Better late than never. This is my personal experience of having a baby during the coronavirus pandemic, during lockdown in a country I’d only been in for less than twelve months. To all the mums and mums-to-be reading this, if you are giving birth during this uncertain time, I’m hoping my story gives you the strength to know you’ve got this!
This was my third baby, and too many unknowns about COVID-19 led my family to be on the cautious side and go into voluntary self-isolation in the weeks leading up to my baby’s arrival, as soon as the pandemic was announced on the day schools were shut-down here in Ireland.
Before news of the pandemic broke out, I had been stressing out about the whole logistics of organising someone to look after my toddler and pre-schooler at home while headed into hospital with my husband. We had only recently moved to Ireland and as I didn’t have my support network around me, my husband was it. To visit me in hospital, look after the little ones and then myself and the new bub after we’d come back home. As I’d never been one to ask for help, I was preparing for chaos and not looking forward to it. I had only just felt relief a few days earlier when mum said she’d booked a flight over at the last minute, and I had just booked a post-natal doula for a few days a week post-birth to lighten the load. I thought things were starting to look up.
As events of the pandemic unfolded, I slowly realised (as did most of us) how serious this was becoming and that I might not get that support network after-all. My mum’s leave all of a sudden got cancelled as the hospital she works in had a coronavirus scare and all approved leave for staff was cancelled. While waiting for re-approval of her leave, some countries imposed travel bans, which meant even if she did fly, she could have ended up having to quarantine in transit. Then finally Australia imposed a travel ban on all flights entering and leaving the country on the day before mum was meant to fly out. It just wasn’t meant to be. Shortly after, the doula that I had booked cancelled as Ireland imposed a work ban on all non-essential workers and they fell under this category. I couldn’t really make plans, and just had to take each day as it came. Hospital policies were changing day to day, and with news around the world that some women were giving birth alone without their partners, I just resigned myself to whatever came. I had faith that whatever the outcome was, it was for everyone's safety.
So weeks passed by in self-isolation until the day my husband drove me to the hospital the morning of my scheduled c-section, without even knowing if he’d be allowed in the theatre. It turns out he wasn't even allowed in the hospital. I made my way through the eerily quiet hospital, while my husband waited in the car. It was only after I’d spoken to staff in the antenatal ward that they informed me that partners could stay for the birth, but that was it. The hospital wasn’t allowing any visitors into the antenatal or postnatal wards (not even partners). I was just thankful my husband was there for the birth.
From then on everything went surprisingly smoothly. The hospital staff (especially the midwives and nurses) were so supportive, understanding, compassionate and helpful. The hospital was implementing social distancing in the post-natal ward, so in what was six women to a room became a maximum of only three to a room. Sharing the room with only one other mum and the no visitor policy meant that I could spend all that time resting and bonding with my baby. It was the quietest most calming and relaxing post birth experience I’ve had (as relaxing as post-birth can be). And in terms of panicking about going home to a crazy household with very active kids, I was actually looking forward to leaving the hospital early to see my family again, The hospital was a little too quiet for me.
Even the weeks since giving birth and staying home in lockdown with a newborn have been surprisingly calm. I’ve actually enjoyed the time spent at home with my little family and not having to rush to get everyone ready and out the door in the mornings. Although not quite the same with two older children at home (it's always noisy and chaotic in a good way), the newborn ‘baby bubble’ this time around has been nicer as my whole family has been part a part of it. Even my husband, as he's been working from home for the last few weeks. Having a baby during the coronavirus pandemic has brought me hope in an uncertain and sometimes scary time. It was hard to see the silver lining, but all it took was time – which we have all been given plenty of.
I realise this might not be everyone’s experience, and that some people have had a negative experience in hospital due to COVID-19, or have even had to give birth while testing positive for COVID-19. This is however my calm birth experience which I’ve shared to give hope and strength to other women in my situation. I can honestly say that what I thought would be an anxious and lonely experience turned out to be the quietest, most calming post birth experiences I’ve ever had.
If you’re planning an upcoming hospital visit for your natural labour or caesarean section birth, or even if your hospital visit isn’t for some time, you can find a (very) comprehensive list of what to pack in your hospital bag during the coronavirus pandemic on our blog here.