‘Raising a child without a village is doable – but lonely’: readers on the highs and lows of having a lockdown baby | Childbirth

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‘I can’t imagine having to physically go in to work with morning sickness’

I got pregnant right before lockdown in March 2020. I found pregnancy tough – for 14 weeks, I had morning sickness that felt like a constant hangover, and a lot of chronic fatigue throughout. Being able to work from home (and sometimes from my bed) allowed me to keep on top of things and remain as productive as usual. I can’t imagine having to go in to work with morning sickness (I honestly don’t know how so many women do it). For me, it definitely highlighted a need for employers to implement more flexible working for pregnant women. Anonymous, Washington DC

‘Raising a child without a village is doable, but lonely’

My baby was born in May 2020. At first, being in our little family bubble with no visitors undoubtedly helped us bond. But by the autumn/winter lockdowns, my husband was working long hours as a doctor and I learned that raising a child without a village is doable but miserable and so very lonely. I didn’t have the mental energy to do any of the things society expects (stopping breastfeeding, naps in a cot etc) so I just followed my instincts day to day. It was probably better for my baby, but now society is reopening and I have to return to work, it all feels very daunting. Grace, nurse, Leeds

‘We had time to adjust without visitors’

While there was anxiety when IVF was put on hold, once it resumed we found having a pandemic baby to be a largely positive experience. Working from home helped with IVF and pregnancy side-effects, and not seeing people gave us more time to look after our own emotional needs. In hospital, we got individualised care versus classes and, after the birth, we had time to adjust without visitors. Anonymous, healthcare worker, Sydney

‘I’ve been able to pitch in a lot more with nappy changes’

The idea that parents have to be exhausted all the time, I’ve learned, is not true. Because I’ve been working from home, and therefore don’t have to commute, we’ve both been able to get enough sleep. It’s also meant that, despite the paltry two weeks statutory paternity leave we are entitled to, I’ve been able to pitch in a lot more with things like nappy changes and putting my daughter down for naps. If it wasn’t for the lockdown, I’d have been out the door before the baby was ready to get up and would get home after she had been put down for the night. James Burch, civil servant, London

Shaza Brannon with her baby.
Shaza Brannon with her baby. Photograph: Shaza Brannon

‘All our baby needed in the early months was us’

What we have learned is simple: all our baby daughter, Penelope, needed in the early months was us! We didn’t have to worry about changing bags, the incessant bombardment of sleeping and feeding tricks and tips, or the need to save Uncle Jim’s embarrassment while breastfeeding. We were anxious that lack of socialisation would hinder her development but she has enjoyed meeting friends and family as restrictions ease. We are so lucky that, due to these unusual circumstances, we were given the opportunity to hunker down with our baby as a family. Shaza Brannon, chartered town planner, Rutland

‘It was agonising to visit my son for only four hours a day’

Having to work from home with a tiny baby has been challenging, but I’ve been so grateful to be here for my son’s first year. It’s made me think how much my father missed of my early life, and how much I would have missed if I’d been in the office, as well as how much harder it would have been for my wife to do this alone. On the flip side, it was so painful to miss the scans. Our son had to go back into hospital with jaundice after he was born, and it was agonising to be able to visit for only four hours a day. Anonymous, marketeer, London

‘I have fallen in love with my partner all over again’

My baby was born in March, just before the lockdown began. I did those early days without the support that new parents deserve, and though I wish it could have been better, I’m so proud of myself for figuring it out on my own. I have fallen in love with my partner all over again, because we really just had each other. We have never spoken as much, shared as much or worked together as much. It was the ultimate test of our relationship but we have emerged stronger, happier and more content. Anonymous, social worker, Bedfordshire

‘Every stage is a celebration, but it comes with a sense of mourning’

Having your first child is not an experience you ever get to have again, but having a lockdown baby has taken its toll on me. I’m starting to see it in my son, too: the hysterics when a family member we’ve only ever seen through FaceTime comes for a first cuddle; the nights after we go out where he is stressed and can’t sleep, as he’s only ever known these four walls. Every stage of growth is a celebration, but also comes with a sense of mourning – another stage that friends and family will never see. We are so grateful for our little boy, but if we had known the world we would be bringing him into – the lonely nights, the endless juggling of Zoom calls and feeds – we would have waited. Catrin Hampton, Wales

‘A trip to the supermarket provides ample entertainment’

We took our 10-month-old baby to the supermarket for the first time last week, after more than a year of click-and-collect or home delivery. We didn’t have to entertain her for more than an hour while she stared avidly around at her new environment, filled with more people than she had ever seen in her life. Only then did we realise how many hours of the day we were having to actively entertain her. I will never again complain about the need to do the weekly shop, pop to the recycling centre, visit the dentist etc – she has so much to learn from these everyday experiences. They are also a rare chance for her dad and me to switch off and just watch her take it all in. Anonymous, garden nursery worker, Scottish Borders

Suzie Whitehead, baker, Glasgow
Photograph: Suzie Whitehead

‘It’s been an incredibly tough time to be pregnant’

