I think everyone can agree life has been challenging in many ways since the Coronavirus pandemic began. The disruption caused by multiple lockdowns and the inability to go about our normal lives. Not being able to visit family or spend time with friends. It has been a very unique and tough time for all in many ways so I wanted to describe how it affected our journey through multiple pregnancies and our first born son.
It was the first week of March 2020, just as the pandemic was beginning to intensify across the world. I had been away for a few days on a work trip to Amsterdam and it was becoming noticeable that concerns were rising. People had not started wearing masks but I had been unable to buy any anti bacterial hand sanitizer in all of London, Brussels and Amsterdam, the panic buying had begun!
I returned home and over the next few days myself and partner received the joyous news that she had become pregnant, we were over the moon to say the least. Due to the rising news stories and talk of what could be to come, the happiness was mixed with a degree of anxiety as to how we may fair in this situation. At this point both of us were still commuting into London on multiple forms of public transport so we felt susceptible to the risk of infection. There had been very little studies on the virus or the long term effects so the possible risk to a pregnant woman and baby were concerning. Thankfully my office closed that week and hers shortly after, just in time for the first national lockdown.
Due to the pregnancy we took the first lockdown very seriously, stuck to food deliveries where possible and barely ventured out of the flat. The only time we did was for hospital medical check ups related to the progress of the pregnancy. Hospital visits were surreal during lockdown, we used Pembury and from my experience the place was a ghost town. All visitors or patients were turned away as much as possible unless critical due to the risk of Coronavirus unknowns. This made it feel eerily quiet from the outside, even more so when you are expecting quite the opposite. Only my partner was allowed to enter the building and I had to wait in the car, in an empty car park, one that would usually be filled to the brim. It’s again a surreal experience to be expecting a child yet not be allowed to attend any appointments, it makes the whole situation feel less real as you only see the outcome of those appointments via messages or photos of scan monitors etc. It’s a very nail biting wait on hearing the progress and updates from your partner when you’re not by their side physically. These appointments and ventures to A&E for sporadic advised check ups often take a while too, on one occasion I sat in a dark car park, rain pouring down beside our puppy for 5 whole hours whilst a shift change occurred. Unfortunately if you visit mid shift change it’s pot luck as to if you might be seen within an hour or 5 but that’s just how it is as they’re understandably busy.
Heartbreakingly it was during one of these check ups that I learnt while in the car via Whatsapp that our pregnancy had failed to progress past the first trimester. Both of us were devastated and we had to update our families without the ability to be with them for any sort of comfort or reassurance. I went straight back to work, on reflection I should have taken longer to process the events. The next few weeks in the midst of the lockdown were tough for both of us.
Even though we had a very sad outcome from our first attempt we were advised that a lot of couples go through miscarriages during the first pregnancy, it’s a lot more common than you would think. Many people choose to keep their experiences private which is totally fine but I’d like to be open so others who go through similar experiences can relate and know that it’s hopefully not the end of the journey. A useful piece of advice we received was that if you try again shortly after, the odds of a successful second pregnancy are much higher.
It was at this time we decided we definitely wanted to try again and whilst recovering bought a little puppy and listed our flat for sale. Talk about doing all of the big life changes at once… oh and we got engaged in February, so 2020 was turning into somewhat of a busy year even with the pandemic!
A few months later and we again had the exceptionally happy news that we were expecting. At this point in time the lockdown rules had been slightly eased so we could distanced visit family and share some of the emotions. All appointments were still limited to no partners so I still had to await updates from the car park. We did however pay for private scans and that allowed me to join and see first hand our teeny baby on the ultrasound screen, that was special and brought me a lot closer into the journey.
Again due to Coronavirus and the unknowns we were still taking it very cautiously, only ever distanced visiting people, delivered shopping, masks and lots of antibacterial hand washes, etc. At this time this was the norm and everyone was doing the same. Some family members were still at increased risk so it was quite rare they managed to share the in person experience of being able to feel the baby or in the future when he would start to kick and wiggle around more but for the safety of him that was a sacrifice we all agreed as a family was correct.
