Updated: Feb 6
I was one of the many many women to fall pregnant during the first lockdown. Luckily for me, this was my second child, and I had my first only 6 months before the lockdown started, so I was still pretty fresh on procedures, appointments and what to do and who to contact if I needed to. I say luckily, as this time around being pregnant was very different. Other halves were not allowed at scans and appointments, midwife appointments were over the telephone and I had no face to face appointments until I was 25 weeks. I had a fairly easy pregnancy, besides suffering with SPD, which I still had my crutches from last time, so I wasn’t worried that I hadn’t seen anyone. I can only imagine how different I would have felt had this been my first pregnancy. One of my close friends was due a few days after me with her first and she felt concerned throughout that she had had such little contact with her midwife. She had so many questions and had no idea who could answer them for her. I had another friend due the week before me with her 2nd and she was just as nervous, feeling really uneasy about the lack of contact.
I also cannot imagine how my other half would have felt, had he missed the birth as so many fathers have in this situation. I was booked in for a planned c-section this time, so we knew exactly what day it be...although we were given fair warning it could be cancelled on the day. I was told to be at the hospital at 7am so me and my other half got up at 6am to drop my (tired and grumpy) toddler to her grandparents and we went off to the hospital for 7am. I already knew there were 3 of us booked in on the same day and they started at 8am so was expecting to have my baby nice and early. The first lady was taken straight down to the theatre from reception by 7.30am which gave me hope at least that the surgeries were still going ahead as planned. While my other half waited in the car in the middle of winter not even allowed in to use the toilet, time was ticking on and I was still sat in the reception of the maternity department with no idea what was going on. By 9.30am I finally was led out of reception and given a bay with a bed where I was left until 3pm before finding out that another planned section had to go before me due to her medical condition and 2 emergencies had come in, but I was due to be next as soon as they could find another surgical team to replace what would have been mine. I called my other half to tell him it would finally be happening soon and to be ready to jump out the car only to be told 10 minutes later it would probably be cancelled and I would have to go home. After hearing nothing else for another hour and a half, I started to get myself dressed and packed ready to come home just a member of the admin team popped her head in and said ‘you ready?’. I thought she meant to go home as she needed the bed back. She was going actually downstairs to drop off some paperwork, so she had been asked to bring me with her to the labour ward. I had the minute and half walk downstairs to gather my thoughts, call my other half (who had been waiting in the freezing cold for 10 hours by now) and get myself mentally prepared to have my baby!
My other half was finally allowed in the hospital and was given surgical clothes to change in to while I was taken into theatre to have my spinal. Half an hour later, he was bought into the room and we had our beautiful baby girl! When she born, she was very low on oxygen so neither one of us was allowed to hold her and she was taken of to the neonatal unit and my partner was asked immediately to leave the theatre. Luckily, he was allowed to stay with our daughter in the neonatal unit and could pop in to recovery to check on me and keep me updated on my daughter until she was allowed to join me and we were taken back to the ward. When we got to the ward, my other half was told he wasn’t allowed to stay and he could come back the next day for a 2 hour visiting slot. Throughout the night, I had trouble feeding my daughter. Not only could I not pick her up on my own after the surgery, she was struggling to feed so I needed help from the midwives. They did all they could to help me but it wasn’t working and there was nothing they could do to get her to feed for more than a few minutes and they did not have the time to stay with me all night. My other half bought ready made formula with him the next day as the hospital were no longer allowed to provide it, but we then had no way to keep the bottles sterilised for the duration I was meant to be in hospital. It makes me sad that my breastfeeding journey could have been so different if the midwives had more time. It was the same midwives that massively helped me with my first daughter when she struggled to feed and for that at least, I am hugely grateful. This time they simply did not have the time or manpower to help in the same way.
During the time my other half came back to visit I managed to get some sleep but at this point I still couldn’t walk on my own. The midwives were so thinly spread they allowed him to stay longer so that he could help me get to the bathroom.
My daughter born the day before the 3rd national lockdown was announced. After a planned c-section I was due to stay in hospital for a few days, however the minute I heard that lockdown meant no visitors in the hospital, I discharged myself there and then. Despite being in so much pain, I couldn’t get out of bed on my own, I instantly knew it was the best thing to do. The midwives were lovely but they were obviously having a hard time of it. As it was, if I wanted to pick up my baby to feed her or change her, I needed help from the midwives and they simply did not have the time or manpower to give the help I needed after surgery.
Just as Boris Johnson was making his announcement, I had managed to get myself out of bed and to the toilet on my own...progress! However, when I returned to my bed, I was in so much pain I laid down (in the weirdest position) and I couldn’t move. I was desperately trying to reach my pain meds or my buzzer to call a midwife and then my daughter started crying. 20 minutes later, she is still crying, I am now crying, and I cannot get hold of a midwife. As soon as I managed to get some help, I told them I was going home. It felt crazy that as my other half was helping me into a wheelchair to take me to the car an hour later I was leaving hospital, and the morphine, to go home. But I knew I would feel better and have constant support of my other half.
From the moment I arrived in the morning to the moment I left hospital, there was an overwhelming sense of just how short staffed they were, and they were already to being pushed to the max dealing with restrictions and new procedures that were put into place due to Covid. My instincts told me I should go home and it was tough but it was definitely the right thing for me. Pregnancy and labour can be scary as it is but to do it all during lockdowns and restrictions is so tough. I feel lucky that I have a great support system and a gorgeous toddler that taught me everything I know so far and gave me the confidence during my second pregnancy and birth.
For all mums, during the pandemic, I hope you know how strong you are, you can achieve anything! xx