A Pandemic Pregnancy: My Thoughts on the Maternity Restrictions

It appears that the NHS have revised their restrictions on maternity appointments, labour and birth, which now means that expectant mums in England are allowed to have one person with them at all times, particularly during the birth of their baby and their immediate postnatal period. At 30 weeks pregnant myself, I’m happy about this. I really am… but I personally believe that this should have been the case all along. In my opinion, there shouldn’t have ever been a requirement for the #ButNotMaternity campaign, or for these revisions to be made.

Pregnancy can be very surreal and overwhelming for a woman, especially when it is happening for the first time, with her body and mind undergoing transformations like never before. You can read all of the books and blogs out there, and you can take advice from every woman in the world, but nobody really knows what’s in store for you personally. It’s an amazing experience, but unique to you, and naturally quite scary. In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s a whole new level. My personal experience so far has been a lonely one. I always imagined that when I fell pregnant, it would be like it was for my friends that have had babies before me. They would be able to feel my baby kick, like I was able to feel some of theirs. They would be able to sit and look at my baby scans and videos, like I did with some of them. I would have a big baby shower surrounded by all of the ladies I love, just as they did. We would get plenty of special photos together, their hands sitting happily on my tummy. The reality in 2020, of course, has been somewhat different.

When I first saw the word “pregnant” flashing up at me, my heart went into overdrive. I didn’t know it could beat that fast. My Nan’s heart had stopped on 2nd April and mine had consequently broke. She had the biggest, most beautiful heart. I had so much love for her in mine, and it sounds strange, but when I lost her, it felt like mine physically slowed down. It only seemed to speed back up again when I learned of the little life growing inside of me. I’ll never be able to explain how happy it made me to hear my baby’s heartbeat ticking away for the first time. It made it all so much more real. I’m sure it’s amazing for any mum-to-be, but when you’ve been grieving, it’s beyond words. My worst year immediately improved. It was as though the cracks in my heart were healing as I listened to his. I sobbed with relief, love and gratitude. My husband Darren wasn’t allowed to be there. It was a beautiful moment that he missed. Sadly, it wasn’t the only one. In fact, if it wasn’t for private clinics allowing us to book and attend scans together, then he wouldn’t have seen his baby at all.

There are, unfortunately, the difficult experiences too. On two occasions, I’ve been called up to the hospital for emergency checks on me and my baby. Both times the midwives have asked routine questions and then left me to wait for a consultant. Both times I’ve lay on the bed, shaking with fear that I was about to lose someone else that I love – the tiniest little someone, physically closer to my heart than anyone else has ever been. Both times I’ve cried, frightened to read the posters on the wall, and frantically texting my husband, who again, wasn’t allowed to be there. The care I received was second to none, and thankfully everything was okay with our boy, but Darren should have been there to hear that first-hand, rather than sitting outside in our car, receiving updates via text. We should have been holding hands and supporting each other, but we weren’t physically allowed. For some women, things won’t be okay, and I can’t even begin to imagine their pain as they receive that information alone.

Everything about my pregnancy has had to be “virtual”. None of my work colleagues or uni class mates have actually seen me. Whenever I’ve asked my friends for advice, it’s been through Facebook or Instagram. None of them have been able to share special moments like feeling my bump. My baby shower plans had to be cancelled and instead we had a video call. Our antenatal classes have been the same. I’ve understood and accepted the reasons. I actually think I’ve been really patient and understanding when it comes to restrictions. When my Nan passed, we were only allowed ten guests at her funeral. She was a very particular lady who knew what she wanted, even when it came to her own passing. She had said to us “I don’t want everyone crying. I want a party!”. I had promised that we’d do that for her. But when the time came, I found myself stood reading her eulogy to an empty chapel. I kept glancing at her coffin as she lay next to me, and at the nine family members that stood as far apart as possible in front. There were a few supermarket flowers where heaps should have been. None of her extended family were allowed to be there. Not a single friend either. Unsurprisingly, we were all crying. Afterwards, we went home separately. No party. No wake. No nothing. My beautiful Nan didn’t get her wish and I couldn’t keep my promise. It felt so unfair, but I understood. The restriction made sense to me, however difficult it might have been for me and my loved ones to experience.

The same cannot be said for the restriction on partners attending maternity appointments and births. I have never understood the requirement. Even before I was pregnant. In my town, we have been able to go out to eat pretty much since summer. More often than not, we have had the option to go to the cinema, or to go to get our hair and nails done. But it’s only now that our partners can be present to support us in the scariest experience of our lives. The same partners that live with us, might I add. The same partners that it is considered safe to self-isolate with.

As I’ve said, I’m happy about the news. For a long time I’ve been worrying that Darren will have to leave the hospital right after I give birth, as that’s what we’ve been prepared for. For me, it would mean the most important person being clawed away when I am at my most physically and mentally vulnerable. For him, it would mean leaving his wife and tiny newborn son, to sit at home, and do nothing but worry and wait. On a personal level, I’m relieved and thankful that he will be there with me whenever our boy makes his appearance. But it doesn’t change the fact that so many other women have had to go through difficult appointments alone, and that thousands of new parents will remember their baby’s birth as a time of stress and panic when it needn’t have been.

The revisions are positive, but I maintain that the restrictions shouldn’t have ever been in place. Hasn’t 2020 been stressful and uncertain enough for everyone, particularly expectant mothers? Isn’t pregnancy scary enough without having support pulled away? To any woman that’s experienced a maternity appointment, labour or birth alone, to anyone that has witnessed a precious moment without their partner or worse still gone through a horrific one, and to any partner that’s missed something significant or felt helpless at any point – you have my absolute respect. I’m sorry that the revisions won’t benefit you now, but you can rest assure that you are strong and that you made it through your experience. I really hope you’re proud of that.

firstaidforlife.co.uk

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