Childbirth can already be a stressful time, but for these four women, who all gave birth during lockdown in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the experience was even more overwhelming and unknown. Here, Red shares their stories and five reasons to keep smiling.
Sarah Wyatt, 37, Oxfordshire
As a mum-of-three, I felt nervous about giving birth to my fourth child – firstly, because it was my first C-section and also, because being in hospital during a pandemic made everything seem more pressured.
I’d found out that it would be a C-section at my 36-week scan because my placenta was blocking my cervix. After three natural deliveries, I was really disappointed about needing surgery this time.
On 19 March, while our other children were at school, my husband, Benjamin, took me into The John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
We arrived at 7.15am and were briefed about the day. There was hand sanitiser everywhere and we were asked to put it on.
No one really spoke directly about the pandemic, they just said ‘because of how things are at the moment’ when explaining the procedures. They did explain that they had staffing issues so it was harder to plan everything beforehand and they took Benjamin’s temperature throughout to ensure he was safe to be there.
I was taken into theatre at 11.30am and our son, Alexander, was born at 12.23pm weighing a healthy 8lbs 9 ¼ ounces.
Visiting times were restricted and no visitors except the birth partner were allowed. It meant that my excited other children could not come in to see me and the baby.
I was expecting to be in hospital a while but they sent me home the following day because of the pandemic. Alexander had jaundice but we were both OK so they decided we would be better off at home.
All the staff I dealt with were kind, lovely and professional. I was taken care of and reassured. I had a reasonably calm experience.
Since leaving hospital the follow-up midwife appointments have been very different to usual, with them wearing masks and no home visits allowed.
The hardest bit is probably now. No family or friends have been able to visit him but I’ve been showing Alexander off on FaceTime and sending photos to my family and friends. My mum lives on the next road so I wrapped him in a blanket she had knitted for him and took him and held him up to her window so that she could see him.
It’s also meant that my husband, who should have returned to work as a as a senior retail manager, is still at home so it’s been nice to be altogether.
We’ve been sitting in the garden with Alexander and gone for little walks and I take him to Mum’s window every few days so that she can see how he’s changed.
All the NHS staff we’ve come into contact with during and since the birth were working so hard and trying their best under such difficult circumstances.
The after-care is trickier because the midwives and health visitors aren’t allowed to do home visits but they have been calling and I can tell that they genuinely care. Luckily for me with it being my fourth baby, I pretty much know what I’m doing.
Olivia Holdcroft, 25, Finmere, Oxfordshire
I’ve already got a son, Rory, 6, and when I fell pregnant with our second child in June, I knew from the start that I wanted a home birth.
My partner, Jonnie, wasn’t as keen because he was worried about what would happen if something went wrong but I was pretty set on it. I hadn’t really enjoyed giving birth in a hospital environment previously.
Then as my due date got closer and the pandemic swept the country, we both agreed we would probably all be safer at home.
Two community midwives came to our home to do a risk assessment at the start of March. They looked at accessibility to the property, if we had pets (which we didn’t), explained what painkillers they could bring (gas and air and pethidine) and talked us through the risks.
Then at 7am on 25 March, I woke up with light contractions. By 9.30am they were getting stronger, so we called the midwife. Before coming she asked if any of us had displayed any COVID-19 symptoms, such as a temperature or coughing, which we hadn’t. She arrived about 40 minutes later wearing gloves and armed with lots of anti-bacterial wipes.
She called for back up at 11.20am and a second midwife arrived in time for me to give birth at 12.25pm on my bed after just a little bit of gas and air.
Our son, Frank, weighed a healthy 9lbs 2 ounces.
Having a home birth was the best decision I’ve ever made.
The only way that the pandemic affected us was that we had to go to hospital for the baby checks because home visits and checks were not allowed to happen at the moment.
When I went to The Horton Hospital, Banbury, for those on the Friday after Frank was born, it was just me and Frank allowed in. I had to call through on the intercom at the front door to be let in.
All the staff had masks and gloves on and I had to do most of the touching of the baby for them. The hospital was really quiet and I felt really safe and well looked after.
