Our mental health ambassador Courtney has been brave enough to share her journey of parenthood through COVID19.
Sitting alone in A&E after my 12-week scan worrying something was wrong with my baby and in pain I was reminded that this pregnancy journey was going to be anything but 'normal' as my partner was forced to wait outside in the car at 1am.
I found out I was pregnant in July 2020, right at the height of the pandemic as I just started a new job in retail. Excited as I was, the news about COVID-19 was a constant reminder that this pregnancy would be a very different experience than I ever thought it would be. Scans alone, no baby shower, no celebrations, and labour alone were just some of the issues that I worried about over the coming months and that's exactly what happened.
Being pregnant was such an amazing experience (bar pulling over every morning wondering if today was the day I would be sick on the side of the road!) I got to spend more time with my partner, preparing for the baby's arrival and spent time relaxing. However on the other hand I lived groundhog day every day. Unable to visit baby stores I was forced to buy everything online without seeing it which was made more difficult by Brexit stopping many retailers shipping to NI. I went to work where I faced the fear that every person I interacted with could possibly affect not only my health but my baby's and I spent time at home alone while my partner worked unable to visit family, friends or take myself off for a coffee.
This was my first time experiencing all of these things, my first pregnancy and COVID robbed me of the joy that normal mothers get to feel and experience. In times of joy and times of fear I was alone. Visiting hospital for reduced movements and having to leave my partner outside as I sat masked up in a hospital room alone hooked up to machines to monitor the two of us. All of these 'precautions' just chipped away at my mental health over the coming months, I was always alone. This was exacerbated as my phone pinged on Christmas eve as I was heading out the door to drop off presents to family and I read the words "CLOSE CONTACT: PLEASE ISOLATE FOR THE NEXT 7 DAYS". I cried, this meant I would miss Christmas with my family. Being able to spend time with them that I hadn't been able to for months as I had only just returned home from 7 months in Australia in March 2020.
My waters broke on the 17th of March 2021. I arrived 35 minutes later and due to COVID guidelines I was asked to sit outside until there was space. I sat in the car just before midnight with my waters continuously breaking for 45 minutes. I was then escorted to the entrance and my partner had to return to the car. I was assessed for over an hour while my partner waited outside, I was to be induced the next night.
Once I arrived back my partner was allowed in and we were escorted to a private room, the induction then began at 2am and my partner was told he would now need to leave and wait outside or go home until the morning. He had been with me in a private room for over 3 hours and now was told he would have to leave because of COVID. I sat in the room without a way to contact nurses having contractions and unable to walk around the ward until 8am when someone came to check on me. Luckily enough when I was moved to the delivery suite my partner was allowed straight in and I'd never been happier to see anyone!
Emily arrived on the 20th March at 1.20am. Due to being induced I would have to stay in at least 24 hours, my partner could visit for 1 hour during this time. 1 hour to see his new-born daughter. When we got home my only saving grace was that due to COVID there was no line of visitors or guests waiting to see Emily. Anyone had to call or text or come see her through the front window which let me relax and recover instead of worrying about other people and allowed the 3 of us to spend time together just us.
During this time, I leant on my friends and family immensely for support. My partner was my rock and communication became key as we struggled to navigate having a baby in a time where he couldn’t come to appointments and get advice and I sat alone not knowing what to ask. My midwives and health visitors became so much more important as I was seeing them less and less, but they were aware of how expectant mothers were struggling through this time alone and took the time to make sure every worry and anxiety was put to rest and that I felt supported.
Since having my daughter I have began taking anti-depressants and attending therapy as my mental health took a dip after giving birth, COVID had stopped baby classes, it had closed coffee shops and cafes, it had made me weary about allowing even my best friends from holding my daughter in a time where I should have been at my happiest but thankfully with a good support system everything is looking up and getting back to normal.
According to Unicef approximately 116 million babies were born under the shadow of COVID. That’s not including any miscarriages or abortions. That’s millions of women and families who have had to navigate the additional restrictions associated with the pandemic. Millions of children whose first few months and years have been entirely different to that of their siblings. Children who are approaching toddlerhood and haven’t met grandparents or extended families.
The ‘But Not Maternity’ movement began in the UK as an outcry from women forced to labour alone. To attend appointments alone and to miscarry alone while hairdressers and pubs opened. In a survey of 15,000 women, it was found that 90% felt hospital restrictions were having a negative impact on their mental health. 97% saying that the restrictions have increased their anxiety around childbirth. Birth trauma can be a cause of PTSD even without having to experience the birth alone. The impact of these restrictions on women and their families is enormous and cannot be underestimated long term.
To read more about PTSD, you can see our full post here.
For any other parents struggling please reach out and talk to someone. family members, friends, health visitors, midwives. or your GP.
ParentingNI.org - 0808 8010 722
PaNDASfoundation.org.uk - 0808 1961 776
If you think you might be suffering PTSD, The Flawed Journey provides a FREE 20 minute consultation which can help in finding the best care for you.
For 24/7 and emergency resources please click here