Our home was filled with joy and excitement when we announced our first pregnancy (my parents’ first grandchild). But my instant elation became terror when we were told that we were in lockdown.
Before pregnancy, I didn’t pay close attention to birth stories. It seemed like too much information! Even as a junior doctor, I made sure I didn’t practice in the Obstetrics department. But when I fell pregnant, I started to devour birth stories, watch one birth video after another, and ask all the mothers I knew about their experiences at the birth unit.
It was uplifting to hear from friends and midwives about the medical advances in antenatal care, and what resources are now available for pregnant women. Given the ongoing lockdown, I was encouraged by hearing the positive stories of supportive midwives and the precautions taken at hospitals. But I was also overwhelmed by the possible complications. We were also told about the reduced visiting hours and only having one birth partner allowed during established labour. There were also stories about some mothers giving birth without a partner at all. It felt like these fears totally buried the good thoughts.
“With a combination of great online resources and antenatal classes, a lovely and caring community midwife, and strong supportive network of family and friends, I felt like everything was falling into place again.”
Desperate to feel anything other than panic, I googled ‘giving birth in lockdown’, and found NHS support resources on healthy eating, COVID precautions, and mental health coping strategies. We were also able to sign up to virtual antenatal classes which presented me with all the options available, and the risks and benefits of these.
Read more information about coronavirus and pregnancy.
With a combination of great online resources and antenatal classes, a lovely and caring community midwife, and strong supportive network of family and friends, I felt like everything was falling into place again.
Near the end of my pregnancy, I felt desperate to keep my baby girl inside me. I was ready for birth, but not for what was to come after. I was being bombarded with comments, such as “you’ve been pregnant forever, it’s our turn to spend time with the baby!”, “get ready for the sleepless nights and nappy changes!”. I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to bond with the baby when she arrived, but when I shared my fears and concerns with my mum, it felt like the world had lifted off my shoulders. I finally whispered to my bump
“I’m ready for you now my baby girl, let me know when you are too, love.”
Ready to meet my baby
My contractions started after breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning. I managed to bare down for a few hours and went to hospital for an assessment as they got worse. I was disheartened to be sent home as I wasn’t in ‘established labour’. I took all the advice given to relieve the pain. I used breathing techniques, a TENS machine, and had a hot shower. When the pain peaked I remembered a comforting affirmation, which read “every contraction brings you closer to your baby”.
After an agonising car ride back to the hospital, my midwife kindly allowed my husband to stay with me. Despite having no pain relief in my birth plan, I was eager to try anything. Once the epidural had set in, I was able to rest. I had decided against an assisted birth, so our baby girl was eventually born by caesarean section. The moment we first heard her cry was music to our ears. We felt complete as a family.
Throughout my birth, my husband was there to calm, reassure and coach me. However, when COVID restrictions meant he had to leave later on, I was worried about how I would manage on my own, but I had caring and supportive midwives around me. One of the benefits of being in a COVID “bubble” in the ward, was the uninterrupted bonding time with my baby. When I was discharged the next day, my mum scooped my little princess into her arms, and we shared a little ‘mother to mother’ moment. She has since supported us in taking care of our little girl day and night whenever I needed a break. I could not be more grateful to her. I hope that one day I can be that sort of parent to my little girl, Alekhya Macharla.
“One of the benefits of being in a COVID “bubble” in the ward, was the uninterrupted bonding time with my baby.”
Looking back, I feel extremely proud of myself to have overcome my fears and go through pregnancy and birth during the COVID lockdown. I feel happy to reframe my birth as something positive in the end, and thankful for the support from my husband, parents, friends, and midwives.
For all soon-to-be mums from all walks to life, whether in lockdown or not, don’t be afraid of the horror stories, make the best use of the all the available resources to help with your decision making, and learn to frame your experience positively.