Lockdown Love Letter to My Baby: A Reflection on Pregnancy, Birth, & Maternity in Lockdown

With restrictions being lifted, I felt like it was a good time to reflect on what it was like to be pregnant and to give birth during a global pandemic. I felt that the best way to do this would be in the form of a letter to J-Beast, my lockdown baby.

 

My sweet boy,

You made yourself known 2 weeks into the first COVID lockdown. A little blue stripe on a sunny Friday morning. Lockdown had afforded us the time to finally schedule in some exercise and so your dad was on a run when I did the test. Your siblings were asleep in their room, so I had a moment to take in the news by myself. I rubbed my belly as if I could already feel sesame-seed-sized you. In my mind, the pandemic would be cleared up by the end of summer – well before your January due date. I can’t believe how incredibly naive I was. I didn’t take into consideration the implications that Covid would have on midwife appointments and scans. It was only when we broke the news to Granny and Grandpa on a FaceTime call to South Africa that it dawned on me that there was a good chance that your South African family wouldn’t be meeting you for quite some time. You’re nearly 7 months now, bub, and you’ve yet to meet them. I can’t tell you the guilt I feel about robbing you both of each other because of our lack of planning.

 

The lockdown, like my belly, stretched on and because of the unknowns, I had to self-isolate pretending that it was for the sake of a family member while my colleagues continued to teach. And then when 12 weeks rolled around, I was alone when you appeared kicking in monochrome on-screen, and I tried to decipher your limbs in the swirls of grey and black. I had been terrified that something was wrong, and I’d need to make a decision right there and then – your Dad is the decisive one. He sat patiently in the car and did a bad job of pretending that a photo of wriggly little you would suffice. I worried that your connection with him would be jeopardised because he’d been deprived of that experience, but I had nothing to worry about.

My pregnancy went by in a blur of Zoom quizzes, Seesaw activity preparation and some rather intense home-schooling. My midwife appointments were all solo experiences involving recording bits on my phone to relay to your Dad and struggling to decipher what the midwife was saying through her mask. By the time my final midwife appointment rolled around, I was used to the muffled interactions and having to wait outside until my name was called. I wasn’t prepared to be told that I needed an additional scan as there were concerns – another one I’d have to attend solo. And when my waters broke later in the very early hours of the new year, there was the real possibility of going into hospital by myself. Thankfully, you take after your Grandpa and wanted to arrive on time on your due date.

Your entrance was a dramatic one, little boy. You were much speedier than your sister but you were (and still are) the size of a small tank and ended up with a shoulder dystocia.

A traumatic ordeal for all involved and yet the worst part was when I was told I’d need a Covid test before I’d be allowed to see you in the NICU. I had held you for seconds when you were born at 4:29am and the next time we saw you was at 12:14. It was the longest wait of my life and I felt every one of those minutes. Of all the things that Covid has stolen from us, that was one of the hardest to process.

Unlike your sister’s first few weeks of life earthside, you had no visitors. No baby classes. No coffee date catch-ups. No excursions. I felt robbed. My maternity leave was nothing like I’d imagined it to be. My support system was reduced to social media and phonecalls. We’d already seen the impact of lockdown on your sister’s speech development and on top of all of the usual worries in those early days, I started to worry about your development too. I found myself feeling immense anger. Anger that you had been deprived of people and experiences – to be honest, I’m still working through that.

And yet, on reflection, I can see opportunities that were afforded to us because of Covid. Precious, beautiful moments that would not have been possible in our usual hustle-bustle life.

Working from home meant that I could nap while your sister napped. Most days, I could barely keep my eyes open after lunch and I dread to think how I would have coped with that had I been going into school. Adding a post-lunch naptime to the Year One timetable may not have gone down well.

Lockdown meant extra time as a family. We were able to prepare your siblings for your arrival and I was able to spend precious hours with your sister who was feeling a little fragile about the changing state of her mama.

The extra hours at home meant that I had time to do pre-natal yoga and hypnobirthing. I had time to prepare myself mentally and physically for your birth.

While I worried about you being deprived of baby class interactions, I basked in our easy-going mornings (as easy-going as they could be with a 2 year old in the house). No pressure to rush off to classes meant that we could snuggle together and get to know one another at our own pace safe in our little cocoon. I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything.

So my littlest love, with things opening up and our slow-paced life picking up speed, I hang onto the knowledge that while Covid deprived us of many things it gave us a very precious gift. The gift of time. There is no baby class or mums’ group that could possibly compare with that.

I love you always.

Mama

x

David Neale