling absolutely amazed when I saw this tiny baby on the screen, rolling over, waving it’s arms and legs around.
I remember arranging my dating scan to attend alone, wondering whether everything would be OK, and wondering how I would cope without my husband if it wasn’t alright.
All of a sudden I felt this overwhelming wave of guilt that my husband couldn’t see it too – this was his baby as much as mine and he only got a rubbish print out of a still image. Other than being sick constantly for the last 9 weeks, this was the first confirmation there really was a baby there and we were going to be parents.
There were concerns during Christmas and New Year
We had a few more hurdles including an accident at work at 25weeks and a worrisome Christmas into New Years week. Both times I had to go and get checked out on the antenatal ward. Both times I was in a room on my own, texting my Husband who was outside trying to keep him updated on what they were doing and checking.
On New Years Day, the Consultant wanted to keep me in for observations, querying a placental abruption. If I wasn’t on my own I probably would have stayed but we ended up agreeing I would observe myself at home and if anything changed to call an ambulance and go back to hospital. They booked me in for a scan to check the fluid around Baby and everything seemed OK again after that.
Thoughts on breastfeeding
I only saw one midwife relatively regularly (maybe 30% of my appointments). Usually it was a different midwife each time. Perhaps this was behind the lack of education on what to expect with labour, delivery and beyond? I was asked twice how I planned to feed my baby, it was written in my notes that I planned to breastfeed, but I wasn’t offered any information or guidance about how to go about breastfeeding, or it might not be easy to do.
Initially, I had only decided I wanted to breastfeed because I am poor and lazy – it’s free and ready to go whenever you need it. It was only through reading online through pages like this and support groups that I came to learn about all the health benefits of breastfeeding for both me an Baby – and the environmental benefits too! I had joined some Facebook support groups, but in all honesty I still don’t really know what a latch is or the names of any of the ways to hold a feeding baby and just make it up as we go.
Self taught birth preparation
My Mum told me she went to a classroom in the hospital every week for Antenatal Lessons, where they were taught all about giving birth, feeding and caring for a new baby. I don’t understand how in 2020 they couldn’t have recorded these lessons and given me access to them online? I refused to pay for zoom courses so decided instead to read as much as I could find to prepare myself for giving birth.
I decided to make a plan, and stick to it as best as I could. Reading up on the physical act of delivering a baby, and what my body would need to do to allow it to happen helped a lot. I planned on staying at home for as long as I could and hoped to be in and out as quickly as possible by avoiding medication or interventions that would mean I would need monitoring. I was also planning on using the birthing pool as pain relief. I was terrified of having any medication that would lead to Baby getting distressed and ending in an emergency C-Section and tough recovery.
Reading up on the physical act of delivering a baby, and what my body would need to do to allow it to happen helped a lot.
I’d asked at a few midwife appointments how I would know when I was in Labour and when to contact the Birth Centre but all I got told was “phone us when your contractions are 5 minutes apart for an hour”. I didn’t even know what to expect a contraction to feel like. I did feel really let down at this point as it felt like my worries about the most important thing I’d ever have to do were sort of being dismissed.
The start of labour (and car shopping!)
Everyone had started getting a bit twitchy about me going over my Estimated Delivery Date. I was getting anxious as my midwife had discussed booking me in for an induction and I had declined to schedule one. I’d been having Braxton Hicks on and off for weeks. Never any pain, my whole belly would just go really hard for a few minutes every so often.
At 41+4weeks we went looking for new cars. I’d discovered my 3 door Corsa wasn’t ideal for fitting the car seat in the back and the pram didn’t fit in the boot! I drove home in time for the football starting at 1500 and I got back on the yoga ball.
At 41+4weeks we went looking for new cars…I drove home in time for the football starting
At half time I went to the toilet with a bit of a dodgy tummy and more Braxton Hicks, then as the second half kicked off at 1600 I didnt feel great and made my hot water bottle in an attempt to get comfy. I felt a bit ‘off’ and Hubby told me to go to bed for a lie down – I couldn’t think of anything worse than being still!
I went upstairs and after 20mins of alternating between being sat on the loo and a bit of wiggly dancing the Braxton Hicks had become a little uncomfortable too. I decided to start timing them as I now thought they might actually be real contractions but seemed to be too close together. The timer on my app said they were lasting 60-100 seconds and were about 2 1/2mins apart from start to start.
I messaged my Husband and told him he should take the dog out when the football finished and that I might phone the hospital but it had only been half an hour since I’d potentially gone into labour.
Was it time to go to the birth centre?
I phoned the Birth Centre at 1700. Explained I thought I might be in labour and if I was, the contractions were close together but had only started in the last 40mins or so.
I felt like a failure as I did not want to go to the Birth Centre too early, and definitely did not want to get there and be sent home again, but I really did think if this is just the start I don’t want to go hours/days like this. I had planned not to have any pain relief and less than an hour into labour I was contemplating going into hospital.
They said I could go in for a set of observations and they would ‘see what the best course of action would be from there’. In my mind, this meant go and get a set of obs done and be sent home for another 8hrs or so. We arrived at 1750 and at this point I couldn’t sit down as there was to much pressure ‘down there’. The midwife was going to do my observations but I needed to know if I was dilated at all (if she had said 4cm I was scrapping my plan and getting an epidural because I was getting really uncomfortable).
Delivery and first feed!
