Lockdown babies: The struggles of being a new mum in a pandemic
- Credit: Sam Emmens
Over the last year emotionally exhausted parents have had to bring up their babies in unimaginable circumstances – but what has it really been like to be a mum to a lockdown baby?
In January 2020, I remember being at a children’s birthday at a soft play centre, something that seems completely alien right now.
It was the first time I had heard mums and dads discussing coronavirus.
A jokey conversation that I think is fair to say none of us would be laughing about today.
Before I went on maternity leave in April, I wrote a couple of articles about being pregnant in a pandemic and also homeschooling my then five-year-old.
Now I find it too painful to read them back.
I wasn’t naïve enough to think coronavirus would go away after a couple of months.
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However, I didn’t expect to be returning to work potentially still homeschooling, with the additional challenge of looking after an almost-one-year-old with a penchant for chomping on cables.
Where has my maternity leave gone?
Since my son was born nine months ago it has often felt like I have been dragging myself through mud.
And anyone who has been on a lockdown walk lately will know there is a lot of that about!
I expected the birth of my little boy would lift all the frustration and loneliness that the isolation before his birth brought with it.
As a mum with a newborn I felt pressure ‘not to feel sad’ that I should be grateful I had a healthy baby.
Having a baby is a moment of incomparable happiness but even in ‘normal times’ mums struggle with their mental health.
The impact of coronavirus on new mums has meant their support system has been effectively shut down.
This starts from the hours after they have given birth when their birthing partners are sent home.
Mums have spent days in hospital after giving birth without being able to see their partner, their other children, or anyone else who would ordinarily visit for their first special cuddle.
I found the time I spent in hospital postpartum really tough.
Because I was a second-time mum I put an unfair expectation on myself that I would cope just fine.
In reality my arms ached from holding my new baby constantly, I missed my daughter and I was an emotional mess.
The relief I felt after leaving hospital was indescribable, luckily, we were able to enjoy the first weeks at home as a family.
During those weeks we had a few visits from close family members who would take a socially distanced peek at the baby from a deckchair in the back garden.
Then it wasn’t long before I found myself becoming obsessed with Boris Johnson’s press conferences.
Every time I would watch one, I would end up feeling angry that he would bang on about garden centres but give no indication of when I could let my mum hold my baby.
Parents who have had new babies in 2020 and 2021 have been confronted with moral dilemmas that would have been unthinkable in the heady days of 2019.
‘Should I let my mum hold the baby?’
‘Is it safe for her?’
‘Is it safe for the baby?’
‘Is it OK if she wears a face mask?’
‘Will she be upset if I don’t let her hold the baby?’
It was and still is, sadly, exhausting and it messes with your mind.
Frankly being a mum in a pandemic has messed with my mind a lot.
I feel guilty that I have spent the majority of my son’s life eating chocolate, drinking coffee and watching way too much news and taking up doom scrolling as a hobby.
When lockdowns have been eased it has taken time for me to psych myself up to meet friends and family again.
Even getting my son into his car seat and into the car has felt like a gladiator challenge at times.
Then inevitably another lockdown has come along and I feel guilt that I have isolated my baby and he is going to grow up shy and damaged because his mum did not handle the pandemic very well at all.
But I don’t want mums to think there is no support out there because there is, even if it can’t be given in a hug.
Contact with midwives and health visitors is limited but they are still there, doing their best.
Baby groups may not be running at the moment however many do have a presence on social media so you can feel connected that way.
I have found venting to a friend in the same situation has really helped me.
Also I want to reassure you that it definitely has not been all doom and gloom.
Thanks to the lockdowns, and my daughter having to isolate for two weeks back in October, my son has had so much extra time with his Dad and big sister.
We have all been so excited to see him wave and clap and crawl for the first time, over the past few weeks of lockdown 3.0.
Luckily, he finds face masks and video calls incredibly funny, which is obviously a big bonus right now.
And surely he will be a child genius considering the amount of ‘lessons’ he has been sitting in on!
There are good days as a lockdown mum, just plenty of bad days to go with them.
Support for mums in Suffolk
Get Me Out The Four Walls is a registered maternal mental health charity based in East Anglia
At the current time GMOTFW are running regular Zoom sessions which you can find out about on their Facebook page.
In 2020 Suffolk Libraries launched a new perinatal support service aimed at pregnant women and new parents in Ipswich and East Suffolk.
You can find out more about Me, myself and Baby on the Suffolk Libraries website.