I gave birth during lockdown
Updated: Nov 2, 2020
Birth stories are rarely ordinary, with hopes mingled with worry and last minute dashes, both, successful, and less so, to the hospital. The universal goal of childbirth resulting in a healthy mother and baby. Here, we share writer Freya El Baz's story of going into labour during lockdown, with the world unrecognisable around them her experience was anything but run of the mill.
Two days after the country went into national lockdown, our beautiful daughter was born peacefully at home, as planned. Her birth was serene, focused and calm - quite the contrast to what was happening outside. I took comfort in the familiarity of the birth process knowing that my body was in control and that I could surrender to it and in so doing, relinquish the day to day pressures of trying to control the uncontrollable as the Covid tsunami gathered pace. We were in our safe bubble at home and birth provided me a space to relax, retreat and focus on something tangibly real; something in the here and now that I could I have an impact on and that would culminate in the happy arrival of our precious baby.
Needless to say though, the newborn experience this time around was not quite what we had imagined. In my last weeks of pregnancy, energy shifted from preparing the logistics of school and nursery pick ups of our eldest two with a newborn in tow, preparing baby clothes and finalising the preparations for our newest member’s arrival, to a newfound very real anxiety for our family’s physical health. Midwife appointments – usually a reassuring interaction - became a source of concern and fear. Sharing physical space suddenly felt somehow dangerous or even irresponsible. The existential angst that accompanied the arrival of Covid was no doubt intensified by the natural worries and anxieties that can linger in the pre-birth air.
The weeks following our daughter’s birth required new skills of my husband and I; home schooling our eldest daughter to the best of our ability, entertaining and stimulating our two year old son and navigating the early days of life with a newborn, not to mention work. Postnatal services had been severely reduced, to just a handful of check-in telephone calls with the midwife and one Zoom call with the health visitor. We were being left to it, which luckily worked well for us, but I couldn’t help wonder the desperate situation that this ‘you’re on your own: sink or swim’ attitude to maternity services would be having on women and families who may already have the odds stacked against them. In the weeks after birth, I found myself transitioning from the adrenalin-fuelled euphoria of meeting our baby and having survived a birth, to a sense of loss at not being able to share the joy with loved ones. Parents, brothers, sisters, friends – people we would ordinarily have been surrounded by now felt more distant than ever. We were on our own little island, bobbing along on the Covid waves fuelled by the infinite love that a new baby brings, trying to keep as safe and dry (physically and mentally!) as possible with our young little family, as the world seemed to be spiralling out of control. But this newborn, beautiful, wise little person brought with her the unconditional infinite love and worldly perspective that provided the perfect antidote to the challenges of life in lockdown. We filled her with love, and she us, and we all loved our way through the weeks and months that followed.
It did occur to me, though, that whilst the birth of a baby is a very personal life event, it is also firmly anchored in the public recognition of that new person’s arrival. In a ‘normal’ world, well-wishers arrive at the door with flowers, food, gifts, love, and support. The community, the ‘village’, makes itself known at a crucial point in one’s life. Their physical presence serves to publicly affirm that ‘yes’, you survived and birthed a new person, ‘yes’, this new person is here and is healthy, and that ‘yes’ they are here to listen to your experience, support you and share in your joy. Interestingly, on this occasion, none of these experiences took place. It struck me as interesting and curious that this huge moment in our lives felt somehow unnoticed by the outside world, not because we weren’t supported and loved by ‘our people’ but because of the absence of their physical presence. For a while I mourned my own experience as a ‘newborn mother’ and yearned for my own mother and father to be with us, as planned, and have their support, love and closeness.
The last thing we thought would happen two days before meeting our third child was that a pandemic would rampage throughout the world. But it has unearthed an even deeper resilience that has bound my husband and I even closer together, and has taught us that whilst the human condition is to bravely and often fiercely plan ahead for our futures, we cannot control everything. Love and an ability to approach life with creative and flexible thought will see us through – skills also key to parenting, dare I say! Living a slower life, focused on the here and now, recalibrating our scope of vision so that the present becomes a true reflection of our existence and having the time and permission to respond to our needs and feelings in a way that we perhaps didn’t allow time for, has been a precious gift that we didn’t really know we needed.