After having my second baby in December, I’ve realised it’s not harder with two kids, it was just easier the first time round because I was out meeting friends and family. I was distracted from the crying and constant feeding because I was jumping on and off trains with my son in his pram, going shopping or to baby classes and socialising. This time I felt like I was stuck staring at the same four walls, repeating the same routine day after day, especially in the winter months. It’s been an incredibly tough time to be pregnant, give birth and raise a baby, and I really wish this segment of the population had been offered more support. Suzie Whitehead, baker, Glasgow

‘Lockdown compounded every negative emotion’

I would never do this again. Lockdown compounded every negative emotion and it felt like there was nowhere to turn to apart from my four walls and my limited support bubble. GP and health visitor support was minimal but, with another child to care for (due to schools being shut), I just had to get on with it. I hated this maternity leave and I am dreading when my baby eventually goes to nursery as lockdown babies aren’t used to being around strangers. I don’t want to re-enter the world yet as I feel like it’s only now getting a bit better and I want more maternity leave. Anonymous, solicitor, London

‘It wasn’t what we had planned, but I will cherish these memories’

Laura Furness's baby son
‘As my baby approaches his first birthday and I gear up to return to work, I will cherish these memories.’ Photograph: Laura Furness

Navigating motherhood during a pandemic has been challenging, lonely, bewildering and exhausting. But, as we move out of lockdown, it is hard not to reflect on the experience positively and with a sense of pride. We did it, we survived and we are lucky to have a healthy, happy baby. We enjoy seeing his face light up as we introduce him to a world of new experiences: his first swim, his trip to a farm, his first visit to a pub. I have learned to trust my instincts and that I am resilient; to pause and appreciate the small things life has to offer. As my baby approaches his first birthday and I gear up to return to work, I will cherish these memories. Although it wasn’t what we had planned, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Laura Furness, doctor, Manchester

‘I’m grateful for my WhatsApp group of antenatal mums’

We had two lockdown baby boys: one born April 2020 and one born April 2021. Like many parents, we’d say there were pros and cons. Our parents live in Donegal and Orkney, so we weren’t able to introduce them to our first born until he was five months old. While it would have been good to have their help in the early days, the benefit of them meeting him a bit later was that he was much more interactive. There have been and still are times when I’d give anything to hand a baby over to my mum for an hour. The sense of longing to hold our boys is palpable from both sets of grandparents. But I’ve learned to be grateful for what we have, including the WhatsApp group of antenatal mums I met briefly before the first lockdown. No question is too silly and it’s usually answered quickly, no matter the time of day or night. Lydia, social worker, Edinburgh

Nia Lawal with her children.
Nia Lawal with her children. Photograph: Nia Lawal

‘I feel like I haven’t had the maternity leave I deserve’

I have learned that I am a sociable person – not having my friends and family around played havoc with my mental health. I questioned returning to university as I feel like I haven’t had the maternity leave I deserve. I suffer guilt because I did so much with my first child, yet my youngest has missed out. She may never know but this feeling will always be with me. I needed my partner during all my appointments, but this was taken away. I also needed my mum, but she has to shield and our baby doesn’t really know her, which I worry will affect relationships in the future. My daughter gets sensory overload wherever we go; she doesn’t know there is a world outside our house and bubble. Nia Lawal, student, Margate

‘It has been both wonderful and extremely difficult’

I had a baby a year ago in Italy, at the height of the pandemic. It has been wonderful but extremely difficult. Our baby still hasn’t met our families who are in the UK, which has been very hard. Zoom with a baby doesn’t work. There are no baby groups, support networks or cups of tea with friends, and appointments for anything have been hard to get. Aside from that, I can’t complain about the biggest joy in my life who has made the days go so fast and who I have loved being with at home. I just wish I could share him. Joanna, teacher, Italy

‘Taking my baby out terrifies me’

I never thought being pregnant would feel so lonely, and being a new mum was even harder. The perinatal mental health team were amazing, but restrictions meant they couldn’t visit face to face and all appointments were over the phone. Six months later, my maternity leave is already halfway done and my baby has still not had a cuddle from anyone other than me or my partner. Now that restrictions are finally starting to ease my anxiety is at an all time high. Taking my baby out terrifies me yet it should be the most natural thing in the world. Anonymous, nurse, Glasgow

‘We’ve been able to split childcare, feeds and nappy changes equally’

Ed Chilton with his partner and their baby, Margot.
Ed Chilton with his partner and their baby, Margot. Photograph: Ed Chilton

We are lucky. My wife and I retained our employment, received generous parental leave and we have enough space to be with (and escape) each other in comfort. Lockdown has meant we’ve been able to split childcare, feeds and nappy changes equally and, if this had not been the case, I would not have felt the bond as keenly as I do now with my daughter. The first month of Margot’s life was special. It snowed for five days straight and we had no visitors at all. Yes, we would have liked some things to have been different: a lack of health visits meant a potential tongue tie went unnoticed, breastfeeding was a huge struggle and the regimented Covid restrictions at the hospital made for a very traumatic transition during birth. But we realise that our postpartum family bonding could not have been stronger. In a perverse way, we have lockdown to thank. Ed Chilton, psychologist, London

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Source: The Guardian
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