The one beyond birth
The third in our series of three - life post birth in the midst of a global pandemic.
With the third lockdown in full swing, life post birth is still restricted. The usual flurry of visitors isn’t there, the family members travelling from far and wide to give cuddles and help out round the house isn’t happening, and many mums and dads are finding that they are navigating this uncharted territory on their own.
Without this usual network of support, the well-being of new parents is being tested more than ever. The invaluable social side of parenthood is limited, and more and more babies are going through their first months of life without seeing anyone outside their immediate circle.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but the pandemic is certainly not playing ball with this analogy. Both Leah and Amber, and their partners, have felt the impacts of this first hand, and while they have all tried to take as many positives from their experiences as possible, they have all faced challenges along the way.
“I found it really hard to deal with people wanting to hold her and me not being comfortable with it, but not really knowing how to say it.”
Arriving home from the hospital, Leah began to feel a lot more anxious about the virus. While the stream of visitors wasn’t as constant as it would have been pre-covid, people wanting to meet Erin was a nerve wracking time for Leah. She found that some people were very cautious and stayed away, but others seemed to forget that she was a vulnerable little baby, and Leah got very twitchy with people touching and stroking her. She wanted to protect her from the risk everyone brought with them.
“Usually there is a fair amount of support post birth, but due to Covid, this support was limited.”
Leah and Joe felt fortunate to have a close and very supportive family nearby, who helped as much as they possibly could. But due to lockdown, the opportunities to do so were more limited than they would have been.
It also made it hard for Leah to join any mum and baby groups, which meant that she missed out on the shared experience of dealing with a newborn and the invaluable support and social life this brings. As a new mum, being able to bounce around ideas, advice, and the struggles of newborn life makes you feel less isolated and alone with your worries. And the coffee dates are a lifeline. So this side of life post birth definitely took a toll on Leah’s well-being.
It wasn’t just Leah who missed out on some of the social side of new parent life, Joe also found elements of this tough. He missed out on those proud dad moments, not being able to show off his new little girl to friends and family as much as he would have liked to.
“I could just sit in my pyjamas guilt free and get myself comfortable at home.”
Leah found that being at home so much after the birth did have its positives too. Especially as Joe was able to spend quality time with her and Erin. Instead of the usual 2 weeks, Joe had 3 months at home, so he was able to help out so much more than he would have done if there hadn’t been a pandemic. Although, the downside to this was that they struggled to form any kind of routine until Joe went back to work.
As Leah reflects on the past 8 months, and looks to the future, she hopes that the positive experience of being pregnant and having Erin will overshadow any of the negative thoughts, feelings and experiences that came with the pandemic.
“It was crippling on my mental and physical health.”
After spending 6 days alone in the hospital with newborn twin girls, Amber found that the hit on her mental health had taken its toll, impacting the way she approached parenting for the first few weeks of the girls’ lives. And then without the same level of support networks you would normally have with a newborn when you get home from the hospital, post birth life was pretty challenging for her.
Luckily her husband, Jack, was able to spend more time with her and the girls at the beginning, which was definitely a silver lining to the experience. He was able to enjoy those precious early days and help Amber out round the house. However, when he did have to go back to work, Jack found it tough. He felt a lot of guilt that he couldn’t be there all the time and make up for the fact that no one else was able to really be there to help either.
“You can wear pyjamas all day and no bra, if that’s what you want, without any worry!”
Although not having people around to support her was hard, similar to Leah, Amber found that not having to be presentable for guests or worry that the house was tidy, felt like a bit of a bonus. In a sense, having fewer visitors was actually quite nice in the short term as it meant they felt less overwhelmed. They tried to enjoy the quiet moments as much as they could.
Like Leah, Amber was unable to join any mum and baby classes in person. In a bid to try and meet other new mums, Amber joined some online zoom classes. Although they were awkward at first, she found that they did help her feel less like she was going through this experience on her own. She found telling herself that this tricky time will pass, and the little ones won’t be any the wiser, helped her to cope.
“You can also take solace in that the little new additions won’t remember this period of their lives and will have plenty of opportunities to enjoy life and go on play dates when they are a little older.”