Because of the pandemic, we haven’t been able to register Frank’s birth. So technically, his name isn’t official yet but apart from that everything is going well.
Bozena Pidgeon, 31, Ilminster
I’ve already got a 12-year-old and an eight-year-old but when I fell pregnant with my third child, I was classed as high risk because of the fact that my lung collapsed five years ago, leaving me with asthma. I’ve been under the care of a respiratory consultant from Yeovil District Hospital ever since.
It meant that after careful discussion with my obstetrics consultant and respiratory consultant it was decided that the best course of action was an elective C-section in order to avoid another pneumothorax during labour.
During the pregnancy, I was closely monitored by a very meticulous and caring respiratory team and also well looked after by my conscientious midwife.
My husband, Neil, and I went into Musgrove Hospital on 23 March. I was hugely nervous because of the pandemic, being high risk, and because of the fact that I was bringing a newborn into this environment. But the staff were great at calming and reassuring us.
There was talk of the pandemic and they assigned a midwife to each lady to reduce people going in and out or cross contamination occurring. There was also social distancing as much as they could manage.
The atmosphere was lovely and they genuinely did all they could to ensure that we were safe and happy. Neil was allowed to be with me when our daughter, Violet, was delivered by C-section at 3.18pm.
The staff were fantastic. They were constantly washing their hands and using alcohol gel but there wasn’t any PPE.
Neil left at about midnight. I was supposed to stay in for a couple of nights post-section but due to the risk in hospital, I came home a day earlier than planned on the Tuesday evening.
The outbreak meant that my aftercare has been drastically changed in order to protect Violet and myself, and our safety has been paramount throughout. It’s affected the health visitor checks and the birth registration, and because I’m high risk due to a lung condition and Violet is due to being a newborn we are currently in isolation.
We haven’t been able to have the initial midwife checks in the house and have to weigh Violet in the porch to decrease the risk of catching the virus. The midwives wear protective gear when they come to the house and they have been absolutely amazing. I feel for them immensely.
I can’t thank the respiratory team at Yeovil District Hospital and the maternity unit at Musgrove enough for all of their support at such a difficult time – they’re all amazing.
Carol-Ann Reid, 31, Macclesfield, Cheshire
We had been trying for a baby for six years and considered going down the route of getting support but kept faith that it would happen naturally.
I did a lot of work on mindset, started reflexology and did a liver cleanse and within four months we were pregnant. Twins came as a shock as neither me nor my husband, Karl, 36, has them in the family. A true blessing.
We found out they were boys when I was nearly 20 weeks pregnant and they switched from being breech and transverse the whole pregnancy.
I hoped they would turn but, at 30 weeks, we embraced they would likely be a C-section and began preparing.
We went into Macclesfield Hospital on Monday 16 March. The hospital corridors were so quiet as we were taken into the ward and then into theatre by midday. At the time, no extra measures were in place because of COVID-19.
Our boys Carter and Blake were born 1.10pm and 1.11pm, Blake weighing 6lb 9 and Carter 6lb 14.
Both were healthy but I had some complications and lost three litres of blood and needed a few transfusions. Thankfully, Karl was able to be there at the birth and visit the next day. However, friends and family were limited to one person for one hour.
So when my mum or dad wanted to visit, Karl had to leave the ward.
Both my parents are NHS workers – AKA heroes – so they had warned me that we were soon to be in the middle of a serious crisis. I think they wanted me to be as relaxed as possible but also to take extra precautions when we were there with washing my hands and so on.
The second night on the ward was almost eerie – they were so busy yet so understaffed. The midwives and nurses were simply amazing but you could really sense the fear of what was coming and how stressed they were.
We were discharged on Wednesday, just two days after having the boys.
The labour ward closed a few days after we left and is now shut for six months. All births are now relocated to Manchester hospitals.
I’m so grateful we are now home safe and sound and managing the usual midwife and health visitor visits over the phone! The NHS is simply amazing at being so adaptive as hard as it is. I never imagined the week we had our babies, the UK would go into lock down.
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