She had a look at 1800 and said I was 10cm, so I felt better knowing we probably weren’t going to be waiting hours (or days) for a baby! Then my waters exploded all over the bed. That releived the pressure that had been building. I asked if I could get in a birthing pool and was told they probably wouldn’t have time to run it. I was a bit upset as I had hoped for a water birth. But knowing where I was up to in my labour and being armed with the knowledge of what was happening, and what I needed to do really helped me not panic and just go with it. It wasn’t pleasant, but it definitely wasn’t as painful as I was anticipating! – A relative had told me I would feel like I was going to die and a few friends had said to ‘take all the drugs on offer’. But in my mind I knew that the drugs can lead to interventions I did not want.
I asked if I could get in a birthing pool and was told they probably wouldn’t have time to run it.
At 1834 our Baby girl was born and my Husband told me the sex, as I didn’t want a stranger to tell me. We had skin to skin straight away and I asked for help to try and feed her. My little piranha seemed to know what to do more than I did and started eating straight away! I was concerned that she would suffocate as her little nose looked very squished against my boob. The midwife told me I would have to keep an eye on her breathing but didn’t suggest any more suitable positions to try feeding in
She slept quite a lot while we were waiting to come home and whenever she was awake I kept trying to feed her.
The first few days
Once we got home I didn’t know how often she would need feeding so just offered her a boob every time she woke up and luckily it seemed to go OK. The first week or so was pretty tough as I felt like I had a baby constantly attached to me! And when she wasn’t feeding she didn’t want to be put down at all. I was expecting this having read about the fourth trimester, but didn’t realise how difficult it would be to do everything one-handed!
In her first week Baby had dropped less than 2% of her birth weight and then gained it back with interest. She was doing really well, and I was really quite proud. In hindsight, we were ridiculously lucky as we were (and still are a bit) completely winging it.
Safe bedsharing really helped with feeding at night
One night in the first few weeks, I started nodding off while feeding in the middle of the night and woke up with a big jolt. This scared me as I did not want to fall asleep sat up with my baby and her get injured or suffocate.
I started nodding off while feeding in the middle of the night
I needed a solution as I was having to really fight to stay awake for night feeds. I decided to follow the Lullaby Trust’s guidance on safer bed sharing, so that I could reduce the risk of feeding sat up and falling asleep dangerously. This has helped us both sleep much better – especially during those cluster feeding nights! She could just help herself when she wanted and we both got loads more sleep.
Now we are a bit further into our breastfeeding journey she spends most of the night in her basket next to the bed. I can tell when she starts getting hungry so fish her out onto the bed for a feed then either keep her with me for sleepy cuddles or plop her back in for a few more hours, depending on what time it is.
Baby and postnatal checks not as expected
I’m lucky to have physically recovered quickly, as at 4 weeks post partum I tried to book my routine post natal check and was told it would be a joint appointment for Baby’s 8 week injections. At the 8 week injections I tried asking about contraception and my postnatal check and was told due to covid it wasn’t happening at the moment. I’m still waiting to get all that sorted. Baby has only been weighed a handful of times, at birth, at 5 days and 6 days then at 8 weeks. I’ve been able to weigh her at a support group and I know she is growing well but the healthcare professionals don’t. It baffles me that they don’t seem bothered and it scares me that there will be other babies out there who aren’t doing so well and may go undetected and end up really poorly.
I tried asking about contraception and my postnatal check and was told due to covid it wasn’t happening at the moment.
We have had a couple of minor hurdles including getting a bit (OK, a lot) lopsided in the first month or so. I was in weekly contact with the local F.A.B Breastfeeding Volunteers for my second month of feeding. We also found a government funded new parent support group which was fantastic for speaking to other people with babies and allowed me to access face to face support from a breastfeeding consultant 7 weeks into our breastfeeding journey. The advice we received has balanced things out a bit!
Fast forward to 10 weeks of breastfeeding and the dreaded Mastitis struck! I went from feeling like I was being stabbed in the morning, to being too shaky to pick up my baby in the afternoon. I am so glad I caught it early. I was only familiar with how it develops from reading an article by another Mum, and friend, on this website. I had a really rocky 24 hours but I’d managed to get antibiotics very quickly and they started working within a day or two, thank goodness.
Baby’s eye problem and feelings of mum guilt
One area I’m still working on is how I feel in myself post-natally. We have had a bit of a struggle getting seen by the right people as Baby has a problem with one of her eyes. It took me from birth to week 5 of phoning everyone I could think of in the hospital to get her seen (after being fobbed off by the heath visitor, refusing to be discharged from the midwives and being seen at the Birth Centre and promised a referral that never got done). Her appearance is affected and will require surgery to correct and to protect her vision, so we are in it for the long haul, with regular eye examinations scheduled.
Her appearance is affected and will require surgery to correct and to protect her vision, so we are in it for the long haul, with regular eye examinations scheduled.
Lockdown was great for being able to avoid seeing people and not having to talk about it. I’ve put myself through hell, blaming myself for not growing her properly and feeling horrific Mum-Guilt for letting it affect how I felt about sharing pictures of her for over a month. It still affects me when I see pictures, and I’m more ashamed of myself for feeling bad about it than anything else. Going to the support group has helped as I have been able to talk to other parents and make new friends. In the face-to-face environment where I couldn’t hide her away, and no one has made any negative comments.
Moving forward I want to continue feeding my Baby for as long as she wants and will need to start looking into how to do this when I return to work. I am really not confident in breastfeeding in public. Once on a walk I felt I had to push the pram up a steep hill into a forest for enough privacy to feed. I’ve only breastfed in proper public once. My husband was with me and I still felt extremely vulnerable. I’d like to learn to feel a bit safer and more confident to breastfeed in public should I need to. I’d also like to be able to wear my pre-pregnancy clothes again soon so have been put walking with the pram as much as I can!
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