Pregnant During a Pandemic: What it’s like

Giving birth; the one life event that can’t be cancelled, Zoomed, postponed, Whatsapped or live streamed. It’s about as IRL as you can get. Lucy talks to amazing three superwomen going through pregnancy in a pandemic…

Alice Sambrook-Ricards, 30, is a Freelance Editor and Writer. She gave birth on 18th May 2020.

What has it been like?

The pandemic hit in my third trimester, about the same time as I started to feel really pregnant for the first time. I know I’m lucky in that up until then, I’d had almost no pregnancy symptoms and my biggest problem had been trying to survive Christmas without Baileys and blue cheese. I was starting to wonder what all the fuss was about, when along came shooting groin and back pains, acid reflux, puffy ankles, breathlessness, scary growth scans, the daunting reality of expelling a baby out of my vagina and first-time parenthood. All of a sudden, I desperately needed cuddles from my Mum and sister – and I couldn’t have them. I could see the weeks up until birth stretching out before me without the comfort of the physical presence of family or friends, which at first made me feel pretty distraught.

But like everyone else, I’ve since adjusted to the new normal. I’ve found that dwelling on the negatives is not sustainable or helpful and I’ve seen that other people are going through much worse than me. Those first feelings of rising panic have been replaced by a gentle sadness, but I mainly feel grateful for my health, the health of my family, my safe and cosy home with my husband (sole source of cuddles, for now) and that my status in the ‘vulnerable’ category (as a pregnant woman) is only temporary.

I think I’ve been able to gain perspective on this by the fact that losing my dad three years ago is the most final thing I’ve ever known, and I’ll miss him forever. In comparison, I know there will be an end to this at some point and at least the rest of my family and friends are still existing in the world somewhere close by and always at the end of the phone.

What has been the best and worst thing?

The new and ever-changing hospital restrictions around birth partners and visitors to the hospital has been the worst thing. The thought of potentially having to go through some or all of my labour, have an induction or C-section alone has kept me awake and sweating a fair few nights. Hypnobirthing (by The Positive Birth Company), positive affirmations and the knowledge that those angelic beings that are midwives will always be there brings me some comfort and reprieve during those night-time anxiety spirals. Repeat after me: “I am a strong and capable woman”.

Also, it might seem trivial, but I was looking forward to feeling proud of my big round belly in public for once, rather than wishing it was less. However, there’s been no dressing my bump up in cute outfits and parading it all over town. Not getting to revel in the unique blossoming of my body and have loved ones make a fuss of my bump has been a little disappointing.

The positives about being pregnant in a pandemic are the constant close proximity of my bed, the sofa, the snack cupboard and the enforced slower pace of life that allows for simple pleasures and peaceful reflection.

What with the third trimester joys of perineal massage, hand expressing colostrum, buying all the equipment and feeling shattered by 3pm every day, I genuinely feel exhausted even looking at all the overly ambitious (now cancelled) social commitments that were in my calendar. I’m thankful that I can spend this time nesting without any FOMO because right now there is nothing going on to miss out on.

I feel so lucky that amongst the death and destruction and the momentous strangeness of a global pandemic, what is happening within my body is one of the most normal, natural and inherently joyful things. The knowledge of that little bean within me growing stronger every day is like the happiest secret I carry with me everywhere, and no pandemic is going to cancel, postpone or stop it from arriving.

What advice would you give to any other mum’s to be?

Even though pregnancy yoga and antenatal courses might seem like they wouldn’t be as effective over zoom, they really have been essential in giving me a routine, keeping me sane and focused and allowing me to connect with other pregnant people in the same position.

Self-Care Saviours

Building nests with all the extra pillows and duvets I own, embracing the fleecy stretchy loungewear and no make-up look, long baths, good books, getting all the extra sleep I can and not ever denying myself cake or ice cream.

Alice Sambrook-Ricards (Left) Bethany Fisher (Right)

Bethany Fisher, 30, is the Founder of Tiger Moth Bridal Design. She gave birth on 27th March 2020.

What has it been like?

It’s been an emotional rollercoaster! I gave birth on the 27th of March which was at the very start of lockdown. It was so surreal going into the hospital where everyone was in PPE. My birth experience was made way more stressful as the hospital were so short staffed the maternity unit was closed (which meant no birthing pool which I had hoped for!). On arrival I had to wait two hours in reception before being seen whilst having extremely painful contractions in the waiting room. Following this I was told I was 3cm dilated, normally at this point I’d have my own room but unfortunately they were so short of beds I had to go into a ward with four others who had already had their babies. This also meant I couldn’t have any drugs apart from paracetamol which I threw up 20 mins after taking because of the pain! Finally, when the time came we were given a private room and a midwife, the midwives and doctors were absolutely amazing, we were fully in awe and so grateful to be in their care.

The best and worst bits

The worst part for me is not being able to introduce little Orla to my parents, she is their first grand daughter they are absolutely dying to meet her! She’s 6 weeks old now and is already growing out of some of the cutest little outfits which no one will get to see her in now. However, it’s so worth it to know that we’re all safe and well and in a few weeks time (hopefully!) she’ll be able to meet them!

The best bits – my husband Eddie is working from home! I feel like usually Dads get a raw deal out of maternity leave but he’s getting loads of Daddy time with Orla which is absolutely amazing. Also the support from our friends and family has been amazing. Friends doing our shopping for us and making us meals which they’re leaving on the doorstep.

Advice to mums to be

Get sleep where you can! Give yourself the first month to be a total slob and take people up on their offers for help. Treat yourself to some nice comfy pjs (preferably black!)

Self-care saviours

Spritz for bits (not glam but essential if having a natural birth!) Nipple balm. If breastfeeding those nips are going to have a rough ride especially in the early days so lube them up!

Hettie Holmes, 31, is the co-founder of DOSE. Her due date is 10th November 2020.

What has it been like?

Attending my 12 week scan without my husband there was pretty nerve racking – especially as my 12 week scan with my first baby came with complications. Sonographers don’t tend to allow video calls inside the room whilst the ultrasound is taking place so my husband wasn’t able to be part of the experience. All of my midwife check ups so far have been over the phone instead of in person. They usually check the baby’s heartbeat in these appointments so for reassurance I asked my midwife to visit my house and listen in, which was so nice for my husband to experience. She went out of her way to come and put my mind at rest, which I am so grateful for.

What advice would you give to any other mum’s to be?

Sign up to a virtual yoga class to find a community of new mums – especially if you’re a first time mum, this sort of support network is invaluable. I attend one with Croyde Yoga every Tuesday, and even though it’s a lot slower than my usual practice, it provides an opportunity to connect with my baby, which I rarely get a chance to do. It’s a lot more hectic when you have a baby already and are trying to juggle work on top. Invest in a swiss ball and a resistance band – the only gym equipment you need in pregnancy in my opinion. Pregnacare supplements from Vitabiotics are also a must. I’ve also been doing home workouts with the Jennis fitness app.

Self-care saviours

I am obsessed with Aurelia’s Probiotic Skincare Cell Revitalise Day Moisturiser, By Sarah London Organic Facial Oil and Body Oil. Both are pregnancy safe brands and leave my skin glowing. Aurelia do a natural range for babies also.

Main image – Shuttershock

By Lucy

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Hettie is the editor and co-founder of DOSE. A keen runner, she’s also partial to a blast of high-intensity and hot yoga. A country girl at heart, she divides her time between London and the lush rolling hills of North Devon. When she’s not jetting off on her next adventure, Hettie can be found in a candle-lit alcove with a laptop, a spaniel and a full bodied Malbec.

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