To stay sane we met up with a few friends at this point, again distanced and in a safe manner to not put ourselves or anyone else at any risk. One particular day we visited a friend at a park, this was during the later stages of the first trimester so we were very much worried about the risk of making it past the first trimester due to our previous experience. Just as we sat down to have takeaway pizza from a local restaurant in boxes, my partner experienced heavy bleeding, immediately this was a huge concern so we left little puppy with our friend (thank you again for taking such great care of him even if he did whizz on your rug…!!) and headed to the nearest A&E department. They saw my partner quickly due to the situation and had her wait in a room for a doctor. At this point the nurse told my partner I was allowed to join her but the security guard on the door of the hospital wasn’t so keen so there was a short back and forth via Whatsapp before the nurse came and permitted my access. Some time passed as we awaited in despair. Heartbreakingly again the doctor informed us that it was likely a miscarriage and to prepare for the worst. As it was a Sunday there was noone around that was able to perform an ultrasound so instead they rang our local hospital and booked us in a few days later for an ultrasound. There is no suspense worse than having to wait days for an ultrasound to check the status of your unborn child. We spent a few days together accepting the worst had happened.
By some miracle at the ultrasound a few days later we were both absolutely relieved and ecstatic to hear that our baby was fine, his heart was beating and everything looked okay! It turned out to be a misdiagnosis and in fact caused by a hematoma, something that happens in around 3% of pregnancies. The result was my partner had to rest for a few months to heal fully and lower the risk to a normal level.
Over the next few months the situation stabilized, going into the new year of 2021 I still couldn’t attend any appointments but as they progressively went more smoothly the anxiety of the updates lowered and we continued into the last trimester.
Before we knew it, we were on our way to the hospital in the middle of the night. As with everything during this pregnancy the birth wasn’t as smooth as desired. My partner had opted for a natural, stress free birth using a birthing pool but after the first 9 hours that option was abandoned and moved toward an epidural to relieve the discomfort onset mainly by tiredness. Another 9 hours passed and it was decided the little one was being very stubborn and an emergency caesarean section was the best option. After some convincing the medical staff managed to coax me into the operating theatre and after a few moments of sitting beside my partner we had our tiny son in our arms and the last year instantly became worth every second.
Due to the stress of the birth our son was taken into neonatal for some extra care and antibiotics. We stayed in postnatal and visited him throughout the day. During Covid birth partners were not allowed to leave the hospital so once you have entered pre birth, you have to stay in the hospital. There are special exceptions to this rule, for example we only packed enough clothes for 2-3 days so after 5 days I had to get special permission to go home without seeing anyone and just to replenish supplies. Thankfully Pembury hospital has a Costa Coffee and WHSmiths which you we were allowed to visit anytime and those treats came in very handy. Another bonus was as birth partners can’t leave the hospital they were fed too, this meant I got breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday and I have to say the food was deliciou. I probably ate better than I would at home!
On day 2 our newborn was discharged and joined us in our postnatal room, which meant we had to start feeding and changing nappies which made it feel instantly more real. It wasn’t until day 7 when his course of antibiotics finished that they allowed us to leave as a family and return home, a euphoric feeling that we had completed the first stage of this journey as parents. Also a relief we no longer had to wake at 5:45am to take him for those antibiotics.
Since his return home rules have been relaxed even further so we have been able to welcome family and friends to distanced visit. Again we have been overly careful with masks for visitors when inside as babies are susceptible to all sorts of illnesses due to their weak immune systems anyway. As parents you’re working 24/7 to keep your baby fed, changed and not crying so any avoidable illnesses are a must to keep up with that routine!
I want to give a special mention to the NHS. The care, dedication and attention we received was first class, especially in the midst of a pandemic. The extra care taken by staff to encourage myself when squirmish and hesitant to join my partner in theatre was a special touch, to be there and hear his first cry and immediately be passed him was a moment I’ll never forget and for those staff that took the time to reassure me was way above what they needed to do. To all the NHS staff we were privileged enough to interact with, you were truly fantastic, thank you.
If you are ever in a similar situation or you came across this blog post and would like to chat about anything then please do get in touch, I would be more than happy to give any advice or support to you. You can comment here or provide a place to get in touch and I’ll send you a message.