Bringing a baby into the world is a life changing experience. But when life as we know it has already changed so significantly around us, we explore what impact this pandemic is having on new mothers, faced with raising a newborn in a reality far from the one they would have hoped for.
As this undefined period of isolation places restrictions on visitations and support networks, we hear from a new mum who shares her raw and honest experience during this challenging and emotional time.
You brought your first baby into the world a month ago, as a global pandemic was declared. Describe your state of mind going into the birth and your experience in hospital at that time?
To be honest, in the beginning, we were definitely one of the couples who thought this entire thing would “just blow over”. It wasn’t until we arrived at the hospital and checked in for our induction that we realised the situation was much bigger than we thought.
Signs were placed on every entrance to the doors of the hospital stating that no visitors were allowed during our stay. Obviously, this was pretty terrifying for brand-new, first time parents. We were also told that if my husband was to leave the hospital grounds, he may potentially not be allowed back in. Again, as you can imagine, as a brand-new mother, the thought of having no support person and no visitors was terrifying.
How have you handled not being able to have family or friends visit you and the baby – both in hospital and now at home?
This has been devastating. I think, as a mother expecting your first baby, you have so many expectations about how your “maternity leave” will play out. I foolishly imagined plenty of visits, lots of coffee dates and the ability to leave the house for catch ups. I imagined the support of friends in person, and my own mother to pretty much “live in our pockets” for the first couple of weeks.
To be very blunt, I feel ripped off, I feel cheated and I’m hurting more than I could ever describe. It’s lonely and incredibly isolating being a new parent with a brand-new baby at the best of times. Add this pandemic and forced isolation to the mix and it has probably been one of the hardest times in our lives.
Sure, I look at the positives – my husband is working from home, so I have built-in support available for longer than normal. There’s an extended “newborn bubble” – meaning I don’t have to pretend to be okay with an abundance of visitors when I’m actually exhausted and don’t feel like entertaining. I don’t have anywhere to be; no timeframes; no rush to do anything.
I’m okay with this when it’s my choice – but when the choice is taken away from you, it is incredibly upsetting.
Grandparents are often a huge support for new mothers with babies, but they can be considered a vulnerable demographic during this public health crisis and may need to restrict contact with others. Have any family members been able to help you with the baby, and if not, how are you getting by?
Let me start by saying our baby is the very first grandchild on both my husband’s side of the family and my side. My husband’s parents live in Melbourne and Cairns, respectively. They both had flights booked to see their grandson when he would have been about 7 days old. He’s now 5 weeks old and they are still yet to meet him, with absolutely no idea when they will even potentially have the chance to come and see us. I can’t even begin to describe it.
I cry often at the thought that they have basically been forced to stay away from their grandson. They miss out on newborn cuddles and first smiles. It is absolutely heartbreaking. If this pandemic continues and the lockdown remains the same, they could even miss out on seeing him crawl for the first time and say his first words.
We are incredibly lucky that in this day and age we have things like photo sharing and FaceTime. But it will never replace the face-to-face experience of the start of our baby’s life. They have been ripped off. And I worry constantly. What if this causes them to have less of a connection with him? My own parents didn’t even meet him until he had been home from the hospital for a week and even then, they wear masks every time they hold him.
It’s just so different to all the stories you hear and the information you read on what bringing a newborn home might be like. I can’t even imagine being in their shoes when they can’t kiss or smell their own grandchild. Let alone not being able to meet him until much later in his life.
I have definitely had my days when I just breakdown and cry. New mothers are vulnerable in general and the one thing I crave when I am most vulnerable is my own mother. But in this time with so much unknown, I didn’t want to risk my own newborn’s health for what I felt were selfish needs – me just wanting my mum.
Have you had to cut out any external support resources (such as groups) to be safe? Alternatively, have you found any online communities or resources to support new mums during this time?
Yes. I remember prior to the birth discussing with some of my girlfriends who have also just had babies, all the catch ups and “mums’ groups” that we would go to together. They are still yet to even meet my son and I have no idea when they might be able to. All community groups have been cancelled; all mum’s groups have been postponed.
Even the paediatrician has scheduled a tele-health consult for his 6-week check up! The ability for me to see the specialist and ask questions on the health and well-being of my son in person has been taken away from us. Even when we saw the GP at his one-week check-up we were snuck in a back entrance in full PPE.
A good thing to come out of this is that I have joined a whole bunch of “mums’ groups” on Facebook which I imagine will be good for general advice and questions.
I am also incredibly lucky that several of my friends had babies around the same time and new friends on social media platforms have reached out as well. So, one very positive thing from all of this is the relationships with people that I may have never formed, and old relationships that have strengthened.
It’s amazing to see new mums and mums-to-be band together through such a crazy time. It’s so comforting to know that we can message at any time with any questions we might have. We are all in this together!
How are you managing your mental and emotional wellbeing at home with a newborn during this challenging time?
I like to consider myself pretty strong (read stubborn) when it comes to my health and wellbeing. I am one of those people who bounce out of bed and clean the house even when I’m running a fever of 40 degrees. I’m very “tough love” and just like to get on with things.
This pandemic has certainly challenged me emotionally though. I am grateful to have my husband at home and I dread the day he has to return to the office, and we are left at home alone.
This has been tough – I’m not going to lie to you. I definitely see the good and I like to think of myself as “glass half full” type of girl, but it’s extremely hard not being able to see your friends and your family in such an exciting time in your life. We are social people; we are human; and it’s awful not being able to show off your newborn and share the cuddles.
We are really lucky to have such supportive and incredible people in our lives and very lucky to have modern technology to keep in touch. It’s brought new friends into our lives which I’m so grateful for and it’s definitely made us think outside the box and put more effort into our current relationships.
But I won’t lie when I say I’ll be glad when restrictions are lifted so we can go back to some sort of normality. It’s certainly going to be quite a story to tell our son one day!