This pregnancy has not quite ended as I would have imagined – in lockdown. I’ve been grateful for the extra time at home, having taken voluntary furlough from the middle of April (and then maternity leave – originally I planned to stop for maternity leave this week – 39weeks pregnant), as this has meant I have been able to rest as well as finishing various projects I had outside of my normal work, including writing new material for vtx! I struggled to make the decision to stop work, despite my consultant saying that I should. As veterinary professionals I think we generally have a strong sense of responsibility to our clients and their pets. We also tend to have a strong work ethic, not wanting to let the rest of the team down or to appear like we are ‘slacking’. In reality, none of this matters when your own health is at risk and the more I went to work the greater the anxiety levels rose. There was a great weight lifted from my shoulders when furlough started and I’m sure it has been the same for many of my pregnant colleagues.
The thing I’ve found most difficult during this time is not being able to see friends and family. This has been challenging, as it has been for all of us. Socialising is a really important part of maintaining our mental health and to have this taken away from us has been difficult for all. This will be my parents’ first grandchild; from seeing them weekly to not seeing them has been hard. Thank goodness we are in the age of Zoom (this is a positive from this situation, having more regular ‘meetings’ with friends and family that we might only see once or twice a year has been fantastic and I hope we continue some of this beyond lockdown). My brother lives in Sydney and so regular family Zoom time has been brilliant. I just hope that we can see him in person before 2021!
The uncertainty about what might happen when I go into labour with regards whether my husband, Sean, can be present has also been an anxious time (along with being slightly apprehensive about the whole labour process!). We are lucky and our trust are allowing birth partners from induction (if required) all the way through to the postnatal ward, but we have been aware that this situation may change at any time. Plus, if Sean or I were to get COVID signs he would not be able to be present at the birth, an extra anxiety at an already anxious time. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to go through labour without having your chosen birth partner with you. It would also be difficult for the birth partner to not be able to be present and support the mother at such a time. This has occupied our thoughts relatively frequently and has meant that Sean has also taken extra precautions now he is back at work.
Last year was one of the most difficult of my life so far. We had two miscarriages in close succession plus a chemical pregnancy, I won’t go into the details, but just to say that this time last year I never thought I’d be 39w pregnant and waiting for a baby to arrive. Let alone waiting for the arrival in a lockdown! It seemed an impossible task. We had fantastic care from the recurrent miscarriage service at St. Mary’s, Manchester (2 losses over the age of 36 is counted as recurrent), including regular counselling sessions which helped me get back on my feet. Until you start trying for a family you have no idea about the struggles people have and the emotional and mental effects that being unable to get pregnant or stay pregnant has on an individual/ partner or family. With this in mind I’ve been determined to enjoy the pregnancy as much as possible, even in our current situation. I think I have achieved this, we are lucky to be in this position after all.
But…here I am a year on. Waiting for our baby to arrive feeling slightly apprehensive but generally excited. Things have improved now, in terms of our social situation throughout the UK and I’m sure we are all grateful for that. My thoughts are with those that are still shielding, it must seem endless, but it will end and we will return to normal. I have a close friend who is also pregnant and due in August, we have talked for ages about how it would be great fun to be on maternity leave together. Maternity leave might not be the same for us this year but I think we can make the most of this special time and still manage frequent coffee and cake.
Having a newborn baby in the time of COVID-19 will also be different. I can try and reflect on how that might feel but I think I’ll leave that until the reality.
Stay safe xx