Everyone is experiencing a different version of the current pandemic. Some are still doing an excellent job in the health sector, collecting our rubbish and serving us in supermarkets. Others are at work or working from home in a way they’ve never done before. A lot are sunbathing in their garden and still earning 80% of their wage. Some don’t have gardens. Others don’t have jobs anymore. Parents are trying to home school their children, or just stop them from interrupting important Zoom meetings. A lot of people are on their own. Some are stuck with people with whom they don’t get on. Others are isolating alongside abusive partners. Unfortunately, some people are very ill, and some are not allowed to visit sick family members. We are in this together but in a peculiarly separate way.
I am 34 weeks pregnant.
I first found out I was pregnant in November 2019 — after spending the weekend getting drunk at a whisky festival — oops! At that time, I definitely wouldn’t have believed if you told me how the end of my pregnancy was going to pan out!
At my first hospital appointment, I was told I was so low risk I could have a home birth if I wished. In my area, home births are now not allowed. This is due to a shortage of midwives and not being able to guarantee an ambulance transfer should something go wrong during delivery.
Everything was plain sailing! Well, of course for the first 3 months I was feeling like shit, but didn’t actually throw up, so that’s a win, right?! Tiredness and nausea made work a struggle some days, but I had nothing to worry about. I “enjoyed” a booze-free Christmas with all the usual gatherings. We could tell our close friends and family our news face to face with hugs and kisses! The term “social distancing” hadn’t even been thought of yet.
On my return to work in January, I broke the news to my boss, and slowly we started planning for my maternity leave. I chose a finish date and began sorting out the responsibilities I needed to pass on. My finish date is now just 4 weeks away, but I haven’t been at work for the past 11 weeks!
I had the usual ultrasound scans at 12 and 20 weeks. We found out we are expecting a boy and still had nothing to worry about regarding his health or development. My husband was able to come to the scans with me to see his unborn child. If it had been now, he would need to wait in the car park.
My husband and I booked ourselves a “babymoon” to Rome around Easter time. Rome of all places! We watched it shut down as one of the areas the pandemic hit hardest just a few weeks before we were due to visit.
Then on the 23rd March, when I was 24 weeks pregnant, the UK went into complete lockdown. Both my own and my husband’s workplaces closed. We were told to stay at home and to only leave to buy essentials from the few remaining shops open. We weren’t allowed to visit any friends or family and needed to keep our distance from everyone. I was both in disbelief and utterly terrified. We watched too many news updates thinking surely we’ll be back to normal soon. The death toll rising all the time.
My pregnancy books pushed for meals out and cinema trips because “you’ll have no time to spend just the two of you once the baby comes!” It told me to relax and book a specialist pregnancy massage. That swimming was the best form of exercise and that my friends and family would throw me a brilliant baby shower! All of these activities — impossible.
Sometimes I still feel robbed of these fantastic experiences. When the anxiety creeps in, and I am missing seeing my family in real life, I feel entirely lost. This is not how I thought my pregnancy would go!
I should be getting in people’s way at work due to my expanding size. Shopping for gigantic maternity trousers and cute baby clothes. I should be getting fussed over and looked after by everyone, not just my husband. I should be that annoying woman in the bar asking for non-alcoholic wine and decaf coffee. Listening to the staff apologise for not being able to meet my demands! There should be antenatal classes and pregnant lady yoga groups in my evenings. People giving up their seat on the bus for me, letting me skip the queue for the toilets and helping me pick up my dropped train ticket because I can’t bend over far enough.
But life is different now.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, I just hope we reach it in time.
This week I went to my local health centre for my 34-week midwife appointment. By this stage, I should see my midwife every couple of weeks, but it’s been slowed to every month. She greets me with smiling eyes, I can’t see the rest of her face under the blue mask. We sit at opposite corners of a tiny office as she tells me of the changes she’s making to my birth plan due to current circumstances. All the usual tests and measurements are carried out, thankfully, with positive results.
I am handed a leaflet containing details of online antenatal classes I can access. An appointment is made for me at 38 weeks. My baby might have already arrived by then!
We are being particularly cautious about lifting the lockdown in Scotland. For me, that’s a good thing. I am optimistic in 4–6 weeks when my baby decides to stop punching me from the inside and makes his way into the world, that things will have changed for the better. We are having the first grandchild for both our sets of parents. We are creating loving aunties and uncles. And most of all, we want to share this experience with our families and friends.
It could be that I will need to go into the hospital by myself. I will make my way to the labour ward as the midwife unit, where I had hoped to give birth, is closed. But when the baby is coming, my husband should be allowed to join me. I will need him. I will need an unmasked face to smile at me.