Becoming a parent for the first time is a bit of a crazy rollercoaster under any circumstances! Excitement and fear going into the unknown are just a couple of emotions expectant parents face. But being pregnant and giving birth during a global pandemic brings with it even more unexpected challenges to navigate, including sharing the birth journey with loved ones.
We had a chat with Amber, who’s beautiful little baby, Maisie, was born at the end of January. Amber has kindly shared with us her story and experience of becoming a new mother during lockdown — from appreciating the lack of FOMO to hospital restrictions.
The ups, the downs, and what she wishes others had told her about parenthood!
MySunshine: As a first-time parent, what was your experience of pregnancy in general? Was it as you expected it to be?
Amber: My pregnancy was actually very easy — nothing like I expected. I expected swollen ankles, fat fingers, immobility etc. But I still went to the gym, lifted weights and kept fit, then walked 5k a day in later pregnancy. I think I had it really easy.
MySunshine: Oh wow, that’s great — it must have been sort of a nice surprise!
Amber: Yeah, exactly! I was wondering if maybe my pain threshold was just really high… So I could cope with the aches and pains.
MySunshine: And how about being pregnant during lockdown?
Amber: Lockdown has also been fantastic… In the most selfish of ways. I haven’t had to struggle with all my friends going to concerts, holidays, festivals and beer gardens without me.
So it was very easy to not drink, and I didn’t have the ‘fear of missing out’. I’ve also been working from home, so I could go for a nap on my lunch break! And morning sickness was easy because I was at home and close to a bathroom.
I didn’t need to worry about travelling to see people, so everything was at my own pace.
MySunshine: Did you find it lonely at all? Or were you happy being able to call and video people to stay in touch?
Amber: I guess it was lonely at times because we were so restricted in what we could do. It usually had to be outdoors, which meant I would have to drive ages to see a friend and then be outside — and then pregnancy tiredness would set in. So I wouldn’t do a few things. It wasn’t as simple as popping into a cafe and hanging out.
MySunshine: For most couples, pregnancy is a shared journey. Was your partner able to go with you to medical checkups, or did you have to go alone due to COVID restrictions?
Amber: I had to go alone. I didn’t mind going alone to maternity appointments, but it would have been nice to have James (my partner) there for the scans. (They changed the rules shortly after mine).
We booked a private scan so James could see the little one, which I wasn’t too upset about because, in my opinion… Why would you be upset to pay to see your baby? I wish he could have come to the first maternity appointment too, as it’s very nerve-racking — even for me, and I’m quite confident!
Giving birth during lockdown
MySunshine: Let’s face it, birth is a daunting — if magical — prospect! How was your labour experience? Did you have your baby in hospital?
Amber: The birth was hard. I was induced so was in the hospital for four days and, due to Covid restrictions, James was only allowed in during certain visiting hours and limited time around the birth. It was quite lonely at some points.
It sounds stupid, but my phone was a lifesaver — I’ll always remember to take a 3-metre cable at any time I go into hospital!
MySunshine: That doesn’t sound stupid at all! It must have been tough not having your partner around the whole time.
Is there anything you wish you’d known about the birth process and early weeks of motherhood before? Did anything unexpected that came up that you feel you could have been more prepared for if you’d known?
Amber: Most articles and advice don’t really include any of the ugly stuff — such as, when your waters break, you’ll be drenched… So I wish I had more giant granny pants and another pair of comfy black joggers!
Oversized, easily-accessible clothing, too, as you don’t truly realise just how many times you have to whip your knickers off for an internal examination. No one tells you that you also probably won’t be able to poop for a week afterwards… Stuff people just don’t talk about!
I also wish someone told me that you can ask the midwife for all kinds of help, ask them to show you how to change your baby’s nappy, ask them to help you express milk prior to the birth of your baby, ask them to butter your toast in hospital if you can’t!
I didn’t ask them for enough help because I wasn’t quite sure what their limits of the profession are… You don’t exactly want to insult them by asking them to help you change your baby’s nappy if that’s not what they do.
Being a first-time mum
MySunshine: Wow, yeah, I guess there are a lot of things that are skimmed over, especially on TV and in the media.
Congratulations again, and welcome to the world, Maisie! She’s just beautiful. What do you feel is the best thing about being a new mum?
Amber: The best thing about being a new mum is being the first person that gets to see all the progress and milestones with your newborn.
MySunshine: That’s lovely, it must be very rewarding. And what have you found most challenging?
Amber: The most challenging thing is all the effort and man-hours you have to put in you help your baby reach that progress. My baby cried for two weeks straight, and I honestly nearly lost the will to live. Listening to a baby scream whenever they’re not being fed or sleeping is so hard, but it does come to an end.
It’s also difficult losing your ‘freedom’. For the first three months, the baby needs you at all times. They don’t really learn anything, so you can’t start trying to teach the baby routines. They just need constant feeding, changing and rocking to sleep, so it’s difficult to do anything for yourself.
I haven’t drawn a picture in the longest time… and she’s only 6 weeks old! I pulled up at the supermarket the other day, then decided not to go in because she looked like she was about to turn fussy, and I couldn’t deal with getting the pushchair out and trying to put her in there then pushing her round crying… Something I could have easily done before having a tiny baby.
MySunshine: What are you most looking forward to about the next few weeks and months with Maisie (whether that’s still in lockdown or once restrictions are lifted!)
Amber: I’m just looking forward to being able to take the baby out to do normal things, such as going to the shops!
Although we can technically do that under restrictions, it’s more down to the fact that it’s difficult to get out with a newborn. Her belly is so small that she needs feeding often. So by the time we get to the shop, it’s time to feed again! I can’t wait until she can go without feeding for a bit longer so we can be less restricted in terms of where and when we go places.
MySunshine: Yes, I think that’s perhaps another reality people don’t necessarily tell you about: the extra time you need to get anything done! However, it sounds like it’s definitely worth it, seeing your little one grow and thrive.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Amber. All the best to you, James and Maisie — and hopefully, it won’t be long until you can whizz around the supermarket!
The past year has brought a lot of uncertainties and questions, particularly for those expecting a new addition to the family. Will my partner be allowed to baby scans? Will I be able to see my friends and family while I’m pregnant?
Hopefully, the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us and things will start getting back on track again. Bring on the baby showers and newborn cuddles! In the meantime, it’s important to stay connected with our loved ones and support networks. Why not share your pregnancy updates and baby milestones with your nearest and dearest on your MySunshine timeline?